DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION: The 5 Star Contoured Pad is the original Western contour pad with "a true French Curve backline and withers slope." Special attention is given to wither height, backline variance and hip placement which results in a GREAT FITTING PAD that conforms to the shape of your horse or mule. This conscious effort in design has produced a pad that fits most breeds of horses and mules without "break-in" fitting.
5-Star's Contoured Pad is the ORIGINAL Western contour pad with a true French Curve backline and withers slope. Special attention is given to wither height, backline variance and hip placement which results in a GREAT FITTING PAD that CONFORMS to the shape of your horse or mule.
Note: Some pads will vary in price even though the only difference is color. This is due to the cost of the dyes involved.
20% Less Cinching Needed
Contoured, Conformed Fit
All Natural, 100% Wool Felt with 40% MORE Virgin Wool than ANY other 100% Wool Pad
3X More Compression Protection than Synthetic Neoprene Pads
Even Weight Distribution & Impact Absorption
4X Greater Wicking Ability
Eliminates Heat Build-up
2000+ Hours of Maximum Riding Protection
Soft & Durable, Easy Clean-up
THE BEST PROTECTION FOR YOUR HORSE'S BACK is a 5 Star 100% Wool Contoured Saddle Pad.
The World's Finest, All-Natural 100% Wool Contoured Pad,specially designed to fit the shape of your horse or mule's back. Unique, two-piece construction eliminates spinal pressure and improves saddle fit - no over-cinching.
See 5 Stars videos on Saddle Pads and Cinches below
1/2" Under Pad Great for showing, reining, cutting or pleasure horses when you still need protection yet want to put a colorful blanket over the under pad for show purposes. 3/4" Regular Pad An excellent all-around pad for those that need a daily exercise training pad and may also need to throw a blanket over for the show ring. 7/8" Thick Pad The best all-around use pad recommended for trail riding, team penning, cutting, reining, and barrel racing. We can also cut the 3/4" and 7/8" pad in a 28" length for barrel racing saddles. 1" Extra Thick Pad Designed wih ranch work in mind, for roping, performance, colt starting or heading to the mountains with lots of gear. 1-1/8" Supreme Roper Pad Specially engineered for team roping, calf roping, steer stopping and peformance.
Simply spray pad with water, rub soiled areas in a circular motion with fingers or a rubber curry comb and hang to dry. A gentle detergent may also be necessary. Do not lay flat on it's back (upside down). With this reasonable care, pad will last 1500-2000 hours. 5 Star 100% Wool Felt Contoured Saddle Pads contain 90% virgin wool and 10% reworked wool giving your animal protection that will last 2,000+ hours with reasonable care. 5 Star's felt has been made with heat, steam and pressure which eliminates any concerns about shrinkage or distortion as you begin to consider cleaning needs.
Prevent dirt and hair build-up on the under side of pad by brushing occasionally. This keeps old hair from trapping dirt & sweat, and embedding deep into the pad.
To remove embedded hair and dirt, rotate a dry 5 Star Cleaning Sponge in circular motion on dry pad. Wipe hair off sponge surface with your hand while cleaning pad.
For pads with heavy crusted sweat and dirt, break up areas with rubber fingered curry or scrape gently with a dull edged object being careful not to cut the felt. Use a vacuum to remove excess grime and loose material. A brush or a swift slap with your hand may also be used to sweep away dirt and hair.
Every 5 Star pad comes with a label that describes the basic method for cleaning and an all-natural dry-cleaning sponge!
Added on May 3, 2011
Saddle pad manufacturing and marketing
Originally post by 5 Star Equine
By Mike G. Easton
Dr. Joyce Harman, D.V. M., Equine Research Specialist
Marketing of saddle pads has become big business. All one has to do is make a web search and you will find over 15 pages of manufacturers. Each pad company puts various marketing emphasis on their products. Emphasis ranges from comfort, fit, durability, ease of cleaning, cooling, compression protection, performance, close contact, blood flow to animal’s back and the list goes on.
