Chloë, with Gift Horse Eventing, researched the Very Important Pad after her saddler suggested it. After some thorough research she jumped right in and tried it on her horse, Bolly. This article details her experience:
For all my horses in the past I’ve predominantly used a thin saddle cloth and sheepskin half pad set up to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible across their backs, and that the saddle fit isn’t compromised by too much bulking out.
When my saddler on a recent fitting check suggested I look at buying a VIP saddle pad for both the boys because she’d “heard good things about them” I got Googling to see what was so very important about these pads.
First of all they are made from a product developed and made in America originally to prevent bed sores, but it has since been used for trucker lorry seats (from what I’ve seen they sit down for hours on end eating Yorkie bars if confectionery adverts are telling me the truth!), knee pads for stunt men (makes sense), wheelchair cushions (prolonged seated position so risk of pressure sores) and now saddle pads for horses.
It’s not technically a gel as you can’t squish it around from one end of the pad to the other like you could a gel. It doesn’t lose its shape or ‘bottom out’ (become thinner) under pressure, it’s unaffected by extreme temperatures (from -18 to a scorching 240C) and it won’t harden or disintegrate over time. It’s a pretty nifty material akin to an artificial layer of fat, which is ideal for fit competition horses not carrying much weight but still needing the shock absorbing protection under their saddle.
Add to those creds the fact that it relieves pressure with its shock absorbing ability and it’s suddenly a very useful bit of kit! It’s thin too, only 8mm thick meaning that it doesn’t affect the fit of your saddle. The gullet area is a thin film free from the gel allowing you to pull that up into the central gullet of the saddle for a good fit.
So having done my due diligence and read up all about it I bought one, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating after all!
Long story short….it’s brilliant.
From the moment I used it Bolly loved it, he feels so free and forward in it. I think it helps to evenly distribute the rider’s weight and so the horse as a result feels less encumbered and more able to ‘flow’ in their paces. We can’t always be in perfect equilibrium or land in the saddle as lightly as we might like when caught off guard or off balance, so anything that helps minimise the impact of the odd blip is a good idea in my mind.
I think it’s also really useful for horse’s that change shape and size throughout the year. When they lose or gain condition or muscle mass it all impacts on the saddle fit, the VIP pad will help reduce the impact of those changes, buying you a little more time to arrange saddler visits and get the fit checked/altered.
You can wear it directly against the horse’s back or (like I do) between the saddle cloth and the saddle. I chose to use it like this for convenience really as this way it doesn’t get sweaty/dirty etc. I opted for the gold coloured one, but you can also get them in black and blue.
I am definitely going to use it on Dustry because anything to help his back muscles remain in good condition and continue to strengthen is vital for his post-op rehabilitation and career. I’ll let you know what he thinks of it too, but if Bolly’s reaction is anything to go by I think it’s going to be a big hit!