January 14, 2015

Saddle Pads...Oh Me Oh My

You know the saying about only asking for advice when you already know the answer, but wish you didn't? It is one of my favorites and I think it pretty much applies to this post. I would honestly like opinions though, so please share your thoughts at the end!

I've been riding Gem in the Advantage saddle with a Reinsman Tacky Too pad for the last year. It came with the demo saddle and worked great, so I bought it.  It is light weight, thin and worked through many miles of conditioning and both the 25 LD and 50 endurance rides we did in 2014. The only problem I have with it is that it is too short for the length of the saddle. It never causes an issue, but I don't think it is ideal for your saddle to hang off the back of the pad. Plus it is some indeterminate number of years old and the felt feels bottomed out in some high use places.

Reinsman Tacky Too Pad

Flash forward to Christmas and my parents noted that I shared a page on FB to win a Professionals Choice Air Ride. I knew nothing about the pad and did no research, but figured if I won the thing I could at least resell it. Well, in true mom fashion she figured I would never win it and bought me one for Christmas. I was really, really hoping it would work to avoid returning a wonderful gift, but unfortunately the thing was 3"of thick, hard wool batting and when I put it on her short back it went past her hips and over her butt. That definitely wouldn't work as it would either cause massive irritation or push the saddle forward with every step she took. So I apologized to mum and returned it.

Prior to returning it, I measured the length and noted that it was 30". Yep, my mare has a very short back. Unfortunately, that meant that the new Tacky Too pad pictured above, also 30", would be way too long on her. Darn.

Ok...I'm nearly getting to the point...just one more piece of background information to share.

On Saturday, I tacked up as usual and found it odd that the Advantage seemed tilted slightly forward. Almost like it was a little too wide. Last time I rode was 2 weeks ago and it looked near perfect on her and had the most even sweat pattern possible.  I rode and she moved out like usual, but at the end I wasn't all that happy with the sweat pattern. Now, she wasn't particularly sweaty anyway (odd in itself given the exertion and the other horses were covered in it) but the sweat pattern was only present under the front 2/3rds of the saddle with the back 1/3rd being completely dry. In the last year I have never seen this pattern on her before. Hmmm...

Last night I went to the barn and measured my saddle and the current pad. The pad measures 22" across the spine and the saddle 24". The pad is 2" shorter than my saddle. Looking at her back, the way this pad fits and the way the 30" fit, I believe a 26" pad would be perfect but could go up to 28" in a pinch. That would rest just in front of her hips.

I came back home and began a several hour internet search on saddle pad options. I knew a few facts:

  1. I wanted something shimmable so that I can add to the front to tilt the saddle back a bit if it has somehow gotten too wide in the last 2 weeks.
  2. Has to be at least 24" at bare minimum, no more than 28"
  3. She absolutely hated the Toklat Coolback pad
  4. Pure wool (on both sides without any other material) doesn't work for her either
With all those in mind, I drove the hubby absolutely insane with potential candidates as he tried to focus on yet another post-Apocalypse movie (which was actually pretty good for the genre) and tune me out.

In the end I decided on this beauty:

Thin Line Sheepskin Endurance Pad

Why this one?

It fit pretty much everything I wanted. It is shimmable at the front, middle or rear or any combination you decide to spend money buying. The underside is 100% merino wool while the top is their high tech material. Thin Line is known for great shock absorption while maintaining a close contact feel and light weight. Plus they claim it is non slip. Oh! It has a 30 day money back return policy.

The only downside is that it comes in at 25" which just barely makes the cut off. They also failed to mention on the website the actual thickness of the pad. Her Advantage generally works better with a thinner pad, so we will see.

Dusty talked me out of buying the shims for the front like I wanted. I'm not 100% sure why I didn't anyway since it was free shipping due to the pad and only $23 for the pair. I think he really doesn't believe the pad will work for her, so the less investment the better. He also thinks I'm a little nutty for trying to re-invent the wheel after only one ride where it seemed a little off.

Ok......given all of that......

My next 50 is in 4 weeks. My plan is to do one last 20 mile ride this weekend, then a 6-10 mile ride the following and let her rest after that.

The pad has shipped and should hopefully arrive prior to my 20.

This is where I need advice.

Do I try the pad on her during the 20 miles with the risk that it won't work out and I won't get my miles in? When I tried to Coolback it was so bad that she refused to move and just kept trying to bite at it to remove it while glaring at my stupidity. This ended the ride very quickly with me hand walking her back several miles.

Do I wait and hold off until the following weekend's shorter and less critical ride? But then I worry that it won't be a good enough test of whether the pad will work or not.

Then the bigger question:

If I do try it out on either of the next two weekends (or I guess both if it goes well), do I tempt fate to use it during the 50?

I know the general rule is nothing new on race day, so if I don't try it out at all I would never throw it on her for the 50, but is a 20 mile ride enough of a test? Is a 10 mile ride? Where do you draw the line?

My current thought is this: if it comes in time for the weekend give it a try. In the past, when things don't work out on her it is pretty obvious from the start, so if I'm a few miles in I can always turn around and walk her out and change out for the current pad and go again.

If it produces a comfortable ride for us both with a nice sweat pattern, try it again the following weekend.

I think I would still lean towards starting the 50 in the Reinsman just to be safe, but then if she is showing anything weird in the sweat pattern or is sore at all I can toss the Thin Line on her and potentially be able to finish.

I just don't know!!!

1 comment:

  1. I would do exactly what you're planing to do already! In fact, that's exactly how I've tested my tack out before: by taking any new gear on a ride 15+ miles in length. The idea being that I want to make sure it will work for Lily for a distance that's at least equal to one loop at an endurance ride.

    So if it arrives in time, take it for the ride this weekend. Just factor in some extra time in case Gem decides she doesn't like it and you need to walk her back to the trailer to swap out pads.

    I hope the Thinline works for you! I've heard great things about their products!