The present invention relates to saddles for equestrian
In our US patents 6,481,189 and 6,619,019 we describe equestrian
saddles in which the panels include sealed air bags. The air bags are substantially
flat and contain an open celled compressible foam with air at atmospheric pressure
being sealed within the bag at the time of manufacture. The air bags allow a relatively
even pressure to be applied to the back of the horse during use. The interior of
the panels externally of the air bags are filled with packing to permit adjustment
of the fit of the saddle on the horse throughout the working life of the saddle.
The packing specifically disclosed in these earlier patents is wool as has been
conventionally used in packing saddle panels for many years.
It has been found that some saddlers using this system
tend to overfill the packing into the panel and this can place the air bags under
constant pressure. In some isolated cases this has resulted in air loss from the
bags as the bags are under loading for the entire time. It also tends to push the
air bags into a rounded shape which, together with the overfilling of the packing
makes the panels relatively hard and the air bags do not properly perform their
intended function. Moreover, the packing does tend to ride down and compress over
a period of time, thereby changing the actual fit of the saddle.
According to the present invention there is provided a
saddle for equestrian use, the saddle having panels, each panel containing a plurality
of sealed air bags each serving in use to apply a relatively even pressure to the
back of the horse, each air bag being substantially flat and being substantially
filled within its interior with a resiliently compressible open cell foam, with
each air bag being filled with a predetermined volume of air at substantially atmospheric
pressure at the time of manufacture without the need for inflation to a higher pressure
for usage of the air bags, each panel also including packing at a side of the air
bags remote from the horse, wherein the packing consists of one or more inserts
of sheet-like material removably inserted into the panel to permit adjustment of
the packing by removal of one or more such inserts and/or the inclusion of one or
more further such inserts.
Particularly advantageously, the or each insert is fabricated
from sheet material of uniform thickness although the insert itself may be chamfered
or skived along at least a part of its edge. Where two such inserts are designed
to overlap, for example an insert designed to be inserted into a forward part of
the panel and an insert designed to be inserted into a rear part of the panel, the
skives themselves will overlap to form a skive joint in order to maintain a substantially
uniform thickness over the length of the two combined inserts.
A range of inserts may be provided for each panel including
an insert for insertion into the forward part of the panel, an insert for insertion
into the rear part of the panel and an insert for insertion into the central part
of the panel. The different inserts can also be provided in a selection of different
thicknesses. Accordingly adjustment of the packing to adjust the "fit" of a saddle
merely requires selection of the appropriate insert of the appropriate thickness
and insertion of that or those inserts into the panel.
The air bags are themselves preferably combined into an
air bag unit which is itself substantially flat and the unit is inserted into a
pocket extending lengthwise in the panel. For protection of the air bags, the air
bag unit includes a lining layer at the side of the air bags remote from the horse
and the inserts are inserted into the pocket to lie between the lining layer and
an outer or upper side of the pocket. As the inserts themselves are fabricated from
sheet material they will lie substantially flush against the lining layer. The lining
layer itself can be associated with wedges of sheet material permanently interposed
between the air bags and the lining layer to compensate for a substantially bowed
shape of the base of the saddle tree to which it is adjacent.
Particularly advantageously, the sheet material from which
the inserts are formed is fabricated as a relatively firm foam which will not compress
or ride down significantly during use so that the fitting adjustment made to the
saddle by the inclusion of the inserts remains substantially constant during use.
Certain closed cell foams are suitable for this purpose.
In one practical form of the invention, the pocket is accessible
for removal and insertion of the inserts after removal of the panel from the saddle
with the air bags and insert(s) being retained in the pocket by a releasable closure.
To facilitate easy and quick removal and replacement of the panel it is preferred
to reinforce the rear edge of the panel which permits the use of a simple screw
attachment system as described in our US patent 6,725,636.
Further according to the invention, there is provided a
saddle for equestrian use having within each of its panels sealed air bags which
serve to apply a relatively even pressure to the back of the horse in use of the
saddle, the air bags are within a pocket in the panel and the pocket contains adjustable
packing formed by one or more replaceable foam inserts selectively insertable into
the pocket to lie at the side of the air bags remote from the horse.
