Saddle fitting used to require the horse, the owner, and the saddle maker all in the same room, or stable, measuring the horse, conferring with the rider, and ordering the saddle. Not anymore. Saddletech founder and 2002 Inc Web Award winner, Robert Ferrand, has brought the business of saddle fitting to the Web through the use of a complicated formula and exhaustive database.
Ferrand saw a business opportunity when he began riding horses with a girlfriend. He noticed horses were developing sores from ill-fitting saddles. Ferrand took the same concept he used in his previous business of selling pads that prevented bedsores and developed a "secret formula" that calculated the weight of the rider in relation to the horse's back and came up with a new saddle fitting system.
The orthotics Saddletech makes helps eliminate ill-fitting saddles. Saddle makers purchase or rent a patented gauge that measures the horse? s back. Then the maker 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.
Besides fitting horses with orthotics, Ferrand is also collecting data on various types of horses to determine if there's a common denominator between the type of horse and its measurements ,so he can embark on another business -- creating saddles for specific breeds of horses.
As for Ferrand, he has no plans to return to a stable, unless it's his own, any time soon. "My concept for this company is to run it on horseback from Yosemite," he said.
Saddletech.com Stand-Out Features
Getting the Right Fit
On the Formula Fit Orthotic page of Saddletech.com, users plug in data about their horses and their saddles. Pull-down menus cover the wide array of saddle types and measurements.
The gauge, patented by Ferrand, can be rented or bought by a saddle maker or veterinarian. The gauge's measurements are entered here to custom fit the orthotic to the horse.
Ferrand's horse research study asks owners to input the measurements and ancestral background of their horses. Eventually, Ferrand hopes to collect enough data to establish standard measurements for each breed so saddle makers can design better-fitting saddles for breeds without customizing a saddle for each and every horse.