Pad manufacturers “bias” their marketing labels to sell pads—bottom line! For instance, one manufacturer uses the term “wool like” on their label; another very expensive blanket/pad combination has the symbol used by the American Wool Council on the wear leather and yet close examination of the item shows it has a synthetic backed fleece, open cell foamed backed inner core and wool blend weave on top; another uses technical flattery – …two layers of air cells and ultra shock foam core producing lock down effect that eliminates slippage… Therapeutic is another big leader such as open cell medical memory foam, medical felt and … increase oxygen, energy, and muscle recovery. And all of the claims of being 100% wool only cloud the marketing hype.
Another glaring example of manufacturers of foam pads contradicting themselves is when they were interviewed for an article for Equestrian Retailer, July 2004, Vol. 7, No. 2. They give their bias on the benefits of neoprene products and then later state, “Manufacturers advise riders and trainers not to leave neoprene pads on horses for long periods of time because they build heat and moisture.” And this makes no difference whether the pad is perforated or waffled. It is impossible to channel air as they like to make one believe.
You can see that with catchy terms a saddle pad purchaser can easily be misled when trying to find the best compression protection, wicking and durability possible for their horse. Hopefully we can help you to understand some of the physical properties of pad materials simply by looking and feeling the pads surface and knowing where to find correct information.
Before addressing the aspects of saddle pad materials one cannot over emphasize the importance of good saddle fit. If the saddle does not fit correctly soring will take place. Additional padding is only a temporary fix and will not solve the problem. In most instances if you are having problems with a pad staying in place you have to take a hard look at how the tree in your saddle fits the conformation of your horse. Because of expense, it is not practical to be changing saddles all the time so it is then necessary to find correct pad material that will stay in place, provide maximized compression protection and cooling.
Historically, saddle pads ranged from animal hides, to woven animal hair, to crude felts, to exotic linens, to woven blankets and today’s modern industrial materials. Old timers remember the hair, felts and blankets. Not much thought was given to saddle fit and if a horse became sore many riders added another layer and cinched a little tighter. It is important to remember that when ranchers used horses on a regular basis the horses were changed often, so soring was never a major concern.
It appears that the 1960’s began the era of synthetics. Dr. Robert Miller, DVM and noted author commented that early in his California practice in the 60’s, some of his clients started complaining about white spots and wither soring which had not occurred previously. Then one day he happened to spot an advertisement in a magazine for foam pads. Further investigation revealed his clients had switched to the new pads. Most of the early foams were closed cell mattress or seating type materials never intended for compression protection with severe impact.
It has not been until the last 20 years and the desire for perfection in saddle fit to enhance performance, that much thought was given to saddle pads. But as popularity of recreational riding and showing gained momentum more effort was put into the study of saddle fit and related accessories. Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, an equine specialist, has spent the last fifteen years studying saddle fit. Dr. Harman wanted to know how saddle fit affected performance and what constituted good fit. However, as she studied saddle fit she realized the need to also assess what impact pad material had on saddle fit results. Her new book discusses findings with English style saddle fit and what to look for with pad materials. At some future date her findings on Western saddles will be available.
The primary materials used in saddle pads today are open and closed cell foams, synthetic felts, needled felts, pressed industrial felts, woven blankets, gel packs, synthetic cloth, and air bladders. What is interesting about all of these materials is NOT ONE of them was ever originally designed to be used as a saddle pad.
Foams are petroleum and rubber based materials designed for sound proofing and impact resistance for automotive and aerospace industry. Felts were used for bedding, bearing cushions, lubrication wicks, sound proofing and cushioning in the same industries. Gel packs and air-bladder materials were designed for severe impact blows and mild weight distributions for auto racing, mattress industry and football helmets. Within the last 15 years another material, known as Tacky Tack was developed as shelving material for the food industry. Memory foam is another product that has just recently cropped up and is nothing more than a tight-grained open cell foam with low compression rating used in the mattress industry where impact applications are limited.
Now one would think that these would provide exactly what would be needed for saddle pad materials. Maybe and maybe not, but first a more detailed description of each.
Foam pads consist of two types of materials: 1. Closed cell – cellular rubber [neoprene] and 2. Open cell – polyurethane. There is also a closed cell, cross-linked polyethylene foam, but it is seldom used in pads.
