If you’re thinking about investing in a half pad, the chances are you’re looking to fix some kind of issue relating to the fit of your horse’s saddle. Perhaps it has a tendency to slip, it sits unevenly on your horse’s back or his shape has changed with the seasons.
There are many half pads available that may offer you a temporary solution, be it shock absorption, anti-slipping properties, breathability or fit-correction. With such a range on the market, it can be hard to know which one to choose.
If you’re considering using a half pad, it’s important to work closely with your saddler and follow their advice before you buy one. Half pads can dramatically change the fit of your saddle, so using the wrong one could cause your horse significant discomfort.
When would I need to use a half pad?
Speak to your saddler if you think you’ve spotted any problems with the fit of your saddle, mentioning any factors you think might warrant the use of a half pad. Certain scenarios when half pads can be beneficial include…
- when your horse’s weight fluctuates
- if he has uneven muscling
- when your saddle’s pommel or cantle sits too low
- if he has a sensitive back
TOP TIP Ensure your saddle fits correctly by having it checked by a qualified saddler every six months.
Gel half pads
Gel half pads are composed of a gum-like material and are generally a single thickness of around 2–3mm. While they won’t flesh out the fit of a saddle as much as some thicker pads, they do offer the advantage of shock-absorption and anti-slip properties.
Great for… horses with sensitive backs or saddles that have a tendency to slip
Look out for… a pad that’s well-ventilated to prevent your horse getting too hot under his saddle
Fleece-lined half pads
Fleece-lined half pads are a thicker option and they’re commonly used to fill out a saddle that’s a little too wide.
Great for… horses who drop off a little over winter
Look out for… a channel down the centre of the pad. This is important as full fleecing narrows the gullet of your saddle, placing pressure on your horse’s spine and withers
Half pads for fit
Some half pads allow you to correct the fit of your saddle in innovative ways. There are some that come with shims to slide into pockets in the front and back to alter the fit, while others can be inflated according to your saddle fitting needs.
Great for… a horse who’s unevenly muscled, as this can affect saddle fit. A fit-correcting pad could help until he regains muscle
Look out for… half pads with a range of shim thicknesses for extra adjustability
TOP TIP If your horse is unevenly muscled, ask your vet to check him over to make sure there are no veterinary issues.
Riser pads are thicker one end than the other, offering extra height and cushioning to the cantle or pommel areas.
Great for… if you find your cantle or pommel is sitting too low
Look out for… riser pads coming in different thicknesses. Be sure that when you choose a pad you don’t end up buying one that’s too thick, which could tip your saddle the opposite way
TOP TIP Make sure that the knee roll of your saddle isn’t obstructing your horse’s shoulder and lifting the pommel – thereby dropping the cantle.
Don’t do it by halves
If you’re buying a half pad of any type, remember to do so on the recommendation of your saddler. While using the pad, monitor your saddle’s fit and your horse’s way of going, noting any changes you discover and reporting back to your saddler. To help you check the fit of your saddle with and without the pad, and to help you to spot any potential issues yourself, you could ask your saddler to show you what to look for. Then, you can let them know straightaway if something’s not quite right.