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Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Support Saddle Technical Report

By The Horsepower Junkies

Ellese Petty, Charisse Haines, Changlin Shen, Amelia Rolf

Executive Summary
One of the projects we tackled this quarter was a support saddle that would operate as
a back support for riders who do not have the proper core strength needed to hold
themselves up on the horse. A previous senior design group developed a prototype for
the same problem which can be seen in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: The previous design of the support saddle.

This design did not meet the needs of the horse or rider and unfortunately was was not
able to be used by the farm at all. The large formed plastic bottom was too hard and stiff
for the horses back, and caused pinching and pain for the therapy animal. Hope Haven
needed a redesign so that a young girl severely lacking core strength would be able to
continue riding. This project became a priority for the farm, so we decided to try to
completely redesign the supporting saddle in order to help.
The original design incorporated a foam roller at the back of the support for the riders
back and an attached set of handlebars for added stability at the front. The back roller
can move up and down as well as backwards and forwards to accommodate many
different sizes of riders. The frame was a type of strong metal. We kept the original
design of a foam roller at the back with adjustable height, but we changed the materials.
We replaced the heavy metal with a light sheet metal and made only a back support
without the handle bars in the front. Instead of using a design that came into contact
with the horses whole back, we used two strips of thin semi-flexible plastic pinned
between the saddle pad and saddle to support our design. Our design should be
comfortable for the horse and offer the rider the support she needs.
Table of Contents:
I. Introduction / Background of Project
II. Design Plans
III. Design Build
IV. Possible Improvements
V. Budget
VI. Conclusions
I. Introduction / Background of Project
Team Background

This project was undertaken in conjunction with the Make It Happen initiative at Rose-
Hulman Institute of Technology. Our team was comprised of two undergraduate
biomedical engineering students: Ed Shen and Ellese Petty, and two undergraduate
mechanical engineering students: Charisse Haines and Amelia Rolf. Our team advisor
was Dr. Renee Rogge. We received assistance from our advisor, Dr. Renee Rogge, and
the machine shop operators throughout our project.

Project Background

The supporting saddle is intended to be used to help disabled persons who do not have
core strength to hold themselves sitting upright in the saddle be able to ride horses
without having a side-walker continually hold them up. This project was originally
undertaken by a senior design group, but the final product was unable to be used by the
client due to equine comfort concerns.

The design from the senior design group was a set of handlebars at the front connected
to a foam roller back support at the back. They were largely made of metal, and were
connected together with welded metal. Also, in the center, they formed moldable plastic
to the underside of a saddle in hopes it would be suitably comfortable for the horse.
Unfortunately, this attempt was misguided and resulted in an end product that was too
uncomfortable for the equine to tolerate. Thus, the product could not be used at all and
had to be redesigned.

Christy Menke from Hope Haven Horse Farm presented this project as a high priority
item. While the end product could be used for several individuals, they have one client
in particular, a young girl with cerebral palsy, who is in need of a functional supporting
saddle in order to continue riding. We decided to tackle this as one of our projects for
the quarter.

We knew the complete redesign would be a big undertaking, but we did not think it
would be an unreasonable goal given the 10 week timeframe.
II. Design Plans
This section includes the technical details of the design we chose including SolidWorks
drawings and explanations of why we chose each aspect and how our design meets our
clients needs.

Figure 3: SolidWorks of design for back support

The design of the back support features a roller that will sit behind the rider to offer a
backing to hold her upright. The roller is attached to a bar with holes on it in order to
provide forward and backward adjustability. This setup attaches with pins to a vertical
bar with holes in order to provide vertical eight adjustability.

The support attaches to the horse and rider via two slightly angled bars. This provides
clearance for the horses spine and the angle eliminates pinching on the horses back.
The bars were designed to be inserted into a western saddle pad to allow for padding
underneath and provide stability.
III. Design Build
This section includes the process of how the design was built and what features were
included or excluded from the design.

Back support roller assembly

For the back support assembly, we took a piece of 5.5 diameter foam roller that is 15.5
To start. We cut 3 long vertical strips for attachment to the bar.

The bar is a piece of 3x28 standard thickness sheet metal. We bend a 4 diameter
curve in the middle, and screwed in a 2x4 block of wood to keep its shape. On the
outside of the sheet metal, we used a clear epoxy to attach a sheet of 3x10 poly
plastic to add stability on each outer side. We drilled ovals for the pins using a 17/64
drill bit drilling the first hole 1.25 apart down the piece, then drilling an additional hole
beside it and using a small, flat hand file to connect the two as an oval.