Still further according to the invention, there is provided
a method of adjusting the packing of a saddle for equestrian use, the saddle having
panels, each panel containing a plurality of sealed air bags each serving in use
to apply a relatively even pressure to the back of the horse, each air bag being
substantially flat and being filled with a predetermined volume of air at substantially
atmospheric pressure at the time of manufacture, the air bags being within a pocket
which is also adapted to receive packing at a side of the air bags remote from the
horse, wherein the packing consists of one or more inserts of foam sheet material
selected from a group of such inserts shaped to fit into different parts of the
pocket and of at least two different thicknesses, said method comprising removal
of any existing inserts from the pocket and/or inserting into the pocket one or
more inserts from the group of inserts in the or each selected position and to the
Embodiments of the invention will now be described by way
of example only with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
- Figure 1 shows schematically a panel of a saddle in accordance with the preferred
embodiment of the invention and including an air bag unit within the panel;
- Figures 2 to 4 show examples of different shapes of packing insert for inclusion
within the panel to lie against the air bag unit; and
- Figure 5 is a view similar to Figure 1 and showing the packing insert of Figure
4 within the panel.
A saddle in accordance with the preferred embodiment of
the invention has panels 2 each of which has a pocket 4 for receiving air bags and
packing in the form of one or more inserts of foam which lie externally of the air
bags in relation to the horse. The pocket 4 which lies adjacent to the back of the
horse is part of a chamber within the panel. Other parts of that chamber such as
the part towards the lower front portion of the panel may contain conventional packing.
The air bags are substantially as described in our prior US patents 6,481,189 and
6,619,019 discussed previously and the entire disclosure of which are hereby incorporated
by reference. Thus, each air bag comprises opposed sheets of impervious material
such as PVC sealed together around the periphery of each bag, with a filling consisting
of a layer of an open cell resiliently compressible foam. The bags are not inflated
with air at above atmospheric pressure and, indeed, have no means for omitting such
inflation but, rather, contain air at substantially atmospheric pressure which is
sealed within the bag during manufacture. The open cell foam filling occupies substantially
the entirety of the interior of the bag and the bag is substantially flat and of
substantially even thickness throughout. As described in our earlier patents, the
air bags are arranged sequentially in a fore-aft direction within the panel. There
may by just two such air bags forming front and rear air bags collectively extending
the length of the panel or there may be three or possibly more air bags consisting
of a front, a rear, and one or more intermediate air bags collectively extending
the length of the panel and the air bags are separate in the sense that air cannot
flow between the bags. Particularly advantageously, the bags are constructed as
described with reference to Figure 8 of US patent 6,619,019 with overlapping flaps
so that the adjacent bags are in tightly abutting relation to provide an essentially
"seamless" transition between adjacent air bags.
The two or more air bags for insertion into the pocket
in the panel are combined into a single unit 6 by attachment to a lining layer which
extends the length of the air bag unit and which lies between the air bags and the
The packing inserts consist of a series of pre-shaped inserts
of a foam. In order to avoid the ride down and compression problems which arise
with wool packing, the characteristics of the foam are such that it will not compress
or ride down to any significant extent during use so that the initial fitting adjustments
made by the inserts will remain substantially constant during use. A suitable foam
is a relatively firm EVA foam having the properties identified in the table below.
METHOD OF TESTING
ASKER C SHORE 00
It is to be noted that the above table shows the properties
of an EVA closed cell foam which has been found to be particularly suitable for
the purpose described. The specific properties indicated in the table are intended
to represent illustrative orders of magnitude rather than defined limits and as
such there may be suitable foams which have generally similar, but not identical,
properties to those identified in the table. While it is envisaged that most suitable
foams will be of closed cell construction they need not necessarily be of EVA; other
polyolefin co-polymers may be suitable as may polyurethane, polyvinylchloride, and
natural or synthetic rubbers. Indeed it is possible that open cell foams could be
identified with the required characteristics.
Each insert is of a generally uniform thickness over a
significant part of its area. Specific inserts are designed for insertion into the
front of the panel, the centre part of the panel, and the rear part of the panel.
Figure 2 shows by way of example a foam insert 8 designed for insertion at the rear
of the panel. At its forward end portion the insert 8 is formed with a gradual taper
or skive 8a. Figure 3 shows an insert 10 designed to be fitted into the front of
the panel and has, at its rear end portion a gradual taper or skive 10a. If the
rear and front inserts 8, 10 are both inserted into the panel, the two skives 8a,
10a may overlap with their inclined faces in engagement to form a skive joint whereby
the two inserts maintain a substantially uniform thickness even in their overlapping
zones. Alternatively, the front and rear inserts may be of a length in which they
do not overlap, and instead are able to cooperate with a central insert such as
that now to be described with reference to Figure 4. Figure 4 shows an insert 12
which is designed to be fitted into the centre part of the panel with a gradual
taper or skive 12a at each end portion.
The inserts 8-12 are formed from foam sheet of uniform
thickness so that each insert is itself of uniform thickness apart from the skiving.
