Gear of the Month — May
Understanding the importance of the materials used in the manufacturing of your saddle pad is crucial to finding the best protection for your horse’s back.
There are a lot of options out there for saddle pad materials. In the age of modern miracle fibers and foams, scientific research supports that the almost forgotten fiber made by God still remains the original high-tech fiber. That material is WOOL.
Before addressing the aspects of saddle pad materials one cannot over emphasize the importance of good saddle fit. If the saddle does not fit correctly, soring will take place. Additional padding is only a temporary fix and will not solve the problem. In most instances, if you are having problems with a pad staying in place, you have to take a hard look at how the tree in your saddle fits the conformation of your horse. Because of expense, it is not practical to be changing saddles all the time, so it is then necessary to find correct pad material that will stay in place, provide maximized compression protection and cooling.
The most important of all the pad attributes to look for is compression protection and cooling. When choosing a saddle pad, look for all natural materials. Synthetic materials trap heat against your horse’s back which can cause soring. 100% pure wool will wick the sweat and remove heat thus cooling your horse. Unlike synthetic materials, wool fiber contains hundreds of tiny waves, called crimp, creating the millions of air pockets that give the fabric its insulating properties and ability to breath. It is this same component that allows wool to stretch up to 50 percent when wet, 30 percent when dry and still bounce back to its original shape. It is this natural physical property that makes wool such a beneficial compression protector. 100% pure wool (with no synthetic materials and no reworked wool) also offers a compression rating of 8 pounds of pressure absorption per square inch. It will absorb pressure and disperse it evenly to prevent pressure points.
Wool's unique ability to deal with perspiration is ONE OF THE IMPORTANT components of limiting sores or the severity of a sore from a pressure point of an improperly fitted saddle or piece of tack. Wool's ability to wick sweat away from the body leaves the skin dryer and cooler than other materials. Under a saddle, the primary problem is one of constant pressure in areas where the saddle fits poorly. Pads of a variety of materials are often used to try and alleviate these pressure points with no thought given to heat removal. The problem with most materials is that pressure is transferred through the pad to the horse's back and is often made worse after adding the pad.
Another IMPORTANT aspect of wool is the ability of a one-inch thick piece of wool felt to contain and limit pressure points. When a pressure point occurs, damage to the underlying skin and muscle occurs. Swelling of the skin and edema or fluid under the skin or in the muscle occurs as the bruising causes fluid to leak out of the cells. When you eliminate bruising, you eliminate the swelling and pain that goes along with it.
If "open and closed cell" foams are stretched in a similar fashion, they begin to break down immediately because their molecular structure has memory constraints of less than 5% before it begins to break down and tear apart. These same materials also break down much quicker than wool, when subjected to heat, sweat salts and pressure. Despite the influx of new fibers and foams being introduced into the equine world, WOOL continues to hold its own and be a main stay for top saddle makers and equine professionals that care about animal well-being.
Visit www.5starequineproducts.com to view their saddle pads.