Fairfax testing team

Fairfax uses a combination of Pliance pressure mapping and Centaur Biomechanics gait analysis throughout the development process in order to accurately assess our products from a horse's point of view.

"Technological testing enables the horse to tell me exactly how every design change impacts on pressure and freedom of movement," Vanessa Fairfax explains. "It removes all subjectivity and any improvement in performance is measured accurately. I want to know exactly what effect each design alternation has on limb extension and joint flexion. This is how I know what the horse is experiencing."

Pressure mapping

In the case of a saddle for example, a mat with more than 200 sensors is placed on the horse’s back and these send readings to a computer using Bluetooth. The results are displayed as moving graphs and a colour image on the screen where coloured areas indicate potentially harmful pressure points. Pliance can gather data through all paces including jumping. It is operated by Mark Fisher on behalf of the Society of Master Saddlers and the British Equestrian Federation who jointly own the system.

Gareth Hughes testing for FairfaxGait analysis

Small spherical markers are placed on the horse's skin at the centre of key joints. The horse is then photographed in movement at a rate of 300 frames a second - approximately 25 times faster than the human eye. Acomputer program provides detailed information on the horse’s joint and limb angles. This allows scientists to measure the difference in extension, flexion and freedom of movement.

Fairfax works with Russell Guire of Centaur Biomechanics. The data he provides remove all doubt about what the rider might think they can feel. Gait analysis demonstrates exactly how much longer or shorter the horse’s stride is, or precisely how much more a joint is extending with each change we make to a piece of tack.

A winning combination

The combination of Pliance pressure mapping and Centaur Biomechanics provides a precise and undisputable measure of improvement in performance.