There are so many options when it comes to gel and half pad, how do you has a rider choose the right one? The way I like to look at it, is from 3 different angles (questions). What equestrian sport do you practice? What is your horse conformation? Doe your horse has specific needs?
What equestrian sport do you practice?
Each equestrian sport has their different needs.
When you are practicing jumper you are looking for shock absorption. Most riders will enjoy a classic Half Pads with memory foam or a mix of gel and memory foam for extra absorption. We know that gel alone is a better material to absorb the shock then memory foam. When you combine the two together, you have the best shock absorption. The down side about a half pad is that you are far from your horse. This is when the Wither Free Hexagonal Soft Gel Pad with Microphile Backing dose a great job. It keeps you close to your horse and also absorb the shock when the rider falls back into the saddle.
When your are dressage rider your are looking to keep your horse flexible and have a warm and souple back. Dressage riders also like to feel close to the horse and feel every muscle move. The Massage Gel pad will provide this close contact feeling, absorb the small little impacts of the rider in the saddle and will provide a gentle massage to your horse while you are riding. There are two different types of message gel pad. The one you put in-between the saddle and the saddle pad and a Dry-Lex material that you can put directly on the horses back. For a fancy dressage look, the Massage Gel Pad Cut out Sheepskin Trim is simply perfect.
When you are flying over the cross country course you are looking for breathability and shock absorption. The Respira air release Gel pad is made for eventing riders. Has the gel pad gets compress the little holes let air flow through the gel pad keeping the horse cool while absorbing the shock.
What is your horse conformation?
Your horse conformation will make a big difference on the gel pad you will decide to use. It will also makes a difference on how your saddle fit on him if it's not a custom fitted saddle or you have multiple horses with one saddle.
There is multiple different categorys of horses. Level, Uphill, Downhill, High shoulders, Low shoulders, and Big wither. These conformations will affect how your saddle will falls on your horse back. Low shoulders and down hill (wither lower than the hinds) will make your saddle be lower in the front witch cause the rider to be in a forward from the uper body. A Front Riser Massage gel pad will rise the front of the saddle just enough to rebalance the saddle. An Uphill (wither higher than the hind) or High shoulder horse will be the opposite a Back Riser Massage gel pad will rebalance the saddle by bringing the back of the saddle level with the front. Horses with a big wither or a long wither will benefit from the Wither free gel pad because this pad will leave the wither completely free.
The other saddle fitting problem that you will see could be a saddle that rocks front to back this mean the saddle only sits in the middle. There is no point of contact with the front or the back, leaving a big point of pressure on the lumbar muscles. The Double Riser gel pad, will help to have the saddle sitting evenly from the front to the back. The opposite is also possible. If the middle of a saddle does not touch the horses back this means the tree is bending every time you sit, putting a lot of stress on the saddle and discomfort for the horse’s back. The Middle Riser gel pad will help for this particular problem.
Doe your horse has specific needs?
For example a horse that has lumbar pain will benefit from a Respira or Wither Free gel pad by giving an extra shock absorption to the saddle. The Massage Gel pad will help the muscle to relax. The Lamb Skin Massage Gel Pad will help keep the horses back warm in cold weather and gives an extra absorption of the shocks.
I hope that this blog as help you understand better the different type of gel pad that Acavallo offers. There is multiple other product offered by Acavallo and we have access to all of them. We can also help you chose more wisely, just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.