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Original Work Set-up and Completion

Objective/ Purpose:

        The equestrian world faces a recurring problem of controlling fungal and bacterial growth on their horses. This fungal/bacterial buildup and growth typically happens underneath the saddle area where sweat can accumulate as the horse is working in hot or humid conditions. Once bacteria or fungus spends too much time on the skin, it spreads further causing detrimental health problems in horses. The purpose of this project was to create a working saddle pad that would wick sweat away from the horse’s back by absorbing moisture, while also filtering out harmful microorganisms that can build up causing fungal growth or bacterial infections. Through the use of chemical engineering design principles, including research, modeling, and implementation centering on the idea of material synthesis, I was able to create a functional saddle pad that meets these requirements. 



Materials:  I used numerous materials in my process of creating this saddle pad, following through on all steps including research, design, and implementation. Starting with research, I used all facets of the internet to gather information regarding horses and their sweat, microorganisms that can be found in their sweat, common materials and fabrics, and currently produced saddle pads. Through the internet, I was able to gain access to veterinary and chemical engineering journals that aided me in my research. In the design portion of my process I used an application called Autodesk Inventor, which is a CAD modeling system, that allowed me to create a 3D model of my saddle pad. Through this application, I was able to determine how the saddle pad would fit together, as well as, the exact dimensions and shape of the pad. I was also able to document all of these measurements using a drawing feature that I will be able to include along with the product I created. Finally, I used countless amounts of materials in the implementation phase of this process. Just to make the saddle pad, I used numerous fabrics including cotton twill for the top of the panels, a cotton nylon blend for the underside of the pad, cotton batting for cushioning, silver embedded antimicrobial sheets in between the layers, mesh to connect the two panels, nylon straps for security on the horse, and seam binding to bring it all together. In order to sew all of these materials together and complete my product I extensively used a sewing machine that allowed me to be quick and precise about how I put together my saddle pad. Not only did I use tangible materials, but I also utilized the advice of those around me from professionals in the chemical engineering field, to peers, equestrian professionals and even family members. All of these materials, whether tangible or not, allowed me to complete this project to the best of my ability and really produce a good quality final product. 

Procedure:  There were five main phases to my original work that allowed me to produce a quality saddle pad by the end. The first stage was brainstorming where I began to think about how to connect my love of horses to my interests in the field of chemical engineering. I have experienced issues with fungal and bacterial growth on some of my horses due to sweat buildup and wanted to find a way to help these horses using my newfound knowledge of chemical engineering. When I began brainstorming the ways I could combat this, I immediately moved towards the idea of creating a saddle pad designed and engineered to reduce sweat accumulation, therefore, decreasing the ability for fungal growth and bacterial infections. Next, I moved to the research phase of my process where I spent countless hours, over the course of several weeks, to cover every single aspect of this project that I needed to create my product. I researched everything from the characteristics of horse sweat to common skin issues with horses, and how these two topics are related to get a better understanding of the exact problem I was trying to solve. Then I researched information on saddle pads to gain a better understanding of what was already being used in the equestrian world and why. Not only did I read articles written on the science of saddle pads but I also researched the manufacturing characteristics of current saddle pads on the market. The final thing I researched was materials. This began as a simple search for different types of fabric that led to a look at military fabrics and then a more indepth look at antimicrobial fabrics and their characteristics. This research allowed me to gain a better idea of my design and the necessary requirements that I needed to include. The third step in my process was the design phase. In this phase I used a CAD modeling software called Autodesk Inventor, that allowed me to create a 3D model of my saddle pad which allowed me to work with shape, composition, assembly, and size in a digital format. This particular phase allowed me to cement my design and begin planning for how I was going to implement it. The next phase was the implementation phase where I worked to turn the design I had created into reality. In this phase I purchased numerous fabrics including cotton twill, cotton nylon blend, cotton batting, nylon webbing, mesh, silver embedded antimicrobial sheets, and seam binding. After obtaining these materials which I determined necessary from my research, I cut the shape of the saddle pad using the design I had created and sewed all of the pieces together using a sewing machine in order to create my final product. The fifth and final step was the conclusion and reflection phase. In this phase I pulled together all of my research in order to determine my train of thought and if I had met the requirements I had set out for myself when beginning the project. After this reflection I found myself extremely satisfied and proud of the saddle pad I had created using engineering design principles. 


