The Saddle Pad Dilemma

by Elaine Lockhead

Consumers are inundated with complicated and often opposing messages. Riders try foam, neoprene, air, wool and synthetic fibers. Most riders have a barn full of pads, meaning they have not found the real McCoy. Riders purchase saddle pads to attempt to solve several problems at once: moisture control (breathability), saddle fit, and most importantly shock absorption resulting in a comfortable ride for both horse and rider. Unfortunately saddle pad sales are made in a static environment. The sales information in the store often has little or nothing to do with what will actually happen when you are in motion. Take for instance a runner. He wants to make contact with the track with just enough shock absorption to protect his joints and tendons but not with enough flex to cause him to sink into the footing or provide excessive rebound so he winds up higher in the air or feeling like he is stuck in the mud instead of receiving forward propulsion that allows him even productive steps.

Imagine the runner running on a track, and instead of hurdles, he has in front of him a series of saddle pads. First the memory foam. His weight takes a moment to compress the foam then he bottoms out onto the hard surface. Next a denser foam, he springs onto it and it in turn springs him into the air reducing his traction and balance (the trampoline effect). Next he steps on an air filled product where he cannot feel the track at all, his foot rotating around like a water bed. Now place these products in his shoes. Air works well for basketball players, they are trying to be airborne. We as riders are trying to do the opposite; stay connected to our horses. Next imagine adding 2 inches of foam to the bottom of your running shoes. The foam will give and pitch with every step. The runners’ foot will roll front, back and left, right, giving him such an unstable feel that he will most likely give up running in the search for safety.

 Unknowingly, this is what we do to our horses as we add thick layers of padding under our saddles. We create what is defined as pitch and yaw. Now try a marathon running insole. It is designed for athletes in motion. It is thin, breathable and absorbs impact rapidly without cushion. It keeps the runner’s foot stable, and he knows the feel of the next step will be just like the last. He can move forward with strength and confidence. Now consider saddle fit. Just like shoe fit you need to order a shoe size large enough to accommodate an insole. The insole should distribute shock weight and heat. It should be no slip and no sheer to eliminate blistering or chafing. It should relieve pressure or high impact points. Very few insoles meet these requirements and only one saddle pad makes its way from the runner to the horse. About a decade ago a worker in a shoe insole company took home a piece of marathon running material and gave it to his wife, a rider.

 The shoe insole company had developed a very low profile, breathable, shock absorbing, anti-fungal and anti-microbial insole. Oddly enough, the same features of an insole are also the same features sought by riders in a saddle pad. In 2005 Elaine Lockhead, discovered a piece of this material, called Thinline®, in a barn. Riding a very round mutton withered horse and fighting constant saddle slippage, she tried it. Amazingly the saddle never budged, her horse grew daily in his back, worked more happily and those historically difficult trots were now possible to sit. She became so committed to the product she sold her horses and put everything into Thinline®. Dozens of Olympic and international riders agreed.

 Everywhere she sent the product, whether to Jumpers, Endurance Riders, Western Riders, Dressage, and Polo…every imaginable discipline they all replied with the same result: our horses are happier, more comfortable and our riders sit better. To this day, Thinline® has not paid for a single endorsement. In 2005, Thinline® began designing new products. The shoe insole material answered 90% of the desires of the equestrian. The other 10% was moisture wicking properties, which once coupled with cotton, sheepskin, or felt, Thinline® products offer all the benefits in an ultimate saddle pad. Now there is a saddle pad that finally does what riders have been seeking for decades. It solves every saddle pad requirement regardless of breed or discipline and has no drawbacks.

 Saddle Fit: Thinline® pads augment saddle fit, and 95% of UK Master Saddlers in the US endorse and vend these products.

 Breathability: Thinline® is ridden by the top endurance riders passing countless vet checks, and the open cell material allows movement of air through the product.

 Stabilization: Thinline® pads keep riders stable in their position, something no other product has ever achieved. They are also endorsed by spinal surgeons for riders with sore backs and by riding programs across the globe for helping riders to sit more quietly, giving their horses the trust and confidence to work with their backs up.

 Shock Absorption: Thinline® pads absorb more shock than any other product on the market; it absorbs shock and equally distributes so much weight that it is vended and endorsed by veterinarians, equine chiropractors and equine massage therapists for horses with sore or sensitive backs. Even with unpaid endorsements from most of the Olympic show jumping and dressage teams, the real testament to the product is the way it makes every horse move better and every rider sit better. At the end of the day we are all just looking for one thing: a saddle pad that both the horse and rider can feel creates a great difference in comfort and contact.

Finally that product is here; Thinline® saddle pads maximize the communication between horse and rider as well as increases comfort and confidence for better riding and performance. Join the revolution.