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[RC] Understanding Saddle Pressure - Robert Ferrand

Ride Camp,

When the issue is understanding the actual pressure that is exerted by a
saddle and rider on the horse?s back, somewhere along the line, you have to
actually measure that pressure to understand it. There is no way around it.
Everything else is theory. Since I have extensive experience using the
computer saddle fitting system, let me explain what I have learned from this
technology, which may help clear up a number of issues to the benefit of all

Since I have to eat my own dog food, because I do actually teach people how
to fit saddles using the computer saddle fitting system, I am real clear on
exactly how difficult this process is - to be successful. If I had not
figured out how to measure the horse?s back the computer pressure pad would
prove me wrong, that would be the end of the story. That is the issue;
everyone wants to jump to conclusions about saddle pressures without the
actually having the objective data to support the theory. If you want to
make claims about ?SADDLE FIT? which means understanding the pressure under
the saddle, sooner or later, you have to measure that pressure to prove your
theory. That is how the ?scientific method? keeps us honest.

Over the past ten years computer fitting saddles, I found less than ten
percent of saddles are even in the ball game, when it comes to fit,
virtually all ?bridge?. Other individuals, around the world with this
technology have reported similar findings. Early on, I could not understand
why. So, I adapted a pretty common boat building method and invented the
Saddletech Gauge.

I went up to the Australian Connection with Courtney Hart and Janet Pucci
and tested the first prototype six-wing gauge with the computer. We measured
the horse, put the gauge in the saddle, it was a match. Put the computer
sensor pad under the saddle and tested the fit with the rider in the saddle.
My, My, by the luck of the draw the saddle fit?.Great.

Now things get interesting, so I am really happy with the results and then?.
I began to think, wait a minute, because of the parallelogram linkage used
to keep the various wings aligned, it is geometrically impossible for the
top of the gauge and the bottom of the gauge to be the same.  So if it is
not a ?Mirror Image? of the horse?s back, how can the computer system
display even pressures? What is going on here?

The light goes on?..holy smoke the weight of the rider must be a significant
factor. Well if the rider is a factor, the weight of the horse must be a
factor. Jumping catfish, we are on to something. Now, that is how the weight
compensation formula was developed. True story.

Now, not all horses are in the same condition, or are used in the same
disciple, so the formula needs to be calibrated, with the interface pressure
measurement device. So the bottom line is what is the actual pressure that
the horse experiences with this shape of saddle. Sooner or later, I am
caught in the same trap. I have to measure the pressure, even if I have a
fancy dancy gauge and a slick formula.

The point I keep trying to bring to the surface is Measurement by
definition, requires ?a unit of measure? that can be related to a standard.
This in turn requires numbers. If you cannot meet these requirements, it is
not measurement. You should not call it measurement, when it is not. We have
an English Language, we should use it correctly. Measurement means
measurement. There is no way around it.

Now, there are a lot of advantages to numbers. The horse could be measured
and then a computer controlled router could be programmed to make calibrated
saddletrees that fit, how is that for an idea?  Saddles could be measured by
saddle makers and then you measure your horse, and then go to a database and
only purchase a saddle that meets those measurements, so it fits. Way cool
idea, eh what.. Numbers are a good thing. There is no reason to be afraid of

There is so much ?opinion? about saddle fitting, because the opinions are
not based on numerical values. If we had a United States Saddle Standard,
with a common measurement language, like ISO 9000-2000?this discussion would
be moot, because everyone would have saddles that fit??based on numerical

Now, some RideCampers have raised the issue of the cost of  high technology.
So, lets calculate what it would cost to do it right. The New Mk I I
Computer Saddle Fitting System license is less than $1,000 per month
depending on the term, so if the saddle company sells one saddle a day: it
costs them $40 per saddle to provide you ?objective evidence that the saddle
does fit as they claim?. If they sell two saddles a day it costs them 20
bucks. $20. Now the new fancy dancy Mk I I Saddletech Gauge with scapulae
measurement license is about $250 per month, so if the saddle company sells
one saddle per day, it would cost about $10 to provide you calibrated saddle
measurement. If they sell two saddles a day, it would cost $5 per saddle.
Give me a break, cost is not the issue. If you are paying $2,500 for a
saddle, you deserve to know what you are buying, this should not be a hide
and seek game.

So bottom line, worst case, it would cost between $25 - $50 per saddle,
which is equal to about one (1%) of the cost of the saddle to solve the
saddle fitting problem. As an equestrian, you would have no reason to ever
?go on the great saddle hunt? again, because you would order a saddle to
your horse?s measurements, whether it is custom or production, you as a
consumer would be informed of what you are buying and then could test it
dynamically with a computer interface pressure measurement device, before
you purchase the saddle. Doesn?t this make sense? What am I missing?

Now stop for a moment and think what this could do for the performance of
your horse!

Measurement protects the Horse and the Equestrian?s investment.

Robert Ferrand


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[RC] Saddle FIt, Roger Rittenhouse