Orrin Saddle Development

The Business Need

Orrin Equestrian had begun the development of a new saddle type, designed to reduce the loading on a horse’s back, and had won a SMART award to progress the design to prototype level.  4c Engineering’s support was required to help Orrin meet the SMART funding deliverables, to develop the design further, and to aid demonstration of the concept to future investors.

The Project

Building on initial design work carried out by a team at Strathclyde University, 4cE reviewed the existing design, developed the mechanics of the various joints and components, and produced a mock-up of the new design.

Our Activities and Deliverables

  • Carried out thorough functional analysis of existing design, determining areas for improvement or redesign;
  • Reviewed traditional saddle structures, fitting practices, and current research into gait analysis and loading, and analysed video of horses in motion to inform range and types of motion;
  • Produced library of horse back geometry from Orrin’s survey work, to provide data on range of sizes and shapes, and as an input to CAD design work;
  • Brainstormed and analysed many different configurations of panels, joints, springs and connectors, before coalescing design of chassis and ribs;
  • Worked with composite manufacturers to design seat and rib parts, including development of moulds and considering design for future manufacture;
  • Produced functional mock-up of design, along with CNC-machined foam test rigs produced from horse survey data;
  • Hosted focus group consisting of a variety of equestrian experts, reviewing the concept and suggesting areas for further development;
  • Identified future testing activities, and investigated pressure pad test equipment.


  • Concept significantly advanced from original design, and brought to life as a physical prototype;
  • Robust record of design process has been kept, demonstrating the evolution of the system and various components;
  • Sourced and engaged various subcontractors for manufacture of components;
  • In-house manufacture of some components, enabling fast iteration through design concepts;
  • Paddling & leatherwork have been designed and fitted by the client (Orrin) to go around chassis structure;
  • Completed demonstrator saddle has been constructed, and evaluated for position/fit;
  • Next phases of testing and design refinement identified.

Orrin - Prototyping & testing

Some of the fascination of engineering is that it deals with the crossover between physics and real life. The world is a complicated place, so sometimes the assumptions that are made when thinking about the theory of a design are challenged when something is built. A lot of what we do at 4cE is physically build, then re-evaluate, to ensure that a finished product functions as required. Models can be built at component, sub-system or complete device-level, then be tested in a range of situations, to check that it functions as expected.

For the Orrin project, one of the connectors for the saddle was tested by creating 3D-printed moulds, which were then used to cast a whole range of the connectors in polyurethane resin. The hardness, size and shape could all be varied to see the impact that this had on the function of the saddle, and how other components were affected by the variation, and by doing mould printing, and casting in-house, several iterations could be explored in a single day.

By building items ourselves at a prototyping stage, we can also appreciate and anticipate challenges or efficiency opportunities for the full scale or larger volume manufacture of a commercialised product, in a way that is much more intuitive than a purely drawing based review.

Orrin Development