Innovation-In-Action

RP saddles reflect the best of the traditional saddle maker’s art partnered with innovative design and testing. Providing ultimate comfort for horse and rider through its unprecedented ability to flex and adjust to the horse’s movement, RP saddles help the rider achieve greater connection, harmony, and ultimately, better performance.
Anatomy of the RP Saddle

RP saddle tops are built by hand on a traditional wood laminate and spring steel tree, with a broad head for wither comfort, and shortened tree points for absolute shoulder freedom. They are finished in the finest and most durable leathers, cut and stitched to the highest standards of the saddle maker’s art.

Unlike conventional saddles with flocking or other padding, the RP system has velcro marked with gridlines and circles to guide the placement of the shock absorbers.

Four shock absorbers made of flexible, compressible Sorbothane® attach the saddle top to RP’s innovative panels. Using aviation grade Velcro for ultimate security, this unique system allows an infinite range of adjustments to fit almost any horse.

RP’s innovative, individual panels feature ReactorPanel® technology in leather covered layers of closed-cell foams and impact resistant Delrin plastic. They are extremely flexible, so they move with the horse. Ergonomically shaped, they evenly distribute pressure over the largest possible weight bearing surface of the horse’s back. A variety of panel sizes accommodate horses’ different back and shoulder conformation, movement, muscling, and sensitivity.

RP saddles provide ultimate shoulder freedom. When a horse is in motion, the scapula and the muscles and cartilage surrounding it slide rearward under the saddle during extension of the foreleg even if you have placed your saddle behind the shoulder blade! If the front edge of the saddle tree is too tight, the horse must force his shoulder under the tree with every step he takes. This tightness creates pain for the horse and limits his movement.

When properly fitted, the saddle sits right on the panels. The discs contour the panels to follow the curves of the horse's back.

It’s not possible to place a saddle far enough back that the shoulder never encounters the saddle. To test this, watch while a friend picks up your horse’s front leg and gently pulls it forward as though the horse were extending the limb. You may be amazed at how far back the shoulder and its surrounding muscles travel. Every horse needs to slide some part of the shoulder apparatus underneath the saddle in order to extend the foreleg, and it is the saddle’s job to accommodate this extension and rotation.

RP Two Part Flexible Panel Design

RP’s two panel saddle system traces back to a long history in military saddle designs,where the ability of the horse to cover long distances without back pain was critical. RP simply refined this time-tested functionality by using the most modern materials.

The final step in the assembly process is to secure the flexible panels onto the shock-absorbing discs.

The RP saddle’s large panels maximize the weight-bearing surface, which distributes pressure over the widest possible area. Different panel lengths combined with panel placement and shock absorber settings ensure that the RP panel system can accommodate average, long, or short backs.

A larger weight-bearing surface equates to lower pressure under the saddle, avoiding the problems caused by high-pressure spots created by poorly fitting saddles. High pressure spots can result in damage including:

  • Muscle soreness/spasm
  • Occluded blood flow
  • Hair rubs and sores
  • White hair
  • Tissue damage
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Myriad performance and behavior issues

Continuous pressure as low as 1.5 PSI can occlude blood flow. And once blood flow stops, tissue damage can begin in less than an hour. If pressure is unrelenting, muscle eventually atrophies. This happens even if the pressure point is fairly low when the pressure on the horse’s back is constant, and directed into a muscle.

Pressures under a RP saddle are lower and pressure spots are generally intermittent because the panels flex and move. This helps prevent muscle spasms and maintains maximum blood flow to the muscles.

We have documented numerous cases in which horses regenerated atrophied tissue after switching to a RP saddle. There have been measurable changes in as little as six weeks, with significant differences after three to six months.

RP results speak for themselves: While a horse with muscle atrophy given six weeks of pasture rest will not improve, but the same horse worked on a basic conditioning schedule under a remedial saddle fit—which is easy to achieve with RP saddles—usually regenerates tissue.

Engineering

RP saddles are engineered in every detail to provide the greatest possible comfort for the horse. For example, a conventional saddle tree can force a compromise between width and clearance. A saddle narrow enough to clear the wither often pinches the shoulder, while a saddle broad enough to allow free shoulder play often presses down on the wither. This fitting problem and many others provided the reason for RP saddle designers to push innovation to its limits in their quest for a saddle that fits the horse in motion and solves these common problems.

The panels are a sandwich composition of leather and acetyl resin, a polymer which gives the panels structure yet permits a great deal of flex.

The RP saddle evolved from conventional saddle designs as part of the same evolutionary wave that yielded products of every description that are stronger, lighter, and more flexible—while enabling increased performance.

Computerized Pressure Testing

The RP system was developed using the same computerized pressure testing and analysis that was used to develop medical products that eliminate bedsores. By measuring pressures between the horse and saddles of all types, the RP design team focused on creating an entirely new saddle that would provide the greatest possible comfort and connection for horse and rider.

Years of research, design and testing went into finding the right combination of design features, engineered elements, and materials to create the perfect saddle system. The result is the ReactorPanel® technology developed beginning in 1992 and proudly used today in RP saddles.

Dynamic Fit

Good fit begins in the barn aisle, but it doesn’t end there. Achieving dynamic fit on the moving horse is the ultimate challenge in saddle design. The RP Saddle Company answered that challenge with a saddle that responds to the horse in action.

RP’s flexible panels and shock absorbing discs follow the changing contours of the back in motion. The front and rear edges of the panels flex the most dramatically, because the horse’s shoulder and loin have the greatest articulation and movement. Because both panels are independently attached, they can compress and flex on either side of the horse’s spine in response to the back in motion. RP’s flexible panels contact the saddle under the rider’s seat for connection and stability.

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