Close inspection will reveal that the closed cell foam has a very tight fine grain. Whereas, the open cell foam has small holes and a grainy look generally. The closed cell foam normally has a more elastic and smoother feel. There are of course exceptions to these descriptions, but we are generally referring to what is used in saddle pad construction.
Color is normally black, white or gray.
With either of these foams it really does not matter if you know the difference because the compression ratings are about the same. Neither has wicking ability and both trap heat. If it is open cell foam used as filler just remember that compression protection is extremely poor. Closed cell foams tend to send pressure points through to the horse’s back, but can be supportive if under a heavy saddle. Open cell foams will bottom out but do not interfere with saddle fit by being too thick.
Gel Pak Pads are simply heavy mill vinyl/plastic bladders that are filled with a non-hardening gel material. The intent behind development of this product system was to find a material base that would lessen severe impact from a sharp force. In other words it would gradually give with the impact. Evaluation of this material when used in saddle pads works fine when used for only a short time period (30 minutes). But with any movement after that period of time they will bottom out. This leaves no compression protection below any pressure points that might exist in a saddle. This happens because the gel is pushed aside.
The other major down-side to pads with gel paks is the plastic bladder as it traps heat and has zero wicking ability. These Gel Paks are normally bonded between other synthetic products. And even if they were bonded with a better grade of felt no real benefit is gained because compression protection is no better than the felt by itself and it adds unnecessary weight.
Air bladders or air cell pad material simply are different forms of creating an air mattress. They will conform to conformation of animal and saddle bars, but they are harder to keep in place because of constant ripple effect, like in an air mattress or waterbed. They will work with limited riding (30-45 minutes) but for a hard days work they trap heat. Air can have very limited compression protection because of the bottoming out effect similar to Gel Pak pads. Air also becomes quite hard under the pressure of the saddle, and though it gives an even surface the pressures are higher than most other materials. Most of these types of pads have to be bonded with some other synthetic material and those that are not are very tacky when sweaty. Manufacturers try and convince you that airflow keeps them cool under the saddle. Again this is not possible with a saddle that fits correctly.
In the felting world there are two types of felt: 1. Needled felt and 2. Pressed industrial felt. Generally most synthetic felts are needled. “Needled” simply means it is made with heat, stem and vibrating pressure from needles that lock the fibers over the top of each other. “Pressed industrial” felt is made by heat, steam and oscillating pressure that locks the wool fibers together by sticking fibers to each other. In this case fibers are able to lock to each other because of the outer surface structure of each individual fiber. It requires a separate technical article to show why this process works.
Needled felts are easy to spot. They have horizontal and vertical holes evenly spaced on both sides of the felt. Because of high concentrations of synthetic material in them they are generally shiny, slippery and not soft feeling. Their color ranges varies from black, to dark grays, to motile grays with lots of color thread showing, to white, such as medical hospital felt. Most neoprene pads with colored felt on them are 100% synthetic or needled felt with high concentrations of synthetic material and a cloth cover. Another clue is that when you see felt pads sewn around the edges or another material sewn on top, you can bet it is a synthetic or needled felt, because they will not hold together with much use without this sewing effort.
Manufacturing costs of these pads are substantially less due to cheaper costs in synthetic materials. But from the retail point of view when you compare the cost of synthetic pads there is not much price difference.
Pressed industrial felts (PIF) do not have the holes. They are softer to touch, much more supple and depending on grade have no shiny synthetic material. Color ranges are dark gray to off white in the natural state, but with the better grades of PIF one can find all other dyed color spectrums. Color normally gives you clues as to the actual virgin wool content and grade of felt. The more virgin wool in the felt, the lighter the color is. The same is true for touch. The more virgin wool content, the softer the feel will be when touching.
There are about 15 grade specification numbers utilized by the felting industry. Most saddle pad makers use an F15 grade. This F15 felt has a dark gray, almost a charcoal look. It contains 55% maximum virgin wool and 45% reworked wool content. This felt is used solely as a pad and/or bonded with one of the foams.
