When it comes to half pads, it can be a little overwhelming. There are so many different styles, types, and materials that it’s almost hard to find a place to start when you’re on the hunt for one (the days of only having to decide what color you wanted are gone).
But the best starting point is a properly fitted saddle. No amount of extra padding will make up for a saddle that fits correctly. When your saddle is properly fitted, the simplest of saddle pads is all you need.
But if your horse has a more unique back, or your saddle needs a little help to fit the best, then more specialty pads come into play.
So I’ve put together an in-depth look at half pads in the hope it makes your next shopping excursion a little easier!
What Are Half Pads?
Half Pads are smaller shaped pads that are about “half” the size of a full-sized square pad… hence the name! And they open up a whole new can of worms when it comes to saddle pads. These are a great option for horses that need more support or to temporarily improve the fit of a saddle. They are more ideal than the bulk of adding another normal saddle pad and have many specific technical features.
Correction or "Shimmable" Half Pads
Correction half pads primary purposes are to aid in saddle fitting. They are equipped with special pockets on the top section of the pad to allow the addition of “shims” to the pad. Shims are additional inserts that make the half pad thicker to fill in gaps between the saddle and the horses back. For example, a narrow withered horse may need a half pad with front shims to make a wider saddle fit better. A shimmable half pad can be very helpful when riding multiple horses in the same saddle to make minor adjustments. These pads are made from a variety of materials- the most popular being fleece, sheepskin, wool, cotton, or a combination.
A go-to shimmable half pad for us is the Fleeceworks Perfect Balance Half Pad. Has a full sheepskin lining for ultimate comfort and a multitude of inserts to create that perfect fit for your horse.
Shock Absorbing Half Pads
Another very popular feature on many half pads is being constructed with a shock-absorbing material. The basis behind these pads is to make both the horse and rider more comfortable while doing strenuous activities such as jumping or high-level dressage. This is done by absorbing the concussion and impact while evenly distributing weight across the horse’s back. Not all shock-absorbing saddle pads are the same, though. Depending on their construction, they offer different benefits.
Open Cell Foam
An open-cell foam pad is constructed of tiny cells (or air bubbles) that are not fully closed. This allows air within the pad to create a softer base that absorbs shock and disperses it through the open cells. These pads conform to the horse’s back and offer extra cushion as well.
Open Cell is the hot trend on the market right now and one of our top choices for shock protection. Thinline half pads offer excellent support as well as being shimmable so are the best of both worlds. Mira doesn't go one ride without her trusty Thinline Trifecta Half Pad!
Or the Equifit ImpacTeq Half Pads are also superb options.
Closed Cell Foam
Closed-cell pads have “closed” cells as opposed to “open” and this creates a more firm and rigid pad that rebounds shock and distributes weight as opposed to absorbing it. There is no air through these pads, they retain their shape and do not compress like an open cell pad.
Memory foam pads fall into the category of open-cell foam but with a twist. This type of pad compresses and molds directly to your horse's back when weight is applied to the saddle. This makes it great to relieve pressure points and help with saddle fit, but when it compresses completely, it loses its shock absorption ability.
When it comes to memory foam, there is no competitor to Ogilvy Memory Foam Half Pads! They create a great fit for almost all saddles and horses and come in a plethora of color options.
Gel pads are an alternative to foam pads. They continue to offer shock absorption and relieve pressure points, but they do not breathe or trap heat like open-cell foam. Newer honeycomb constructed gel pads absorb shock and avoid the old problem of excess gel build up in one area under the saddle, which is used to create less issues with pressure points. A thin gel pad is a good option for well-fitting saddles when you want some extra shock protection.
Acavallo offers plenty of great modern gel options to help different saddle fit issues, as well as providing extra protection.
Anti-Slip Half Pads
Anti-Slip pads come in all different shapes and sizes, from full pads to half pads, and many times they are even already incorporated into your favorite pad. Their primary purpose is to keep you saddle secure and in place. This feature is key for high withered horses or intense disciplines.
The Nunn Finer No Slip Pads are some of my favorites because of their simplistic design and they keep my saddle right in place.
The saddle pad scene is always changing, but this guide gives you a good place to start. Check out our whole collection of half pads HERE, and don’t hesitate to call us at 864-457-3557 for one some personal assistance!
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