We've been working hard behind the scenes to develop a new saddle technology. As part of this process, we have spent several years researching existing saddle designs, trying to work out what need each design is attempting to meet. We have immersed ourselves in both treed and treeless saddle designs, and listening (if lurking on equine forums can count as listening!) to arguments for and against these existing designs.
There is a small, but growing body of excellent, scientific research relating to the equine back, saddle design, fit, and function, and these have helped to shape the goals for our own saddle technology. For example - did you know that the horse has recently been found to be capable of bending more than 60% through the thoracic spine (the bit that roughly runs from the withers to the loins)? Or that sustained pressure greater than 4psi has been shown to impede blood flow, potentially leading to soft tissue damage? Or that a direct correlation has been established between saddle pressure and stride length? As peak saddle pressures rise, a measurable reduction in stride length is generally seen.
Our team has come up with two key requirements for our saddle technology.
1. To be flexible enough to accommodate the horse's full natural range of motion, without restriction.
2. To evenly distribute the load of the rider over the length of the saddle, even when jumping, or riding over undulating ground.
Even more importantly, we've developed a saddle technology that is capable of meeting both of the above requirements, and are now involved in testing practical models to ensure that the solution we've developed is at the same time functional, rideable (yes, riders are important too!), and also kind on the eye.
We entered in the John Logie Baird Innovation Awards in December, made it through to the Regional Panel Interviews, then to the Final Panel Interviews - and we were absolutely chuffed to win our category at the Gala Awards Dinner on March 12th. We didn't get to give an acceptance speech on the night - so I've added a few acknowledgements at the bottom of this post.
We're very interested in working out exactly what riders are looking for in a saddle, so please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment with your thoughts on saddles, saddle fitting, treed vs treeless and the like.
It's been a fantastically interesting journey so far, with more discoveries still to come, I am sure!
Thanks to Starter for 6, for their support and assistance in 2009, and also for the funding for phase 1a and 1b of this project.
Thanks to John Hughes, a fantastic advisor who works via Business Gateway and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.
Thanks to Louise Arnold and the team at Interface, who did a great job in finding an appropriate Equine Orthopaedic specialist for us to work with.
Huge thanks to Brian Verth and the team at ERI, for their support in our complex project - which will hopefully lead in to further research in conjuction with Edinburgh University and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
Thanks to Alan Garratt from ICASS for his support and advice.
Big thanks to Fearsomengine for their assistance with concept generation and testing.
Many thanks to Dr Nancy Nicholson, whose blog and research into equine biomechanics provided an excellent introduction to the requirements of the saddled horse. You can read her blog here, or purchase her book Biomechanical Riding and Dressage here.