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Horse lovers will do, and buy, just about anything to enhance their horses’ comfort -- whether they need it or not. Horses benefit from advances in saddle pad design and manufacturing, with some made with material that conforms to a horse’s individual shape. Half pads are part of the saddle pad family, but they should be used for your horse's benefit only when necessary and not just to give your equine the next, cool thing in horse apparel.
Half Pad Description
The half pad is, appropriately, about half the size or less of a full-sized pad. It fits under the saddle, covering a portion of the horse’s withers -- where the neck joins the back -- and then just over a horse’s back underneath the saddle. It extends down the sides approximately half as much as a regular saddle pad. You can’t see the half pad’s sides, but you may see the outer edge sticking out the front and the back of the saddle. It doesn’t replace a full-sized pad; it is used in addition to it.
Half Pad Purpose
Horses that need more cushioning or support than a regular pad provides will benefit from a half-pad. It is preferable to adding another full-size pad because it doesn’t add additional bulk throughout the saddle; this is particularly important for close-contact disciplines, like jumping. You can buy half pads designed to support specific body areas, such as wither-support pads, or that will alter the saddle fit to better accommodate the horse’s physique. Some half pads are made of gel to provide shock-absorbing relief, and some conform to the horse’s shape for a customized fit.
Assessing Your Need
Consider a half pad if your horse’s body shape is undergoing changes. For example, a horse will lose and gain weight and muscle depending on its work schedule and living conditions. If you purchase an underweight, underdeveloped horse and know his shape will change in a few months, a half pad accommodates a temporary need with a saddle that may not fit him properly now but will in a few months. Some horses also have minor conformation irregularities or a symmetrical issue that a half pad can correct.
Half Pad Cautions
No pad, including the half pad, should replace the need for an properly fitting saddle. Don’t be tempted to use a half pad so you can ride several horses in one saddle that only fits only one horse -- you can cause permanent, career-ending damage to the horse. Check the saddle fit without any pads, or have a professional fitter assess your horse and saddle. You can ask the fitter if a half pad is suitable to fix a minor fitting issue, or as a temporary measure.
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- L. Willinger/Lifesize/Getty Images