Pressure and muscular effort by the horse in motion
The concept of ‘pressure’ is a consistent question that gets asked of the TCS and the system. It’s often mis-understood, often mis-quoted and many don’t understand it from a biomechancial point of view and how it inter-links with the anatomy of the horse.
Carson (2014) suggests that the horse creates an internal pressure through muscular contraction and development that is just as detrimental (if not more as its effect is ‘hidden’) than the weight of a rider or the saddle type.
It stands to reason that if muscular movement (where muscles expand and contract) come up against a rigid framed treed saddle system that expansion is going to be limited and that hypertrophy of the muscle may be compromised. You can try this ‘at home’ by gripping your bicep tightly when its relaxed and then simply flexing it whilst holding it tightly with the other hand ! The structure of the muscle that most treed saddles ‘sits’ on is the longisimus dorsi. That muscle is not a ‘simple’ muscle in that it supports each vertebrae to the next against the effects of gravity and rotational effects when moving. If parts of that muscle are not allowed to flex/contract then it just isn’t doing its job properly and it can’t develop as it should. This impinging activity according to Carson is responsible not only for possible atrophy of muscle but also skeletal misalignment, lameness and asymmetry of muscular development and gait abnormalities of the horse. She looked at the standard or the rider, the exertion involved, the fit of the tack and found all played a role in causing these problems. It must also be considered that if the muscles are being impinged then the blood flow to them may also be occluded and so the flow of nutrients and the expulsion of toxins may also be affected thus affecting performance even more.
The reason why we’ve been telling folk about this (to the amazement and questioning of some it has to be said !) is that the Total Contact Saddle does NOT create a rigid block on the movement of the back, it does help hypertrophy of the muscles in the back, it does allow more movement to occur (‘swing’ as dressage folk would call it :-)) and the above work confirms much of what we’re told anecdotally all the time by clients – and their horses ! “Our horses may not be able to talk but when they speak we should be sensitive enough to listen”. Total Contact Saddles, “the saddle of the future” (Albert Voorm). Check out posts on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/totalcontactsaddles/ and our other blog post as well as the website for saddle images, a range of fitting on different horses and real client comment.