Horse saddle redesigned after 200 years

Leading design company Seymourpowell's Quantum AMS Saddle brings innovation to a product that has been unchanged for a couple of centuries.

First Published in

Leading design and innovation company Seymourpowell has released the Quantum AMS Saddle after 10 years of work. The saddle brings innovation to a product that has been unchanged for 200 years – even though the traditional saddle exterior might belie the hidden technology.

Curiously, it was quite a different product that was the catalyst for the Quantum saddle. After watching Richard Seymour and Dick Powell wrestle with the challenge of designing the perfect bra on the Better by Design TV series, the late Andrew Stockford sent a saddle to the Seymourpowell offices with a note saying: “We should be able to do better than this.” With the challenge set, Seymourpowell gathered a group of designers, engineers, Olympic riders and veterinarians to embark on the long journey to designing the perfect saddle.

There are a number of problems associated with traditional or badly fitted saddles, which include localised high-stress points on the horse’s back, saddle movement and restricted shoulder action. All of these can lead to severe suffering for the horse, which can result in bad behaviour and unsatisfactory performance. In addition, changing a saddle to adapt to the frequently changing shape of the horse, due to age or fitness, is time consuming and expensive.

Finished in the best quality calfskin, the Quantum looks like a traditional saddle, but is different in most other respects, thanks to the use of modern materials and aerospace technology. The result is a bespoke flexible saddle that is fitted to both horse and rider, with demonstrable benefits for both. Key to the design of the Quantum is a unique chassis, which enables the best possible fit to the horse. This chassis comprises two padded carbon-fibre fins, which are contoured to fit to the horse’s back, joined at the front by a strong structure, called the bridge. The bridge is available in different widths enabling the chassis to be adjusted. In addition, the angles of the fins can be adjusted, using metal spacers, to tailor the fit to the horse. If the horse changes shape or if the saddle is required to be fitted to a different horse, the Quantum saddle fitter can refit the saddle, on site, in a matter of minutes.

Once fitted, the chassis is locked into position, yet maintains a degree of engineered flexibility to enable the horse to achieve its full range of movement in both back and shoulder.  The stiffness and pressure points associated with traditional saddles are significantly reduced, if not completely eradicated, and tests revealed dramatic improvements in the horse’s flexibility, comfort and stride. The stirrup bar and girth were also improved through innovation.

Rider comfort is further enhanced with the Quantum’s ergonomic shape.  It is mounted to the chassis at the bridge, using an interchangeable angle block to optimise the pitch of the seat to best suit the rider. To the rear of the seat, rubber suspension bumpers provide a further method of pressure distribution, absorbing the heavy loading to the saddle that follows a jump.

“Opportunities to completely rethink a product from the ground up don’t come along every day, even in our business. But to do it in a domain where so little has been changed or challenged for decades, or even centuries, is rare indeed. It is a genuinely innovative product that delivers compelling improvements in functionality and performance. It is, quite simply, better by design,” explains Powell.