According to a new study, a breastplate can restrict the way that horses jump, and one tack manufacturer created an entirely new design as a result.
We've all heard about how a poorly fitting saddle can negatively affect a horse's performance - but what about breastplates? That's the idea that tack manufacturer Fairfax and Centaur Biomechanics set out to pursue with their study on how a breastplate can change the way that a horse jumps.
The researchers used Centaur Biomechanics' cameras to capture the horse's movement at a rapid 400 frames per second. Experienced eventing horses were ridden by eventers over the same fence. The riders jumped the horses without a breastplate, and then in breastplates of different styles.
Thanks to the detailed photos that captured virtually every moment of each jump, the researchers were able to compare how the horses moved in take-off, flight, and landing while wearing the different equipment. And the results? Well, they may surprise you.
No matter what the particular style of breastplate the horses wore, the analysis revealed that the horse's motion through the jump was always negatively affected by the breastplate. The horse's arc over the fence was shorter overall, and horses landed at a steeper angle when they wore the breastplates, than they did when they did not have the equipment on.
Andrew Hoy is one of the Team Fairfax riders who has been testing the Performance Breastplate. Here is is at Burghley 2017 with the Blue Frontier, having cleared the Fairfax Saddles fence.
Fairfax took the results of the study and used the learnings to create a new style of breastplate which is designed to allow the horse to jump freely. Eventer Tom Jackson, who was one of the riders in the study, used this new style on his horse and noted that he can feel that the horse is less restricted over fences. He's been competing with this new breastplate style ever since he first tried it.
The resulting breastplate, called the Fairfax Performance Breastplate, still helps to keep the saddle from slipping backward over a jump or while traveling up a hill. However, it's designed so that the horse's breathing is not restricted, and the horse can maintain his natural shape over a fence.
What do you think of this new design? Do you want to try one of these new breastplates out?
All images via Fairfax Saddles
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