(Note: Reworked wool comes from yarn previously processed for some other application, normally in the garment industry, and has been blended with synthetics. Felters use it to control density, consistency in thickness and cost. The synthetics can then end up being as high as 20% in any given pad. So color is only clue a buyer has to tell whether or not the felt is really 100% wool as labeled. )
(EXCEPTION)There is a company that uses F11 and F10 grade wool felt. The F11 felt has 92% minimum virgin wool and 8% reworked content. The F11 is very light gray, very soft, smooth finish and very supple. The F10 felt which has 98% virgin wool content, and 2% reworked wool. The F10 is a crème white and very soft with a smooth finish. These felts are dyed with a vegetable based dye to come in a variety of colors red, blue, hunter green, brown, black, etc. The exceptional features of these felts make it very easy to visually tell them apart.
So what difference does it make when someone wants a wool felt pad and why would they look for a F10 or F11 felt as opposed to a F15 felt. International Felting Standards shows that the F11 felt has a compression rating of 6 psi and 200 psi tensile strength as opposed to compression rating of 2 psi and 75 psi tensile strength for the F15. Additionally, based on research from Felt Manufacturers Council of America, the higher the virgin wool content of the felt, the better the wicking ability is. So if you really want a pad with superior rating find the company with the F11 and F10 felt.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PAD!
The most important of all the pad attributes to look for is compression protection and cooling. How does the purchaser know whether the manufacturers label and claims are true? Answer: They don’t without careful investigation and lots of costly trial and error in purchasing pads.
When we look at all the research done over the years with exercise physiology and anatomy for humans and equine we know that the mechanism for cooling during activity are sweating and breathing. To prevent over heating during exertion the body must receive airflow or some means of water internally or externally for cooling to take place.
So let us apply this knowledge to saddle fit and cooling.
When a saddle is fitting correctly, the bars of the saddle tree should conform evenly to the natural conformation of the back. And there should be a flair or rocker at the front and back of the bars to allow the shoulders and loins freedom from pressure. The saddle maker then adds leather skirting to the top and a wool sheepskin or synthetic fleece material to the bottom. Very few saddles today have natural sheepskin on the underside unless it is specifically requested. Assuming this material has been fitted and placed correctly the saddle should conform to the horse’s back for a nice fit. The logical question to ask then is how can cooling take place under a saddle if it fits closely to the back?
Answer: It cannot without the support of material that will wick the sweat, which is the primary heat-carrying agent.
Closed cell foams and synthetic based materials will not wick. Try mopping up five gallons of water with a neoprene or synthetic pad. So a good question to ask oneself is, “If my saddle is fitting correctly and no air flow or water can penetrate between back and saddle, how can I cool the saddle back area with a neoprene or synthetic pad?” Answer: Not Possible! Another good question to ask is “Would I wear plastic or foam underwear or socks?” Answer: Not on your life! The argument that a sweaty back lubricates and is good for the animal is shear ignorance.
There are quite a number of manufacturers that contend their air-channels and waffle type foams cool. This is simply not true because the animal hair, skin and fat layers push into holes in the material. This can easily be seen through close examination of the back after using one of these types of pads. Again, always remember the tight fit saddle concept.
Other points to consider are that when any foam-based pad becomes wet from sweat they also become sticky or slick. When this happens the animal hair and skin is constantly being pulled or stretched creating the frictional heat which can create gall points and sores.
The only true method of cooling is by using a pad material that will wick. In today’s equine market the only two materials are wool or cotton. Wool is the winner here. It will absorb up to 3 times its weight in water, cotton will only absorb its initial weight, and wool has compression protection six times that of comparable thickness of cotton.
No official data really exists on the attributes of various materials on its abilities to cool.
Recently we took a trip to the Hell Roaring Wilderness area in Montana. As a part of the trip we wanted to obtain actual data about cooling with various types of pad materials. We purposely used a saddle that was extremely much too narrow in the front, knowing it would pinch and rock on the huge, flat backed draft, Quarter Horse cross horses and mules.
The trip into camp was 21 miles. Once at camp we did numerous day rides that amounted to 3-6 hours at a stretch.
In order to secure a range of data we took rest temperatures of each animal before starting each ride, while riding, cinched at rest (lunch break and fishing – one hour) after exertion and at end of day just before unsaddling.