The bar and the foam roller were connected with hot glue in the slots cut for the sheet
metal to be inserted into.
Vertical support and attachment

For the vertical assembly, we started with a 4x48 standard thickness sheet metal. We
curved the middle to a 4 diameter semicircle for the top of the assembly. We added a
2x4 piece of wood 4 long to support this structure at the top. We bent the sheet metal
90 degrees 4 from each end. We then added two more 2x4 strips 4 long of wood 4
from the bottom and screwed them in to support the shape. We sheared off 2 of metal
from either side and curved the edge for safety.

We took a piece of 2x4 wood 3 long and using a sander, sanded off one edge of the 4
side so that it was a smooth curve. We then attached the block to the sheet metal with
screws the curved side on the inner bottom.

We also took a thick sheet of poly plastic and cut it into two 3 wide, 15 long strips.
We used a grinder to curve one edge for ease of insertion. We also used the grider to
shave off the corner on one side on the other end of the plastic. We drilled holes for our
hinges though each strip on the side with the remaining 90 degree angle.

We screwed the hinge into the bottom of the outside edge of the wooden blocks with the
knuckles facing upwards (towards the sheet metal structure). We used bolts and lock
nuts to attach the hinge to the plastic through our drilled holes.

We attached foam to the curved wood on the bottom with hot glue. We also attached
foam to the hard plastic on the curved edge with a combination of hot glue and epoxy.

We drilled holes in the vertical strips of sheet metal 1.25 apart horizontally measured
1.25 horizontally from the front (the side with the plastic strips going out from it). We
used a 17/64 bit and drilled holes starting 3 from the second from bottom wood support
every 3 until the top wood support.

Using two quick connect pins diameter and 5 long, we attached the assembly
together with the roller facing the same direction as the plastic strips on the bottom.

We then use this setup with a rider by inserting the plastic strips between the saddle
and saddle pad using the weight of the saddle and rider to hold it in place. 4
VI. Possible Improvements

Due to the time restraints on our project, there were certain parts of our product that did
not end up quite as polished as we had hoped for. Though we tested our design and
believe that it meets all functional requirements, there are a few improvements that we
may have pursued given more time. In the future, groups intending to replicate our
product may want to consider making some of the following modifications.

More rigid vertical support

Though the vertical support structure is stable when it is put in place and leaned back
upon, it is somewhat flimsy when not in use. This doesnt affect the design much, but
could lead to issues related to bending out of shape and staying stable while being
adjusted. In order to improve this, sheets of clear acrylic could be added to the outside
of the vertical support structures in a similar fashion as the acrylic added to the outside
of the back support bars.

Alternative Materials

In general, we found the materials that we used satisfactory. However, the design does
allow for some variation on the exact materials used. In some cases, it may even be
beneficial to make slight changes. For example, foam is inexpensive and easy to work
with, however it is also easy to damage and gets dirty easily. These are not ideal for
being used long-term in a barn environment. Foam parts could be swapped out for
cushions or fabric based blocks.

Hole Placement

Some of the holes on the vertical support and back support structures do not line up as
well as they should. Though functional in our design, more precise measurements and
marking before the fabrication of a new support saddle would allow for easier
adjustments in the future. It is especially critical to take note of exactly how much sheet
metal will be taken up by the arc at the top of the vertical support structure of the

V. Budget
Item Quantity Cost/Item Total
2x4 wood 1 $2.57 $2.57
Sheet Metal 1 $32.01 $32.01
Screws 1 box $3.78 $3.78
Nuts 1 box $2.70 $2.70
Bolts 1box $4.29 $4.29
Foam 1 $4.95 $4.95
Foam Roller 1 $9.29 $9.29
Hot Glue - - -
Epoxy 1 $6.60 $6.60
Poly Plastics 1 $20.00 $20.00
Hinges 2 $1.98 $3.96
Quick 2 $2.62 $5.24

Overall Total 95.39

VI. Conclusions
Overall, we are very happy with how our design turned out. Over the course of our ten
week long project, we completely redesigned an old senior project, and created what we
believe to be a usable design capable of helping individuals with disabilities that may
otherwise prevent them from riding at Hope Haven Farm.

Over the first few weeks, we came up with a design and discussed possible changes
with people at Hope Haven Farm to ensure that our product would meet both the
requirements of the rider and the needs of the horse. Our design was modified slightly
during the fabrication process. We tested it on horseback with a rider pressing her
weight against it, and we are confident that it will fit the needs of Hope Haven farm and
their clients.