This study investigated the effects of rider weight in the BW ratio (BWR) range common for Icelandic horses (20% to 35%), on stride parameters in tölt in Icelandic horses. The kinematics of eight experienced Icelandic school horses were measured during an incremental exercise test using a high-speed camera (300 frames/s). Each horse performed five phases (642 m each) in tölt at a BWR between rider (including saddle) and horse starting at 20% (BWR20) and increasing to 25% (BWR25), 30% (BWR30), 35% (BWR35) and finally 20% (BWR20b) was repeated. One professional rider rode all horses and weight (lead) was added to saddle and rider as needed. For each phase, eight strides at speed of 5.5 m/s were analyzed for stride duration, stride frequency, stride length, duty factor (DF), lateral advanced placement, lateral advanced liftoff, unipedal support (UPS), bipedal support (BPS) and height of front leg action. Stride length became shorter (Y=2.73−0.004x; P<0.01) and more frequent (Y=2.56+0.002x; P<0.001) with added weight. Duty factor and BPS increased with increased BWR (P<0.001), whereas UPS decreased (P<0.001). Lateral advanced timing of limb placement and liftoff and height of front leg action were not affected by BWR (P>0.05). In conclusion, increased BWR decreased stride length and increased DF proportionally to the same extent in all limbs, whereas BPS increased at the expense of decreased UPS. These changes can be expected to decrease tölt quality when subjectively evaluated according to the breeding goals for the Icelandic horse. However, beat, symmetry and height of front leg lifting were not affected by BWR.
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