Guidance given on horse reintegration studies in a new review

A strain gauge attached securely to the rein (left) with a metal clip for attachment to the bit.
Note that none of the components are elastic. Image: Clayton et al.

Reign tensioning devices offer researchers the opportunity to assess a key communication system between rider and horse, but there is a lack of standardized guidelines on their use, the researchers report.

Hilary Clayton and her fellow researchers, in a recently published journal, reviewed 33 scientific papers to formulate information on how to select and interface the components of a reins tension measurement system to enable the collection of accurate and reliable data.

The review team, writing in the journal Animals, said reins are used to control the speed and direction of movement of the horse by the application of tension.

When the rider holds the reins with light and constant contact, the mechanics of each gait are associated with a cyclical pattern of head and neck movements which is revealed in the tension oscillations of the reins which have a shape and frequency of typical repetition at each gait.

The effects of rider aids, rider imbalance, and extraneous movements of the horse’s head and neck overlap with the basic gait patterns.

“The tension of the reins is of interest to scientists as well as riders,” they said. “Tension is relatively easy to measure, but the equipment, analytical techniques and reins tension reports vary widely. “

Considering the direct link between the rider’s hand and the horse’s mouth, reins tension data may have welfare implications, as the use of high forces can cause pain, discomfort and strain. oral lesions, they said.

“An important application of reins tension measurements is their use as a tool to improve riding and horse welfare. This requires the collection of accurate data, the calculation of appropriate variables, and the use of valid analytical methods.

The authors noted that there had been several studies using different transducers, calibration methods, and analytical techniques.

“Although reins tensioning devices are increasingly used,” they said, “there is a lack of guidance and standardization regarding the technical requirements of these devices and how to handle the resulting data. . “

In their article, they describe how to select and interface the components of a reins tension measurement system to facilitate accurate and reliable data collection. They also described common pitfalls.

Their main recommendations are:

  • Choose sensors with an appropriate range and sensitivity based on existing literature;
  • To calibrate sensors before and after each data collection (and during data collection if recommended by manufacturers);
  • Analyze the variables appropriate to the objectives of the study; and
  • Check the statistical distribution of the variables and transform if necessary.

The review team also made a series of other recommendations to help standardize reporting and allow for study comparisons.

The authors, they said, should provide the number of horses, their level of training and, if available, their age, height, weight, dental history and information regarding their lateral preference.

The type of strap and its fit should be described, including the type and setting of the noseband. There should be information on the bit type and reins, including the material, length and setting of the side reins.

Details of riders should include their number, weight, height, level of riding experience and whether they are left or right handed.

Riding style should also be described: Loose reins or on contact, sitting style (sitting, upright, light seat), position and balance.

Sensor information should include transducer type, model and manufacturer, its weight, specifications regarding sensitivity and range, frequency and method of calibration, sampling frequency, transmission and storage of data.

Researchers should also describe the surface or sole, whether the experiment is being conducted indoors or outdoors, the gait used, speed, direction, radius of turn or circle, and any environmental details. relevant, including weather.

In terms of data analysis, information should be included on the filtering method and parameters, the stride fractionation method, the extraction of discrete data points, the calculation of variables and the statistical analysis.

The review team consisted of Clayton, Michigan State University; Russell MacKechnie-Guire, with Centaur Biomechanics in England; Anna Byström and Agneta Egenvall, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; and Sarah Le Jeune, with the University of California, Davis.

Clayton, H .; MacKechnie-Guire, R .; Byström, A .; The young.; Egenvall, A. Guidelines for the measurement of reins tension in equestrian sports. Animals 2021, 11, 2875.

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here.

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