Comfort Before Beauty

If there is one rule that seems to override all the rest when it comes to working in a barn, it is ‘comfort before beauty’. Now, when I can have both comfort and beauty, that is ideal! But if a choice must be made… comfort it is!

So this winter, as we dress in our layers of Under Armor and polar fleece, a few of us have been keeping it fun by coordinating our layers with our horse’s saddle pads and polo wraps. If it was a contest, I think Sarah would win hands down, she and Derby are by far the best dressed and have the most “outfits” of any of us. Liz and Cloud do pretty well too, as do Peaches and her girls. My boys and I do ok, but I have found the redheads a challenge. Blues and greens work well on a chestnut, and we can mix it up with white or cream, but beyond that we’re pretty limited. We do what we can though. Here I am with Remy in our “blues”:

Lately I’ve come to focus even more on the comfort part, except with less focus on keeping myself warm (which I think I have perfected almost to an art form now!), instead really focusing on my horses’ comfort. I think I’m a bit of an experimenter by nature, and of course I love my horses and want whatever it is that will make them happy to do their jobs. I always want to be fair to them, and it seems to me it’s very unfair to expect them to perform to their fullest potential if they are in any sort of discomfort. And, I love to read online… the bulletin boards and all the tack shop websites, I’m always looking at the latest and greatest that claim to be the best for horses.

Much of it I just don’t buy into. I mean, if I had an unlimited budget I suppose it’d all be worth trying, but otherwise, not so much. Lately I have found some things that make a difference though.

The first thing is the Fleeceworks Perfect Balance Pad.  I love this pad! It’s a fleece half pad with pockets for different memory foam inserts. I originally got it with the front inserts only to try to get a saddle to fit over Remy’s shark fin withers.  Now I have the new saddle that is fitted for the boys (and Remy has gained a ton of weight/muscle and doesn’t have protruding withers quite like he used to!) so I didn’t need the front riser anymore, but I did like the feel of the memory foam, so I got the full insert.

At first, I was really skeptical. The pad looks SO thick with the sheepskin and the memory foam, but once the saddle is on and girthed up, and then I sit on it and girth it up some more, the pad really squashes down pretty thin. The difference in the feel is unbelievable. Whoever named it “Perfect Balance” wasn’t kidding. It must have shifted my saddle by a degree or two, it’s really not visible, but the difference riding in it is incredible. I was really having to work hard to sit correctly before, and with this pad my leg just lays right where it belongs, and it feels so natural! I think it also helps to have a little more “bulk” to wrap my leg around since I have relatively long legs on relatively narrow-built horses. Having the pad under the saddle makes the horses feel wider, which maybe helps take up my leg, causing it to lay more naturally where it belongs?  I don’t know exactly how it works, but wow what a difference.

The even better part is how my horses responded. Both of them offered me their backs so much more easily! I don’t know if it’s because I was sitting better or if it’s because the memory foam feels so good on their backs, but their gaits improved and they both seemed so much more willing to really lift their backs and stay there.

The only thing I don’t like about the Fleeceworks pad is how big it is. The fleece extends over the front and back of every saddle pad I own, which I suppose isn’t a big deal but I dunno, it bothers me.  We are all allowed our own little OCD thing, right? Well I like my saddle and pads to all line up perfectly. 🙂 So I’m trying the Fleeceworks foam inserts in a fleecy cover that was made for a gel pad. The foam inserts fit well in it, and the fleecy cover is about the perfect length for my saddle and saddle pads. It seems to be working well, so I may have gotten lucky with this set up. Ultimately, it will be up to the horses…

(more tomorrow…)