Adaptive Saddle for Massachusetts Hospital School

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atrc, assistive, technology, resource, center, mqp, saddle, massachusetts, hospital, school, adaptive, saddle, therapeutic, assistance


The goal of this project was to design an adaptive saddle, which will promote independence for the rider and assist in therapeutic exercises, while maintaining safety for the rider, sidewalker, and horse. The staff of the horseback riding programs at Massachusetts Hospital School (MHS) was seeking an improved method for maintaining the positioning of students with disabilities in the saddle. Modifications to a saddle were designed and constructed to assist Physical Therapists and students of the Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding programs at MHS. The design’s intent was to provide a saddle with removable/adjustable supports on both the back and front of the saddle. Safety, weight and durability were the most important aspects, which were taken into consideration throughout the design process. Seven preliminary designs were developed, which included both rigid and foam supports. A ranked functions chart was used to determine which design best fit the task specifications. A combination of a rigid, adjustable surcingle & back thoracic support was chosen as a final design. The device was tested both at WPI and at MHS and was proven to withhold all applied loads and moments. However, the horse was sensitive to the noises and to the different structure of the modified structure, creating an unsafe environment for the rider. The team recommended that the thoracic support not be used in future hippotherapy, that the surcingle device be used as forward leaning support, and that the staff conduct extensive training with the horses.