Brace Yourself

Elise Blair

In this article, Elise Blair gives a thorough review of the Very Important Pad and the positive effects the pad has on her and her horse, Dave:

I got the chance to test out the V.I.P half pad, and write a review. All opinions are my own, after I had thoroughly tested out the product!

What Is It?

What is the VIP?

The V.I.P (Very Important Pad) is a half pad that sits underneath your saddle in order to reduce the pressure from a saddle. It’s made by Amanda Renouard and Tamara Hudleston, who put a lot of research together to find the perfect material for this pad. Unlike the average silicone half pad on the market, the V.I.P is made out of a  Viscoelastic Polymer Gel. This is a raw material that is usually used to prevent Ulcers, and pressure sores. 

What

The Polymer has over 45 years of scientific research to it’s name, in order prove the benefits of it’s use. The reason this material is so perfect for a half pad is due to it being hypoallergenic, and very easy to clean. The gel draws sweat away from your horses back, so you don’t have to worry about your horses back overheating. It’s extremely flexible, so it sits over your horses back like a second skin, yet it is durable enough to hold it’s shape. As it’s designed not to bottom out, or spread under the weight of a saddle and rider, it doesn’t change the fit of your saddle. It comes in 3 discreet colours: yellow, blue, and black.

The Design

The Design of the VIP

This pad has one side that is completely smooth, and one side that has bobbles protruding from it. The bobbled side is designed to sit against your horses back to spread the weight of the saddle over a wider surface area, therefore reducing any pressure points. These bobbles are super squishy and soft, so you don’t have to worry about the texture causing any rubs on your horses skin. The smooth side then sits against your saddles, preventing any marks being left on your saddle. The gullet is extremely thin, with no seams, which means that there is no pressure put across your horses spine, and it is left completely free. The pad is only 8mm thick, which stops the fit of the saddle being modified in any way. It can be used either directly on your horses back, with a saddle cloth on top, or it can be placed directly on top of the saddle cloth.

My Experience

Experience with the VIP

This pad caught my eye whilst scrolling through Facebook a year, or so ago. I have had a lot of issues with saddles in the past, so anything advertised to keep your horses back protected is a winner for me! I suggest reading my blog, “ Not So Wow!”, to further understand the problems I experienced in this department. I never got around to trying the V.I.P out, as I had to deal with finding a good fitting saddle in the first place, but this week I finally got the chance to try it out with Dave.

In the past. I have used all sorts of sheepskin and silicone half pads, that were advertised to aid with comfort, and all of them have made the saddle sit so high up of my horses back that I couldn’t stand to use them anymore. Dave is an extremely sensitive horse when it comes to tack, and if one bit of tack is even slightly out of place, he will turn inside-out. This is especially noticeable in canter with him. So, I would be able to tell straight away if this pad wasn’t doing it’s job properly.

Exper

I chose to use the V.I.P over the top of my saddle cloth, so I would be able to see if it moved at all, and how it sat under my saddle. It fits beautifully under my jumping saddle, and is barely noticeable. It’s so flexible that it just moves with the saddle when you do any adjustments whilst tacking up. The first thing I noticed once I got aboard, was that you couldn’t even tell there was a pad underneath you. It didn’t change a single thing about the fit of my saddle, or compromise my comfort either. So, I was already impressed that it was working exactly as advertised.

Whilst warming up, Dave was super stretchy across his back straight away, and didn’t hollow his back as much as normal when asked to do downwards transitions. Due to my disability, I sit a bit lop-sided in the saddle, so I usually have to stand in one stirrup to move the saddle back over, which I hate doing as it pulls at Dave’s back. Dave also has some asymmetrical muscle along his topline, due to a slight rotated pelvis, and me sitting wonky. I didn’t have to readjust the saddle at all whilst riding with the V.I.P. It seemed to keep my saddle a lot more stable by filling out the gaps where Dave is lacking topline. My Amerigo jumping saddle is actually designed to have a gentle lift at the back of the panels, which sometimes makes it “rock” a little bit in canter, even though it has been fitted for him. This time, as the panels had more surface area to sit against, the saddle sat flatter across Dave’s back, meaning it moved less!

Dave usually takes quite a few laps to settle into a proper rhythm in canter. His wonky pelvis tends to make him canter with his bum sticking out to one side, and it’s usually worse on the left rein. Whilst wearing the pad, he went straight into a relaxed, pretty straight canter that didn’t take as long as normal to settle into a good jumping canter. He stretched over his back properly, and accepted a really nice contact, when normally he would duck behind the contact as a way to evade anything that’s hard work! This is where I really saw the positive effect the V.I.P Pad was having on Dave.

When using other kinds of half pads, I have always felt that they affected the way I ride. I would “bounce” more in the saddle, and feel really unstable from being perched above my horses back. This would then make me extremely tense, which then transposes onto Dave. Whilst using the V.I.P, I was delighted to find that the pad never changed the way I rode. I actually felt like I was sitting up better, when I usually tilt my upper body forwards. Being able to sit up without having to make a conscious effort is a huge bonus for me, as it helps to opens up my ribcage, which then prevents any more compression of my lungs. Being able to sit up properly is also useful against those excitable flying horse moments!

I’m currently bringing it home each time I use it, as I feel like it is too delicate to leave in a tack room. You also have to hold it right in the middle, as the packaging mentions to not hold it on the edges to prevent it from stretching or tearing. It would be easy to cause nail marks/punctures with your nails too. Especially if they’re long like mine! It is actually quite heavy for a half pad, although not so bad that is difficult to carry. It’s just something I noticed when comparing it to other silicone half pads I have. Once I find a good bag/case to store it in, I will happily leave it in the tack room. I love that you can just wipe it over with a damp cloth each time you use it, rather than having to put it in the washing machine, and dirt doesn’t stick to it. It’s very easy to keep clean!

Is it worth it?

Is the VIP worth it?

I definitely think the V.I.P is worth investing in, especially if you have a sensitive horse. It’s not made to use on an ill-fitting saddle, instead it will add a protective layer under your saddle. Think of how your horses back is affected when you have those not so fun moments of landing hard in the saddle from your horse over jumping, or having a bit too much fun! Can’t be too comfy for them. This pad acts as an “air bag”, cushioning your horses delicate back against those moments. It’s also used by professional dressage rider, Roland Tong, who pairs it with his custom fitted saddles, and swears by them. At first, I was worried that it was going to alter the fit of my saddle, and even spoke to my saddle fitter about it before using it (I’m very anxious when it comes to anything that could possibly affect the fit of my saddle after my terrible experiences), but it held it’s shape so well that my saddle still fit perfectly. It’s totally different to any other pad on the market, and works exactly as advertised. It didn’t budge at all under my saddle, even with my uneven pressure pulling on it.

I will be using this pad from now on when I ride, and have confidence in my horses comfort!

Pros

  1. It doesn’t affect the fit of your saddle.
  2. It doesn’t move.
  3. It protects your horses back.

Cons

  1. Relatively heavy.
  2. Delicate to handle.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this review helps you out!