Happy Horse, Happy Back
Happy back, better runs. And as we all know: better runs, better checks.
Brad Barkemeyer messing with his rope on a horse.
Brad Barkemeyer

The best in the business have something in common when it comes to their horses: excellent horse health management. A critical aspect of keeping your horse healthy and performing their best—whether they’re a jackpot, rodeo, futurity or kid’s horse—is maintaining a healthy back. Multiple factors contribute to a healthy back, including conditioning, saddle fit and hoof care.

Here is a Q & A featuring some commonly asked questions about finding the right saddle fit for your rope horse: 

1) How thick should a saddle pad be for rope horses? 

Roping is tough work, so your horse will appreciate the extra protection. Select a pad that is at least one inch thick. 

2) What saddle pad material is best? 

Wool is often considered one of the best materials for saddle pads due to its unique properties. 

  • Moisture wicking: As the horse sweats, wool fibers draw the moisture away, allowing it to evaporate more quickly. This helps to keep the horse’s back drier and cooler, reducing the risk of discomfort and skin irritations.
  • Breathability: The natural structure of wool fibers creates small air pockets, promoting ventilation and preventing heat buildup.
  • Cushioning and pressure distribution: Wool fibers have inherent elasticity, which allows them to compress and then spring back to their original shape. This provides excellent cushioning and shock absorption, reducing the pressure points between the saddle and the horse’s back. 
  • Durability: Wool has a natural resistance to stretching or compressing, which ensures that a wool saddle pad can withstand heavy use and still maintain its shape and functionality over time, making it a cost-effective choice.

Did you know: The Synergy Saddle Pad line by Weaver includes multiple options for 100% wool pads and wool or wool-blend liners.

3) There are so many wool options! What should I look for? 

Let’s break down the options:   

  • F10 Virgin Merino Wool Liner – With the ability to wick twenty times 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) What are the benefits of foam in a saddle pad? 

Shock-absorbing, ventilated and lightweight, the EVA sport foam inserts found in the Synergy line of saddle pads have proven orthopedic value for both horse and rider. With shock-absorbing capabilities, 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 for both horse and rider. 

4) Why use a contoured saddle pad for my rope horse? 

Your horse’s back isn’t straight, so it doesn’t make sense for a saddle pad to be either. A contoured saddle pad 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. With Synergy by Weaver, you have multiple contour options to ensure the best fit for your horse:

  • Contoured Close Contact – 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—perfect for long days in the practice pen.
  • Flex Contoured – These pads take up less storage space, while still offering slight wither relief. However, they excel most 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 Contoured – Tried and true for everyday riding, these pads offer a wither relief cutout to help keep the pad lifted into the saddle gullet.
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