It was the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, and I’d had one (or maybe three) too many Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ales. Which, I think we can all agree, is the absolute best time to hit up the trade fair.
In the mood to play a little fast and loose with my credit card, I wandered around in search of products worthy of my late, great mare Maggie. Maggie would have jumped a house if you pointed her at it, but hoo-boy, she was a tough nut to crack in the dressage ring. “Tense” and “tight in the back” were common refrains among judge’s comments on our dressage tests, and our scores were never much to write home about.
I constantly worked to get her to relax and stretch down but couldn’t shake the gut feeling that her reluctance to let it go was rooted more in physical discomfort than training. She was often back sore the day after a tough workout, wincing away from my touch when I ran my fingers along her spine. From carrot stretches and massage to chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture, I threw my back into fixing her back, but unfortunately it was to no avail.
At WEG I stopped short in front of the Draper Therapies vendor. I hadn’t heard of the company before, but my interest was piqued. Not only were the saddle pads beautiful …
… they claimed to give your horse oxygenated muscles throughout the back while providing better recovery and decreasing any soreness and/or swelling.
The science behind it is intriguing. All Draper Therapies products contain a technologically advanced fiber called Celliant, a proprietary blend of minerals which have been extruded into a polyester fiber that has been clinically proven to reduce pain, increase oxygen levels and regulate body temperature.
I’m no science buff myself, so I’ll refer you to this video for a more in-depth explanation of how the stuff works:
Of course, you can science-talk all day long, but what I’m really interested in is where the rubber meets the road. Do the products work?
I noticed that they had the endorsement of Team Canada eventer Selena O’Hanlon. Selena has worn the red-and-white Canadian maple leaf at the Olympics, World Equestrian Games and Pan American Games, and she’s such an elegant rider to watch both on the flat and over fences. I also really respect Selena as a horsewoman who clearly loves her horses and she always puts her equine partners first, so if she was using a Draper Therapies saddle pad, that was a big deal.
Selena says she started using the pads in 2007, at Rolex, and has been a believer ever since. Even when she has to use a Team Canada saddle pad, she puts a Draper pad on underneath.
“They leave the back not overheated and sweaty and they don’t leave a saddle pad mark — there are no pressure points,” she says. “They also dry really fast and wash really well.”
Her longtime four-star partner Foxwood High has a delicate back and used to flinch when you put the saddle pad on … until she started using the Draper pads. “They’re really good for sensitive backs,” she says, noting that she loves the Draper stable wraps as well.
If it’s good enough for Selena, it’s good enough for me! I walked away with a white Draper Therapies All-Purpose Pad in hand and couldn’t wait to get home and put it to the test.
It felt good to place the pad’s soft, grey, fuzzy lining on Maggie’s back. I imagine the pad would be ideal for thin-skinned horses who are prone to rubs. The thickness strikes just the right balance, providing enough padding without compromising that all-important close-contact feel.
The shape of the pad is neither too big or small, and I use the all-purpose model with both my jumping and dressage saddles (although a dressage version and jumping version are also available). Like a custom-tailored suit or curve-hugging ball gown, it contoured immediately to Maggie’s topline with none of the bunching you get with a lot of pads. The girth loop is well positioned, although I ended up cutting off the upper velcro loop because my saddle is a monoflap.
As for performance, I wish I could attest that it magically transformed our dressage game from cringe-worthy to straight 10s, but of course there’s no quick-fix magic bullet for that. I can say that I felt a difference: She warmed up faster and just felt a bit more comfortable overall; it was like her whole topline was able to take a deep breath. Most noticeably, she was less back sore the day after a jump day, gallop or intense dressage school. And, as Selena noted, when you took the saddle off there were no pressure points or marks; they seemed to draw heat away from the back instead of trapping it between skin and pad.
Care of the pads is easy: Draper says that all its products can be washed in your home washing machine and placed in your dryer without affecting the Celliant properties. While I believe them I’ve shrunk way too many saddle pads in my day to risk it, and hanging them up to dry is just as easy. Cleaning additives such as bleach and stain remover can also be used without damaging the Celliant.
I’m hard on my stuff, and several years of sloshing through mud and leaving the pad for dead on the floor of my trailer tack room after shows, its pristine whiteness picked up some stains. While still 100% functional I relegated it to schooling pad only status and purchased a new one, without the motivation of high-gravity beer this time around.
The Draper Equine Therapy All Purpose Saddle Pad retails for $149 and is available here. Draper has expanded its product line in a big way over the years, with not only equine but also canine and people products available. In addition to saddle pads, Draper has sheets, quarter sheets, coolers, polo wraps, stable bandages and hock boots, all designed with the Celliant technology.
Cheers to Draper Therapies for their contributions to our horses’ comfort and well-being! For more information, check out the Draper Therapies website.