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Saddletech Wins "Killer Application" Web Award

Woodside, CA: Inc. Magazine, deemed the ”small business bible” by the New York Times, has awarded its 2002 Web Award for ”Killer Application” to, owned by inventor Robert Ferrand. The website provides comprehensive information about saddle fitting, including scientific research, educational video and saddle fitting solutions. A variety of scientific instruments that eliminate the mystery of saddle fitting are featured on the website.

”Saddle Fitting” is an issue for all horsemen, regardless of skill or discipline. Ill-fitting saddles can create lameness, soreness, impaired performance, behavioral problems, and a variety of health issues for the horse. In his quest to solve saddle fitting problems, Ferrand boldly decided to approach the age-old problem with “the scientific method”.

Saddletech entered the equine market in 1992 with the invention of the patented Saddletech Computer Saddle Fitting System, adapted from medical technology Ferrand originally invented to prevent pressure sores on humans. Creation of the patented Saddletech Gauge followed in 1996, providing a three-dimensional measurement of the arcs and angles of a horse’s back, which includes a “secret” formula to compensate for the effect of the weight of the rider. Saddles are measured three-dimensionally with the Saddletech Sizing Stand, invented in 1997; this information is the basis for generating Saddletech’s “measured” saddle database. In 1999, the Saddletech Adjustable Jig was developed to produce Western saddle bars to Saddletech measurements. In 2001, Ferrand developed a method to create custom-molded thermoplastic saddle orthotics based on Saddletech measurements of the horse’s back. These sculpted devices fit between the saddle and the horse, allowing most saddles to then properly fit, protecting the horse from injury.

In 2002, Ferrand integrated the information gleaned from all these measurement systems onto a state-of-the-art Oracle 9i database, created by Netledger, a first in the equine industry. The Inc. Magazine 2002 Web Award bestowed on Saddletech is a tribute to this hardware/software solution, emphasizing that it is a paradigm shift for industries in general and the saddle industry in particular.

Currently, saddle makers and tack shops attempt to fit saddles using baling wire, cardboard cutouts, or plaster casts. This lack of standardized measurement has allowed saddle companies to develop a unique nomenclature that does not relate to anything, not even the horse. For instance, a “wide” tree from one company may measure the same as a “narrow” tree from another company. The result? Sheer frustration and significant cost for the saddle customer and potential injury to the horse.

It has been my experience over the past 10 years, using computer pressure measurement, that more than 90% of the horses I’ve measured are being ridden with saddles that don’t fit,” proclaims Ferrand. The saddle industry represents a $500,000,000 annual market which includes more than 5,000,000 horses under saddle. That is the good news; the bad news is that because there is no accurate standardized measurement, virtually none of the saddles fit. But, “there is hope,” Ferrand smiles, “because the website is designed to educate people about how to solve this problem, with online video and supporting scientific information. Our database is the only one in the saddle industry, tracking over 100 pieces of information about horses and saddles, including breed characteristics, the arc and angle measurements of the horse’s back, as well as the measurement variations for various saddles”

In one of Inc. Magazine’s three articles about the Killer App Award presented to, the writers stated, “The orthotics Saddletech makes helps eliminate ill-fitting saddles. Saddle customers purchase or rent a patented gauge that measures the horse’s back. Then the customer plugs the measurements into Saddletech's Web site. From here, the information is fed into an Oracle database that captures an array of information about the horse. Ferrand's company then custom fits an orthotic by calculating the weight of the rider and the measurements of the horse to fit the orthotic that goes under the horse's saddle to make the ride for the horse and rider smoother and more comfortable.”

It is apparent that Saddletech has taken an ancient industry, complete with intrinsic problems, into the computer age, which is intrinsic with solutions. As for Ferrand, he has an admirable vision of how he wants to run his company with this powerful database - wirelessly. "My concept is to run Saddletech on horseback from Yosemite," he quips.



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