When I’m giving riding lessons to some of my students, they often ask me, “Why does Cisco need two saddle pads on?” They ask this because I like to put both a regular saddle pad and a half pad on Cisco for their riding lesson. They understand why half pads are important once I explain the purpose, but what exactly is the purpose of this extra pad?
What Are Halfpads & What Is Their Purpose?
Half pads are smaller than normal saddle pads and really are only seen being used in the English style of riding. These smaller pads go on the horse’s back underneath the saddle but on top of another saddle pad. The point of a half pad is to give the horse’s back a little extra cushion and absorb some of that shock caused by the rider’s bouncing and sitting on the horse’s back. This extra padding is really helpful to horses who need extra shock absorption like jumping horses or lesson horses and it helps spare their backs from the shock caused by a rider landing on or bouncing on their backs.
Styles Of Half Pads
There are so many different styles of half pads that you can buy. There are some that you can buy that can’t be seen under the saddle, and there are others that can be seen. Some are made with gel, others foam, and some have fleece lining while others don’t. There are so many different kinds to choose from! Knowing your options and determining what one is the best for your horse is important to make sure you are getting the pad that works best for your horse and your discipline.
The different styles of half pads you can buy include:
Quilted Half Pad
Quilted half pads are a thinner style of half pad that is usually on the cheaper end. These pads are good for cushioning the horse’s back or helping to make the saddle fit a little better on a narrow or swaybacked horse. Often, quilted saddle pads will incorporate a little bit of fleece or a similar material into their design to make the pad thicker and provide more padding.
These pads are probably one of the most common half pads on the market. Most of these pads will heave velcro straps to attach to the billets of the saddle.
Foam/Rubber Bounce Pad
Foam or rubber bounce pads are a really nice style of half pad that really helps pad and cushion the backs of older horses, lesson horses, or horses whose jobs include a lot of stress and shock to the back.
These pads can be a little cheaper as well. For the most part, these pads are pretty much invisible under the saddle too so they aren’t clashing with the horse’s appearance.
Unlike most quilted saddle pads, these pads don’t have the velcro straps to help hold the pad in place.
Memory Foam Half Pad
Memory foam half pads are a common type of pad seen in the horse world. Often, the memory foam material will be added to a different pad like the standard quilted saddle pad to offer more support and cushion for the horse.
The nice thing about memory foam is that it contours to the shape of the horse’s back with ease each and every time it is put on the horse. This way the horse’s back is not only cushioned but is supported and protected as well.
Rubber/Gel Half Pad
This style of half pad is one that I really like. Even though I like these pads, these half pads can be extremely expensive just because of how well they work at absorbing the shock that the horse’s back receives. I recommend this style of half pad especially to those horses who have intense jobs. Some of the disciplines I would recommend this half pad to include:
- Cross Country
- Hunter Jumper
All of these disciplines involve bouncing or landing on the horse’s back repeatedly. Because of this, I think that this half pad would really help those in these areas.
High Wither Half Pads
High wither half pads are half pads that are shaped in such a way to fit a horse’s back who has higher withers than normal. These half pads are great for swaybacked horses that are still being ridden and horses who have a naturally high wither.
Because of the unique shape of this pad, it can be a little harder to find them and they can cost you a little bit more than a standard quilted half pad will, but I totally recommend getting this pad if your horse is swaybacked or has abnormally high withers.
Usually, these half pads are in the same style as the standard quilted half pad, though some gel, rubber, and memory foam options are available for sale.
Where Can I Buy A Half Pad?
Half pads can be found for sale on different websites or tac stores. Some places to look for half pads to buy include:
- Any of the links above!
- Tack consignment stores
- Feed stores
- Hardware stores
- Online tack stores
Are There Different Colors Of Half Pads?
Yes! The most common colors seen in half pads are black and white, but you can find half pads of all different colors ranging from yellow to blue to even green and red.
Does My Horse Need A Half Pad?
Whether or not your horse needs a half pad depends on what discipline you ride in, how often you are riding your horse, and the condition of your horse’s body. If your horse is an older horse that s giving riding lessons to little kids, then yes, I think a half pad would be necessary not only to support their aging and likely swayed back but also to help cushion and absorb the shock from the young rider’s bouncing and uneveness.
If you are not using a half pad and you or your horse fall into the following categories, I would consider using one:
- You and your horse ride in any of the following disciplines:
- Cross Country
- Hunter Jumper
- Your horse has any of the following physical traits:
- Abnormally high withers
- Abnormally low/non existent withers
- Your horse regularly:
- Is ridden by beginners
- Is worked
Horses That Could Benefit From Using A Half Pad
Horses that would most benefit from the use of a half pad include horses used for riding lessons where little kids will be bouncing around on them all day, horses used for jumping or other intense sports, and horses who are ridden all the time.