Saddle Pads: Best Shock Absorber Identified in Study

Researchers recently examined what saddle pad material is best suited for reducing equine back pressure.
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If you’ve ever been in the market for a new saddle pad, you know there are a myriad of types to choose from. Many horse owners search for a product that reduces the pressure on their horse’s back when working under saddle, and a team of Austrian researchers recently set out to determine what material might be best suited for the task.

Of four saddle pad materials (gel, leather, foam, and reindeer fur) tested by the Movement Science Group of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, reindeer fur provided the best shock absorption at the walk and sitting trot, according to a study.

"Saddle fit involves individual adaptation," said Christian Peham, head of the Movement Science Group, "It is difficult to make a general recommendation about the best material, but reindeer fur showed the best results."

The research team tested the four commonly used saddle pad materials by placing a pressure-sensing mat under the pad used beneath a well-fitting saddle. They recorded the forces on the backs of 16 sound horses of different breeds and ages ridden on a treadmill at a walk and a sitting trot. For comparison, the same horses were tested without a saddle pad at the same gaits

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Nancy Zacks holds an M.S. in Science Journalism from the Boston University College of Communication. She grew up in suburban Philadelphia where she learned to ride over fields and fences in nearby Malvern, Pa. When not writing, she enjoys riding at an eventing barn, drawing and painting horses, volunteering at a therapeutic riding program, and walking with Lilly, her black Labrador Retriever.

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