Utilization of Higher Level Thinking Skills:

        Throughout this process of creating my original work I utilized multiple higher level thinking skills mostly through the use of chemical engineering principles. In my research I constantly asked questions about what I was reading and how that related to the problem I was trying to solve. I found myself wanting to ensure that I investigated and researched every aspect of my saddle pad, leaving no problem unsolved. I also used design higher level thinking skills as I had to take dimensions and pictures of common saddle pads, adapt them to my needs, and ultimately create a completely unique design. Not only did I come up with the design of my saddle pad, but through my research I came up with a very unique combination of fabrics and technology that ultimately allowed me to create a one of a kind product that fulfilled its purpose. In the long run, coming up with the design of my saddle pad was easy compared to the extensive amount of time and energy that went into constructing my saddle pad from simple materials into a functional product. I utilized numerous higher level thinking skills throughout my project, and without the utilization of these skills I would not have been able to complete my project in the manner that I did. 



        The culmination of my original work lay in the creation of a saddle pad with antimicrobial properties that focuses on reducing the amount of bacterial and fungal growth due to sweat while a horse is working. The materials of the saddle pad are essential to fulfilling this description. The bottom layer, that rests against the horse’s back, is a cotton nylon blend fabric that is soft to the touch and works to wick sweat away from the back of the horse. Then the middle layer, full of cotton batting, traps the sweat and moisture keeping it away from the horse’s back. The top layer, made of 100% cotton twill, adds durability to the saddle pad and locks in the moisture until the saddle pad can be air dried after use. There is a thin sheet of medical grade fabric infused with silver nanoparticles in between the bottom and middle layers that traps microorganisms as sweat is absorbed through the saddle pad. This material keeps these microorganisms, which can cause bacterial infections or fungal growth, from building up under the saddle. There are two panels, a left and a right one, made with this composition and there is a mesh layer that connects the two. This mesh connector runs over the horse's spine providing flexibility to the saddle pad while also providing a place for cooling and air flow that will ultimately cool down the horse and reduce sweat. The saddle pad is created using a quilting pattern that consists of 3 inch by 3 inch squares sewn into the panels to promote breathability and flexibility. There is a slight curvature along the spine of the saddle pad that provides comfort to the horse as it contours to the common shape of a horse’s back. There is extra padding at the whither area designed to relieve pressure and provide comfort for the horse. The saddle pad measures a total of 28.5 inches in length and 20 inches in width, with the spine of the saddle pad measuring 22 inches. The layers and batting give the saddle pad panels a width of about ¼ inch. 



        Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the product that I created. The saddle pad turned out much better than I imagined in my head. It was quite nerve wracking to pull it all together for I worried that the design that I had worked so hard to develop and engineer was going to fail as soon as I started sewing. The materials that I deemed necessary for this project were more difficult to find than I originally anticipated. It took me a good bit longer than I planned to find the materials I needed with the right composition. Once my product was complete, I was able to compare it to the size of other saddle pads and the size of my saddle and it seems a bit big although I do not know how it would fit on a horse. Perhaps the larger size would be better for the horse. I am definitely curious to know how well my design accomplishes my goal. In theory, the design should decrease sweat and therefore bacterial and fungal buildup, but I am unsure as to whether that would prove a reality when tested on a real horse. I would definitely be interested in somehow testing my product to figure out if it accomplishes this goal and if it can hold up to the abuse typically seen in normal summer where horses are working hard in hotter temperatures. Overall, I am extremely pleased and proud of my product considering that I designed and constructed a saddle pad from nothing but a bit of research and some raw materials. It is most definitely a culmination of all that I have learned throughout this semester and while I think it is a great product and a great way to end my original work, I think there are so many more things that I could do in the future with this idea. I am excited to see where this level and path of thinking will lead me not only on this project but in others as well. 


Application/ Meaning:

        This product will most definitely help the equestrian community as it introduces a new design to the common saddle pad that will help with the control of bacterial and fungal growth. The health of horses is incredibly important to the horse world and if using a different saddle pad will promote healthy horses, many will jump at the chance. I believe that this new design of saddle pad could help my own horses with sweat accumulation problems and improve their overall health as well. I think that this saddle pad, considering the amount of research and complex design that went into it, can revolutionize the ways in which bacterial and fungal growth is controlled and ultimately eliminated, overall improving the health of the horse which is by far the most important part of being an equestrian.

This project most definitely meant a lot to me as I have seen many horses struggle with skin infections due to working in old, dirty saddle pads that do not provide proper ventilation and antimicrobial properties. Being an equestrian myself, the well being of the horse is by far the most important thing to me and most others in my community. The fact that I was able to solve one of these pressing problems in the equestrian world and work towards helping horses who suffer from bacterial infections or fungal buildup was inspiring and fulfilling.

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