Half Pads – a tale of two halves!

Posted on July 12, 2022

Half pads fit under your horse’s saddle, either on top of a thin cloth or sometimes directly onto their back. There are so many different ones on the market to choose from that it can be a bit overwhelming.

They all shock absorb, and many can stop common issues such as slipping, but by using different technology. Of course, there will be a particular one out there that suits your horse best and that they are most comfortable in, so it’s important to do your research before buying. In fact, when you buy a product from us, you will always have our help and advice at hand should you need it. We don’t do things by halves (sorry couldn’t resist the pun!)

Why use a half pad?

Half pads are great for fixing a few different issues, but you should always use them with a little caution. You might have a saddle that slips to one side or just doesn’t sit evenly on your horse’s back to begin with. On the other hand, your saddle might fit fine but you feel your horse would benefit from some additional shock absorption or something that helps wick away the sweat a little better compared to a regular saddle pad.

Here are some of the reasons why a half pad might work for you:

  • Your saddle continues to slip despite having it checked and worked on by your saddle fitter
  • Your horse tends to gain and lose weight at different times across the year therefore changing his shape
  • Your horse gets uncomfortable from sweating when working or is generally sensitive to a saddle
  • Your saddle fits but the pommel or cantle sit a bit too low

A word of warning before we move on, always make sure you seek advice from your saddle fitter when you choose and fit a new half pad, as they can alter the fit of your saddle, some more than others. Make sure you continue to have your saddle checked at regular intervals so you can be confident your half pad is not changing the existing fit and causing your horse to be uncomfortable.

What to choose

As we’ve already mentioned there is a huge range of half pads now on the market. Fortunately at Comfy Horse HQ we do the leg work for you and only stock tried and tested, super comfy pads.

We’ve put our favourites here into material type…

Sheepskin-lined half pads

These pads are, as you’d expect, pretty thick but very soft and comfortable. They are good for filling out a saddle that’s a little too wide, particularly if you have a horse that drops weight over the winter. These pads should not usually be lined right into the gullet as that would put pressure on your horse’s spine.

You also see lots of fleece lined pads on the market, but natural sheepskin fleece wicks away sweat, avoiding possible rubs. Do be aware however that sheepskin may affect the saddle fit.

Stephen’s Sheepskin Saddle half pad / lined – £78.00: This half pad combines the therapeutic properties of treated, pure sheepskin fleece with a cotton quilt backing. Use it between your saddle and a thin saddle cloth for maximum benefit and minimum washing. It can also be used directly on the back to keep muscles warm and efficient. We also love that this half pad design keeps you close to your horse, preserving feel whilst helping you both perform.

Gel half pads

Gel half pads are a good compromise because they are very thin, which means they don’t usually affect the fit of your saddle but they are still great for shock absorption and stopping saddles from slipping. Do make sure the one you choose has ventilation to prevent sweating underneath.

VIP Saddle Pad – the Very Important Pad – £140: The VIP is a firm favourite here at Comfy Horse. We have loved this product ever since we were introduced to it by our Equine Body Worker and tried it on all the horses in our eventing yard with great results!

It’s a gel, but not really a gel as you might know it. This particular gel is unique, cannot bottom out, cannot stick to horses’ hair or skin and provides fantastic shock absorption. It was originally designed for wheelchair users to prevent pressure sores, and is now redesigned to help horse and rider comfort. The VIP can be used either directly on your horse’s back, or underneath the saddle on top of the saddle pad or numnah, but make sure you always use the VIP bobble side down for maximum benefit.

Foam half pads

The ThinLine brand of pads incorporates a unique, open-cell technology, which moves shock, weight, and heat laterally along the pad without compressing, so you can still feel your horse’s back when you ride maintaining that all-important connection. 

Thinline Contoured Half Pad £120.00 – £125.00: This pad gives you added protection under the stirrup bar of the saddle. It is designed for use between the saddlepad and saddle and can be cut to shape, so it is very discrete. We recommend the contoured style as it provides more material with more ThinLine protection. It moulds for a custom fit when warmed to body temperature and it is also non-slip. Be aware that this pad may affect your saddle fit.

Thinline Trifecta cotton half pad £155.00: This pad is more streamlined than ever! Made with Ultra ThinLine over a high quality quilted cotton base pad, it has a contoured wither profile and spine free channel. This design allows the pad to lay on either side of the spine so that it is always in the right place, allowing the horse to work effectively through their back without usually affecting the saddle fit.

Remember – don’t do things by halves!

A good half pad can become an essential piece of your riding kit, but remember to always seek the advice of your saddle fitter. When you first use your new pad, keep a check on your horse’s way of going and take note of any changes. Hopefully you will only discover positive changes, but it’s best to spot any issues early on so that your horse always stays comfy. 

For more information please take a look at our selection of half pads here