Digital read out temperatures were taken at the tightest point of the shoulder and saddle. At rest the readings consistently ranged from 98.5-99 degrees. During exertion the felt pads stayed consistently at these same temperatures, but the F15 felt generally ran a degree higher than the F11. During exertion the neoprene, neoprene-felt pads, synthetic fleece and Tacky Tac used with a blanket were always 3 degreeshotter, and after one hour during lunch breaks these pads never cooled down. Finally, at the end of a day ride the temperatures initially established had not changed.
The pads represented materials from some of the major known manufactures that the outfitter had been experimenting with in an attempt to find pad material that would cool to prevent galling, have superior compression protection and longevity. Some of the pads he had been trying were Cowboy Choice-Closed Cell Foam/Felt, Wrangler 20x- Closed Cell Foam/Synthetic Top, Justin-Closed Cell Foam, Equibrand-Closed Cell Foam/Felt Top, Reinsman- Tacky Tac Bottom, Synthetic Top, Toklok-Needled Felt, Slone-F15, 5 Star- F11, Tacky Tac – Tacky Tac w/ Blanket Cover, and Coolback-Synthetic Fleece. This seems like a lot of brands, but one has to realize that on any given trip as many as 45 head of mules and horses can be saddled or packed. Plus this outfitter had been searching for years to find a pad that would assist in compression protection and cooling.
The findings were exactly as we suspected. Open and closed cell foams, layered felt foams; synthetic felts and fleeces did NOT cool and trapped heat. Temperatures were significantly higher. The felt pads were the only materials that kept consistently lower temperatures. In one case with one of the solid neoprene pads one horse’s back was so tender after use that it could not be used for two days.
The data speaks for itself and we only mention the name brands because out of these, Slone and 5 Star were his only wool felts. The rest of the pads were all neoprene or neoprene/felt combination pads (synthetic or F15 felt tops) and synthetic fleece.
Compression protection with pad materials is easily measurable and is a direct function of tensile strength and rebound resistance in terms of pounds per square inch. The chart below represents data taken directly from the American Materials and Testing Institute, International Felting Standards, Automobile Testing Institute and material manufacturers.
(Note: These are the foams and felts typically used for saddle pad materials.)
Gel Paks and Air Bladders measurements at “bottom out points” are generally 1.5-2.00 or less and because of the material flexibility it is hard to get accurate ratings. Tensile strength is not an issue because it is normally bonded or sandwiched with some other material(s).
Good ole common sense really needs to prevail with saddle padding. Remember – First if the “shoe don’t fit, the shoe still won’t fit with lots of socks.” If the saddle doesn’t fit, no padding in the world will solve the problem. In fact additional padding can in many cases shift the problem elsewhere or create additional cinching and soring. It also must be pointed out that with a good custom saddle, thinner padding can be the answer.
Over the long haul with or without good saddle fit, high quality wool felt materials are the best bet. If your intent is to only ride for 30-45 minutes and activity will be minimal; likely no harm will be done using foam, tacky or neoprene material, but can be very uncomfortable to the animal.
Bottom line is if you spend $5000 for a horse, $3000 for saddle and $60 for a pad something is not computing. If you wouldn’t wear the material on a hot or cold day WHY in the world do you think it would be good for them?
If the saddles don’t fit they can push pads out the back.
A saddle tree may be warped if it pushes pad out the back and to the side.
If you wouldn’t wear that stuff for underpants or socks why put it on the animal!
Synthetic pads have the highest profit margin for makers.
Sweat pouring off a back is like you standing on ice with tennis shoes on a hill!
Do you like having bandages pulled off your hairy arms? So how do you think tacky material feels to an animal?
Wool felt pads are easily cleaned!
Synthetic fleeced saddle skirting is slick and will present problems with most pads.
Don’t be fooled by Patent Pending in advertising.
Synthetic foams are not UV light resistant and break down,
Synthetic foams break down from heat and salts of the animal.
Fire or strong acids are the only thing that will harm wool.
All pads will contract and spread disease when not cleaned if infection exists.
Pinch pads with thumb and fingers. If you can feel the other digit it likely has bad compression protection.
Buy for function first, then looks.
Don’t be fooled by gimmick terms and pictures.
Ask construction specifications of retailer and manufacturer.
