Keep your horse comfortable on long rides with the right saddle pad.
By Kristin Syverson | January 18, 2009
For AQHA Corporate Partner Professional’s Choice
The next time you saddle up to ride, don’t underestimate the importance of your western or English saddle pad. It can significantly influence your horse’s comfort and performance.
Your saddle pad:
- Contributes to saddle fit; the wrong pad can make even the right saddle painful.
- Impacts the pressure on your horse’s back; a pad canminimize or maximize the pressure points.
- Affects the evaporation of sweat. Heat and moisture buildup can lead to sores as well as equipment damage.
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In 2006, Kansas State University researchers completed a yearlong study that evaluated the effectiveness of this basic piece of equipment. Six popular western saddle pads were tested and rated in a variety of categories including compression resistance, pressure distribution and wicking ability.
Wear and Tear
To gauge how the pads’ effectiveness would stand up to good, old-fashioned hard work, the pads were tested new, then were used for several months and rated once again in the original categories. The distribution of pressure and the average high peak pressure levels were measured using a high-tech sensing system. Dead weight testing and heat and moisture evaporation tests were also conducted on the saddle pads.
Saddle pads with high peak pressures can be potentially harmful to the horse, and those with poor wicking capabilities can lead to overheating.
In this case, saddle pads from Professional’s Choice performed particularly well, with the company’s SMx Air Ride and Wrangler SMx Air Ride pads earning high marks. The KSU study found that the SMx Air Ride, pad “displayed superior performance” because it exerted the least amount of pressure on the horses’ backs and had superior wicking abilities both before and after extended use.
Additionally, “the Wrangler SMx Air Ride pad exhibited the best performance in peak pressure elimination and pressure distribution after use. The SMx Air Ride maintained the highest wicking rate of all pads.”
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