The difference between a near-catch and a money-winning run can all come down to having the right gear, including a properly fitted saddle pad. For the safety, comfort and well-being of your horse, quality equipment is key. Let’s look at a few tips from “the horseman’s horseman,” renowned trainer Brad Barkemeyer, on selecting a saddle pad that will go the distance.
But before we dive into saddle pads, let’s make sure you have a quality saddle that fits your horse properly. If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to consult with a saddle fitter or a trusted horse trainer to ensure the best fit for your horse.
#1. Contoured Design
Your horse’s back isn’t straight so it doesn’t make sense for a saddle pad to be either! Brad recommends a saddle pad with a contoured design that provides an anatomically correct fit for your horse. The front of a contoured pad stays off your horse’s neck and withers while the rest of the pad provides close contact over the spine, allowing the saddle to sit down properly. This close contact design enhances your communication with your horse for better performance when every moment matters. With Synergy® by Weaver line of saddle pads, you have multiple contour options to ensure the best fit for your horse:
- Dramatic contour with a leather spine – A great overall pad that provides noticeable wither relief for high-withered horses. The additional lift of the contour allows air to travel down your horse’s spine, keeping them cooler when being ridden—perfect for long days in the practice pen.
- Flex contour – These pads take up less storage space, while still offering slight wither relief. However, where they excel is on mutton-withered or very round horses. The slightly raised front and back of the spine area allows the pad to lock into place and help prevent saddle rolling.
- Original contour – Tried and true for everyday riding, these pads offer a wither relief cutout to help keep the pad lifted into the saddle gullet.
#2. Premium Materials
A comfortable horse can mean better performance in the arena, and that starts with a saddle pad constructed using only the highest quality materials. Pairing premium materials with skilled American craftsmanship ensures you’ll have a pad you can trust with every run. “To keep up with the physical demands of a team roping horse, good horsemanship and quality tack will result in the longevity of your horse’s career as well as sustained success,” shares Brad. Here are a few of the materials Brad looks for in a quality pad:
- EVA Sport Foam Inserts – With so many insert options in the industry, it can sometimes be hard to know what’s best. Brad’s top choice is the unique EVA sport foam inserts found in the Synergy® by Weaver line of saddle pads. Shock-absorbing, ventilated, and lightweight, these inserts have proven orthopedic value for both horse and rider. The shock-absorbing capabilities of this insert absorbs impact from the saddle and transfers it back toward the direction it came from. This transfer of energy means you’ll feel less “bounce” in the saddle and less soreness after hours in the saddle.
- F10 Virgin Merino Wool Liner – With the ability to wick 20x its weight in moisture while maintaining softness and elasticity, this liner is perfect for horses working in extreme heat or who sweat a lot. With an extremely high tensile strength of 225 PSI, F10 virgin merino wool is one of the best materials to have against your horse.
- Wool Blend Felt Liner – When you want a pad that can go longer between cleanings, a wool blend felt liner delivers. This high-performing material wicks away sweat to evenly cool your horse.
- 100% Merino Wool Fleece Liner – If your horse has sensitive skin, this all-natural option offers more protection with a little more maintenance. Fleece is also great for anyone looking for a “close contact” feel.
- Wool Blend Felt Topper – For everyday riding, a wool blend felt topper is a reliable choice. Its rugged design resists snags and stands up to even the most demanding situations.
- New Zealand Wool Topper – You also can’t go wrong with a handwoven New Zealand wool topper. With a variety of designs and colors, New Zealand wool toppers are showstoppers with a longer drop length visible below the skirt of the saddle, showcasing the design while providing extra protection.
#3. Money-Back Guarantee
Reputable manufacturers stand behind their products and give you a chance to experience the benefits of their goods for yourself. Look for something similar to Synergy by Weaver’s No-Risk 90-Day Test Ride guarantee. If for any reason you aren’t satisfied with the quality of your product, you can simply return the item to the place of purchase within 90 days for a full refund.
Whether you’re roping at a backyard jackpot or at the Thomas & Mack, a reliable saddle pad is a must. For gear you can count on, check out Synergy by Weaver’s full line of saddle pads priced from $180 to $240. Brad’s favorite pad, the Synergy Contoured Performance Saddle Pad, is a perfect all-around choice for a variety of horses.
About Brad Barkemeyer
Brad owns and operates Bar B Performance Horses in Scottsdale, Arizona where he sets the bar high for horses, people and products. He started his first colt when he was 12 and by the age of 14, he was training horses of different disciplines for the public. Today, he trains working cow and rope horses and coaches riders of all competitive levels. When not training, he’s a regular at the Ariat World Series of Team Roping.
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