Why Use wool
Wool – The High Tech Material
By Mike Easton Content Review – Dr. Joyce Harmon, DVM
In the equine world it seems that each year we are presented with new ideas about training, health care requirements, and tack. Some of it is a new twist to old ideas or a new twist with a new idea or simply nothing has changed – just a marketing ruse.
Technological advancements in the fields of chemistry and physics created many materials. These materials seem to have endless benefits, so long as the application is correct and does not create harm. Open and closed cell foams are some of the modern space aged materials, but when applied to the equine world are they correct?
The design intent, of foam, was to provide a new source for compression protection using inorganic raw materials. And a high percentage of these foams came as a result of the NASA space program. When various individuals decided that these materials could have beneficial use in the equine industry, product development arose out of an idea, which seemed good in principle only. In reality the new product was developed and marketed without testing by reputable scientific sources to prove whether the product had natural therapeutic benefit and structural fit for the intended activity. Instead these new product developers presented new products to the public based on personal bias and testimonials. And in many instances profit margins and retail cost became the selling points.
One such incidence of product abuse has been in the area of saddle pads. High tech fibers, open and closed cell foams, air filled pockets and layered combinations. These materials could be presented in bright colors, soft to the touch, and have a feel of real comfort. These became instantly popular because individuals involved in the show world could provide additional flash and those not involved could have the same flash at less expense. Companies with access to large sums of marketing dollars could now be a driving force.
But in the age of modern miracle fibers and foams, scientific research supports that the almost forgotten fiber made by God still remains the original high-tech fiber. That material is WOOL.
Pile of sheared wool fresh from the sheep.
The old-timers in the tack world used wool for years and had great success with it. Even the avid modern day hunter has found that all the high tech fiber in the world does not surpass the attributes of wool. Particularly when it comes to socks, which is equivalent to the saddle pad in the equine world.
Today’s sportsman and equine owner are learning what sheep in the hottest and coldest climates of world have known for thousands of years. When it comes to thermoregulation and all-around performance for protection, the original “high-tech fiber,” wool is still unmatched.
The secret to wool lies in its complex cellular structure. Each hollow strand is engineered to trap heat while resisting the buildup of moisture. Every follicle of wool is made up of a hydrophobic (water-hating) exterior shaft and a hydrophilic (water-loving) inner core. This gives wool the unique ability to wick perspiration (sweat) away from the body and at the same time shed moisture. This is why you can’t mop up spilled water with a wool cloth. And at the same time it is why wool can absorb up to 30 percent of its own weight in perspiration/water vapor; cotton can absorb up to only 8 percent of its weight; synthetics usually less than 5 percent of its weight and have very limited wicking ability.
A contradiction certainly seems apparent with wool not being able to mop up spilled water and yet is still able to absorb 30% of its weight in perspiration/water vapor. Moisture transport in textile materials is the same as wicking in capillaries. Capillary wicking is determined by two fundamental properties of the capillary: its effective diameter, and the surface energy of its inside face (such as the inner core of a wool fiber – see diagram above). The smaller the diameter or the higher the surface energy, the more readily water moves up the capillary.
This combination of both diameter and surface energy differences results in a strong wicking gradient between the inside and outside of the felt. Thus allowing for sweat to pick up from the skin and be pulled to the outside face of the wicking gradient (outer edge and surface of the pad).
When textiles materials are woven together the spaces between fibers create pattern that functions like capillaries. The closer fibers are packer together in fabric, yarns or felt, the smaller the apparent capillary diameter, and the more readily wicking can occur. In other words, it is just like two magnets, the closer they get to each other with the correct polarity the stronger their magnetic attraction. Other fiber properties that play a supporting role in capillary action are fiber diameter, cross-section structure, crimp and stiffness.
Because of the structural nature of wool, the surface energy (measure of attraction between water and the internal surface of the capillary) is very high. Thishydrophilic– “water-loving” component is the aspect that delivers sweat and heat away from horses back and through the pad.
The activity of the horse and rider produces “sweat”. The sweat is the horse’s means of eliminating heat. The sweat is transferred away from the skin as a result of the contact with the wool pad. The capillary action of an individual wool fiber, plus the compacted density of wool then distributes the moisture throughout the pad. Open and closed cell foams have no wicking ability and simply TRAP MOISTURE AND HEAT.
