The best half pads for horses can be used to aid the horse’s comfort at periods when they are developing or changing shape due to adjustments in their weight, fitness levels or age. They are not designed as a ‘quick fix’ for a saddle that doesn’t fit and we would always recommend that saddles are professionally fitted to the individual horse to ensure their well-being and help enhance their way of going.
Half pads should mould to the horse’s back to distribute pressure evenly, allow the saddle to sit correctly and remain in place, and should not cause the horse’s back to overheat. In order to achieve all of these benefits look for pads made of a breathable material that have the ability to adjust to the shape of your horse’s back.
Horse & Hound has been working with a number of professional riders, trainers and yards to put a range of products to the test in a busy yard environment. And here are the results…
Meet the product tester
The half pads in this group test were trialled by professional event rider Sam Jennings, who started her eventing career in 1999 as a young rider and was shortlisted for the British team that year. Sam successfully competes a range of event horses up to advanced level , from her friendly, professional yard in Kent. She also regularly holds clinics and teaches private lessons around Kent and Sussex.
Horse & Hound’s pick of the best half pads
*BEST IN TEST*
“I found this mini half pad very useful for when you just needed to make a little adjustment to how the saddle sits on the horse’s back. It was very quick and easy to put in place and liked how versatile it was in terms of where you could place it. The change it caused on the saddle fit was subtle, which I liked, and it didn’t affect the feeling between my seat and the horse’s movement. It didn’t slip at all and washed really well. I found it the most useful pad in the group test for my yard.”
“This pad has no straps, which makes is very easy to use and it fitted on any horse without moving. I felt that it distributed the weight of the rider evenly and worked really well for everyday use on the yard. It wasn’t as breathable as the others in the group test, but all my horses felt comfortable wearing it. I like how cushioning it is, but at the same time it kept me close to my horse. It is not as stylish or flash as some of the others in the group test, but is a great addition to my yard.”
“This pad was breathable and well ventilated, while being well cushioned and comfy. It almost acted like memory foam as it was really cushioning. I found the placing of the straps very useful and I never felt that it would rub my horse. I like how smart it looked under a saddle. It sat particularly nicely under a dressage saddle. A good choice for someone who is looking to provide that extra bit of comfort to their horse’s back.”
“This pad was slightly larger and was a bit longer than the others. The pad was slimmer, but still maintained a good level of cushioning. I thought that the light sheepskin fluff looked really smart, particularly when competing. I found that I used it more for dressage as the cut at the front is quite straight. I like how reasonably priced this half pad is considering its quality and style. It is quite long and therefore was better suited to a larger seated saddle.”
“This pad looked very modern and technical. It was very cushioning, but I did feel quite far away from my horse’s back when using it. I was a fan of the jelly grip as it never moved without needing to be secured to the saddle. It combined the benefits of a gel pad with a riser effect and my horses felt very comfortable in it. This is a really neat piece of kit for a horse that has a particularly sensitive back or one that needs their back protected. However, it is expensive if you are looking for a general half pad.”
“This pad gave good, all-round cushioning that raised the saddle off the wither. It was flexible, but also held its shape well. I found the Velcro fastenings were too low and long for my saddles so they weren’t used. I didn’t find it as breathable as some of the others in the group test, but it did look very smart. It isn’t as technical as some of the others in the group test, but it would be a simple, smart addition to your tack room.”
Horse & Hound is in the process of testing a wide range of equestrian kit, clothing and equipment, the results of which will be published on HorseandHound.co.uk
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