A preliminary investigation into the effect of rider weight on the mechanical nocioceptive thresholds of the epaxial muscles(MNTs) and heart rate variability(HRV) of exmoor ponies

Welfare and ethics surrounding riding is critical to equestrianismโ€™s Social Licence to Operate & pressure is mounting for change. Rider weight limits form the basis for much concern given the current knowledge of the physiological change an increase in rider weight can induce. This crossover study aimed to investigate the impact of rider weight on measures of muscle sensitivity to pain and physiological stress for Exmoor ponies following a walk/trot trek.


  • Immediately post-ride, sensitivity to pain of epaxial muscles decreased and significantly at T4/T9 epaxial muscle region.
  • After 2 hours rest, sensitivity to pain of epaxial muscles increased and significantly at T13-S3 region and dependent on rider weight.
  • HRV measures suggest for all riders there were no physiological signs of stress 2 hrs post ride.

Authors: Payne J., Routledge N., Charlton S., Hunnisett A.

Presented at: Animal Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Conference, April 2024.