The “hydroscopic” aspect (moisture adjustments in response to changes in humidity) of natural fibers is greater than that of synthetic materials, but it is not relative to any arguments that relate to the strength of natural fibers for moisture transfer in saddle pads.
Wool’s unique ability to deal with perspiration is ONE OF THE IMPORTANT components of limiting sores or the severity of a sore from a pressure point of an improperly fitted saddle or piece of tack. Wool’s ability to wick sweat away from the body leaves the skin dryer and cooler than other materials. Under a saddle, the primary problem is one of constant pressure in areas where the saddle fits poorly. Pads of a variety of materials are often used to try and alleviate these pressure points with no thought given to heat removal. The problem with most materials is that pressure is transferred through the pad to the horse’s back and is often made worse after adding the pad.
Another IMPORTANT aspect of wool is the ability of a one-inch thick piece of wool felt to contain and limit pressure points. When a pressure point occurs, damage to the underlying skin and muscle occurs. Swelling of the skin and edema or fluid under the skin or in the muscle occurs as the bruising causes fluid to leak out of the cells. When you eliminate bruising, you eliminate the swelling and pain that goes along with it.
In humans, wool has been long known for its ability to prevent blisters. Blisters are formed from friction or sometimes from pressure and friction together. During blister formation, heat can build up, and it is known that wool reduces the severity of blisters by dissipating heat and pressure.
The point being wool socks can’t eliminate the blister, but it can reduce the initial impact and severity of the injury before one decides to do something about it. NOTHING replaces a shoe that is correctly fitted and we can’t always afford to replace shoes once the mistake has been made, so we must do the next best thing – pad our feet correctly. NOTHING replaces a correctly fitted saddle!
Synthetic materials, fibrous, open and closed cell foams,trap heatanddo notwickandincrease chances of heat related pressure sores. Also they have limited compression protection. Their strength lies in ease of cleaning, reduced saddle slippage in some cases and colorful patterns.
Unlike synthetic materials, wool fiber contains hundreds of tiny waves, called crimp, creating the millions of air pockets that give the fabric its insulating properties and ability to breath. It is this same component that allows wool to stretch up to 50 percent when wet, 30 percent when dry and still bounce back to its original shape. It is this natural physical property that makes wool such a beneficial compression protector.
If “open and closed cell” foams are stretched in a similar fashion, they begin to break down immediately because their molecular structure has memory constraints of less than 5% before it begins to break down and tear apart. These same materials also break down much quicker than wool, when subjected to heat, sweat salts and pressure. Despite the influx of new fibers and foams being introduced into the equine world, WOOL continues to hold its own and be a main stay for top saddle makers and equine professionals that care about animal well-being.
How do we know this miracle fiber wool and in particular wool processed into felt, is what it is cracked up to be? Dr. Joyce Harmon, D.V.M., noted Washington D. C. equine specialist tested saddles for correct fit and pad materials. Dr. Harmon’s research used similar testing procedures, as used by Dr. Michael Collier, D.V.M. from Oklahoma State University when he was hired by Professional Choice to develop their Air Ride pad. Her conclusions for pad material use, saddle fit and placement that provides complete equine protection, came only from a desire to benefit the animals.
In researching this issue, Dr. Harmon used the Forced Sensory Array machine just like Dr. Collier. They found pressed wool felt with high virgin wool content providing the best compression, wicking ability and heat protection (reduction) of all materials on the market today.
Dr. Harmon’s original research stemmed from years of studying the correct mechanics of saddle fitting and bio-mechanics of saddle placement. In a nutshell, what they found and what Dr. Collier pointed out later, was a “Shoe is to Sock” as “Saddle is to Pad” analogy. Without putting a correctly fitted saddle with a correct type of pad, no horse, mule or donkey is free from compression related (pressure point) injury.
When pads are added to a saddle, the saddle must still fit the horse after the pad is added. If a saddle basically fits with the pad, then a pad can enhance the situation. If a saddle is too narrow, no pad will solve your problem any more than a thick sock will correct the fit of those dress boots you have in the back of your closet. If a saddle is a bit too wide a thick pad can really help the situation, if it is made from material that will not compress much (wool and some dense type of foam), however if a saddle is very much too wide, it will continue to tip forward through any pad.
