On the back of Equestrian Team GBR’s secret weapon at the London Olympics, the techniques used for the Fairfax girth, which has recently had its patent application granted, have been applied to this fascinating FEI approved new bridle.
In September 2015, Vanessa had a scientific paper published in The Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, on the findings that she and her team, Dr Rachel Murray, BEF Consultant vet to the World Class Programme and the AHT, Russell Guire from Centaur Biomechanics and Mark Fisher Pliance pressure mapping analyst for the SMS and BEF, had discovered from their extensive research into the effect the bridle has on both pressure and gait extension.
Using Pliance pressure mats in key positions, which Vanessa added, cost the same as a small family car, and rein gauges, tests were carried out to see what happened when a horse was in motion under the bridle and head piece, by simultaneously measuring the pressure, gait and rein tension.
The location of maximum pressure under the headpiece in a standard bridle was located around the base of the ear overlying various branches of the facial nerve including to the ear.
The Pliance pressure mapping technology was originally devised to help doctors measure the pressure in coma patients and has since been developed for use in areas such as podiatry and assessing diabetes.
The first pressure mat was placed under the headpiece and the wires were carefully plaited in to the mane, with the wires kept under the saddle. The second mat was placed under the noseband to map the pressure when the horse was in motion – taking readings from a static horse would show no interaction with the rider, which was needed to examine the difference in the left rein and right rein – and the results were sent via Bluetooth back to the computers.
This region includes areas of muscle attachment for the flexors of the skull. As the head and neck are important for balance in the horse, increasing freedom to use different muscle patterns to achieve a training position does improve balance and therefore ability to alter gait.
So it’s understandable that relief of pressure at this location would allow the horse to move with greater freedom.
In all, 28 horses were looked at and assessed both in their own bridle and the Fairfax. The trial riders were Gareth Hughes, Spencer Wilton and Henrietta Anderson. Their findings are as follows:
In percentage terms, the average pressure in the horse’s own bridle was 49.24 kPa with readings in the Fairfax bridle showing 23.93 kPa – that is a 69% pressure reduction.
The average maximum force readings, measured in Newtons, equated to 258.49 Newtons in their own bridle to 161.86 Newtons in the Farifax – that is a 46% reduction.
Describing the design of the new bridle, Vanessa explained how the lozenge shape of the Fairfax girth had been adapted for the top of the poll, which gives greater stability to the bridle, whilst the noseband shape is designed to allow it to move in harmony with the motion of the horse’s head.
Vanessa’s knowledge was plain for all to see, some of it seemed so obvious when she explained how seemingly small things can have such an effect on a horse’s way of going in terms of comfort and tension. Ladies, think about how uncomfortable it is to have your pony tail hair band too high under your riding hat – it digs in.
Fitting a bridle number on one side for a competition is not how most train at home – everything on a bridle works in symmetry left to right and what we do at home, is how we should ride at competitions so don’t save your best patent bling bridle just for competition days!
During the research, it was important to look at the effect of each different part of the bridle and they discovered that the noseband produced the highest pressure readings.