In addition to the skiving at the ends of the inserts as described, it is also possible
for the inserts to be chamfered along part of their upper and/or lower edges to
provide a degree of "shaping" to the insert (this is shown schematically at 12b
for the insert 12) and hence the packing provided by the insert although, as previously
mentioned, each insert is of substantially uniform thickness over a significant
part of its area. The skiving and chamfering can be formed by cutting the sheet
with a suitable cutter. Alternatively the skiving and chamfering can be formed in
the sheet by moulding the sheet with the application of heat.
It is envisaged that the foam inserts will be produced
in different thicknesses, for example 4mm and 8mm, so that a saddler will have a
range of options for packing the panel by selecting required inserts of appropriate
thickness. A saddler may, for instance, decide that packing is just required in
the central part of the panel in which case only a central insert 12 of appropriate
thickness is inserted. This is shown in Figure 1. Alternatively it might be decided
that uniform packing is required throughout the length of the panel in which case
rear and forward overlapping inserts 8, 10 may be used without the central insert.
This is shown in Figure 5. In other situations a central insert can be used in conjunction
with rear and forward inserts in order to provide packing of greater thickness within
the central part of the panel. Inserts of mirror-image form may also be placed back-to-back
to provide increased thickness so that, for example, inserts of 4mm and 8mm can
be combined to provide a total thickness of 12mm, or 2 inserts of 8mm can be combined
to form a thickness of 16mm.
The use of these packing inserts which are formed from
sheet material of uniform thickness inserted into the pocket 4 to the outside of
the lining of the air bag unit means that it is not, in practice, possible to overfill
the pocket with the result that the air bags will not be subject to any substantial
loading when the saddle is not in use. More particularly, the air bags will remain
substantially at atmospheric pressure internally during that mode.
As mentioned previously, the two or more air bags for insertion
into the pocket in the panel are combined into a single unit by attachment to a
lining. In one form, that lining layer might consist of or include a resiliently
compressible open cell foam and is of substantially even thickness throughout so
that the entire bag unit is itself of substantially even thickness throughout its
length and width. However, in another form the lining is of composite form of varying
thickness to compensate somewhat for excessive bow at the base of some forms of
saddle tree. In this respect, some saddle trees which have been designed for use
with conventional wool filled panels may not, due to a significant bowed shape at
their base, be particularly suitable for use with the air bags and the lining arrangement
can be shaped to compensate for that excessive bow. For this purpose, the inner
surface of an outer lining is built-up by the attachment of wedges of sheet material
at the forward and rear parts of the lining so that the inner surface provides a
generally concave profile from its forward end to its rearward end. That inner surface
of the entire lining structure is then permanently adhered to the air bags. The
wedges themselves are composed of the same type of relatively firm foam as used
for the replaceable inserts. In one form, the lining layer to which the wedges are
attached permanently is a felt or similar type of material.
The air bag unit and inserts are retained in the pocket
4 by a flap 14 which closes the pocket and which is held in position by a suitable
fastening, for example a hook and loop type fastening of the type sold under the
trade mark "VELCRO". The pocket and closure flap are accessible from the upper or
outer side of the panel for adjustment of the packing by insertion and removal of
the foam inserts when the panel has been detached from the saddle. To facilitate
easy and quick detachment and re-attachment it is especially preferred that the
two panels are combined to form a panel assembly which is stiffened around its rear
edge by a rod or wire which permits attachment to the seat to be achieved by just
a few screws (typically 3 or 4) driven into the saddle tree. Such a fixing system
is described in our US patent 6,725,636. The disclosure of which is hereby incorporated
The flap 14 closes the pocket by being folded over the
top of the pocket 4 to be retained in position against the outer face of the pocket
by the "VELCRO" or similar fastener. The length of the flap is such that even when
the pocket contains a substantial thickness of insert, say 16mm or more, it can
still be folded over to close the pocket without unduly tensioning the material
of the panel and which, if that were to occur, could lead to a permanent compressive
loading on the air bags which would tend to diminish their effectiveness. It will
be understood that the "VELCRO" or similar fastening will allow for a wide range
of fastening positions between the flap and outer surface of the pocket to best
suit the particular thickness of insert within the pocket.
The packing system described herein involving selection
from a series of pre-formed foam inserts in conjunction with the air bags themselves
for which no adjustment is required or possible, significantly reduces the skill
levels needed to adjust the fit of the saddle to the horse during the life of the
saddle. Also, the use of the quick-release and attachment system of our US patent
6,725,636 to permit removal of the panels for re-packing and their re-attachment
when that has been completed avoids the need for skilled labour for that process
unlike traditional panel attachment methods involving stitching or stapling. Accordingly
the entire process can be undertaken by relatively unskilled labour.
The embodiment has been described by way of example and
modifications are possible within the scope of the invention.