So how can you tell what is going on with your pad and saddle? Saddle up your animal with its new pad, making sure to seat the pad by pulling it up into the saddle gullet. Next take a 20-30 minute ride, which allows the animal to heat up. Now stop and check to see how well the saddle and pad have stayed in place. Remove the saddle and pad checking the sweat marks on the underside of the pad. What you would like to see is a fairly even sweat pattern across the entire pad.
If your saddle fits worse after adding a pad, then it means the pad is incorrect for your saddle, usually it is too thick. However, wool felt can require at least one hour of heated riding to seat and form to saddle and animal conformation correctly. So many riders today insist on double padding, but if one remembers the “shoe-sock” concept, two socks in a shoe is just like two pads under a saddle. Some aspect of the sock or pad is always slipping or moving around. This creates/exacerbates pressure point problems and takes away from close contact needs of a good saddle fit (horse comfort and rider feel).
If your horse feels great with the new pad still be alert for old behavior issues for the next 6 months. A new pad may feel great initially, but pads have been know to cure one problem and simply transfer it to a new area on your horse’s back, and it takes a while for that new spot to become sore.
The cure for all these problems is quite simple. Noted horseman, Ray Hunt says, “It’s what happened before that you didn’t want to have happen.” Use common sense; don’t get caught up in every new gimmick without checking out the background from several sources. Endorsements don’t make a product, because most endorsers are paid for their association. Use a good reputable saddle maker that knows and understands correct saddle fit. Check their background and whom they trained under. Find a time of year that your horse is in good using condition so that the saddle maker can fit your animal when it is not over fat or too thin! Lastly, when considering pads, consider seriously “would I wear it” as a “sock” or “underwear”? If not, then why in the world would I submit my animal to those same materials?
Item #: Video Transcript I - Saddle Pad Construction$0.00
Here are the transcripts for the above listed videos for those without sound: From Laurel "A lot of gimmicks can be strapped under a saddle to get one benefit or another, but man has yet to create a product that outperforms virgin wool, and over the long haul, virgin wool content felt pads will outperform any other type of pad or blanket hands down. 5 stars 100% percent wool contoured saddle pads conform immediately to your horse's back for perfect fit. Our F-11 wool felt has the highest virgin wool content available and offers 3 times more compression protection and wicking ability than any other pad on the market. While the importance of compression protection is pretty clear given the dominance of rubber, bubble wrap and space age jelly saddle pads today, only high quality wool felt offers great compression protection while simultaneously wicking away moisture. That wicking action is the means by which heat is dissipated under the pressure of the saddle. The best compression protection, coupled with the best wicking ability, translates to the best performance from your equine partner. When you consider the amount of money one might spend on feed, tack, vet bills and entry fees to pursue your equine passion, a saddle pad with all the ingredients for maximum performance is essential. While the big ships full of cheap goods leave a toxic trail all the way from Los Angeles to China and back, 5 Star is producing the highest quality products right here in the USA."
Item #: Video Transcript II - Saddle Pad Overview - Mike$0.00
Here are the transcripts for the above listed videos for those without sound: From Mike "In the last 20 years the industry has come up with using every conceivable kind of thing out of the auto industry and space industry that was never intended for use in horses. Everything from gels to foams to freezer linings all of these have zero or next to nothing as far as good quality and compression protection and absolutely zero in wicking ability and the agents that are needed for wicking sweat and heat away from the horses back. Pressed industrial felt is the only thing that has really been proven over time to have the high quality wicking ability and high compression ratio for horses. 5 Star has 3 times the compression ratio of any other pad on the market and has 2 times the wicking ability of any close competitor in the felt industry as far as pads are concerned. So why is 5 Star so good? 5 Star uses the highest quality virgin wool content in their felt. Only through the use of high-quality virgin wool, can you have a high-quality compression ratios and the high wicking quality you can get. Add to that,5 Stars established French curve that will fit any horse backline that settles in to create high-quality performance. 5 Star is a pad that will last forever, kind of like an old sweater that you snag and you throw away so that you have a chance to get a new one. Nothing makes it simpler for performance and making 5 Star the best pad in your tack room."