Every once in a while, you get really lucky in the vast world of equestrian products and find something new that you really, really love. I feel passionately that saddle fit and equine back health are two of the most important factors that riders can be diligent about, and I also happen to possess a horse that is literally the princess and the pea about all of his tack. These two factors combined make me an extremely discerning reviewer for this VIP Saddle Pad.
When I was approached about testing out the VIP Saddle Pad, my first question was about the science behind the development, because I adore quantifiable results from proper experiments. After all, if you’re going to make claims about your product being the best, I want to see the proof.
Luckily for all of us, VIP Equestrian really delivered on this front, so you don’t have to just take my review into consideration. Every assertion made by this company has been backed up by laboratory experiments, as well as field testing by top riders around the world.
However, let’s just start at the beginning with initial impressions.
At first, this pad seems like a lot of other gel pads, but a main advantage is that there is no filling along the spine. This means that when you put the pad under your saddle, it doesn’t interfere with wither clearance or air flow along the gullet of the saddle. Studies have repeatedly shown that dispersing heat from the horse’s back along the spine is integral to lessening muscular back soreness, so this is an important feature of the pad.
However, it’s important to point out here that it isn’t just another gel pad. The blue gel bubbles you see are actually something called VEteq, a proprietary polymer that has been used for over 50 years to prevent and treat pressure sores and ulcers in humans. This polymer is used in other applications, including the military, in gun recoil pads, in spaceship harnesses, by stunt actors, in football helmets, motorcycle seats, and several other sporting uses.
Needless to say, VEteq is above average when it comes to providing better cushioning to the horse’s back, and is known as the universal gold standard for impact protection. This polymer does not leak, flow or bottom out under pressure. The material behaves just like fat and skin, so when using the VIP, you’re effectively adding a thin layer of fat to your horse’s back to offer better cushioning.
Most half pads are made from foam, memory foam, wool, gel, or sheepskin, all of which carry their own problems. Most of these can deform over time due to the rider’s weight and the horse’s back shape. Sheepskin is thick and bulky, and almost impossible to keep clean. When foam is compressed, it takes a long time to bounce back, and never does under the weight of the rider. Most gel pads simply move away from pressure, and don’t disperse it evenly along the horse’s back.
Another factor that was very important to me was that using the VIP Saddle Pad does not effectively change the fit of your saddle. Why would I spend all the money on a custom saddle that fits my horse perfectly just to throw a half pad on there and make the fit too narrow? I can assure you that my horse would instantly inform me of the ignorance of such a decision, and not politely.
I’m delighted to report that the VIP Saddle Pad passed my horse’s rigorous princess test, and at only 8mm thick, it doesn’t affect his saddle fit. I tried the saddle pad on multiple other various horses with custom saddles, and they all seemed to enjoy it, and a few went remarkably better with the pad than without.
One horse in particular enjoyed the VIP Saddle Pad so much, that my student who owns him immediately bought her own, as she was able to feel how much softer he was over his topline when we rode him in the pad. He is a nine-year-old thoroughbred who doesn’t naturally tend towards supple flatwork, so this was a remarkable difference.
The final factor of the VIP Saddle Pad that I really appreciate is that it is hypoallergenic, dead easy to clean, and does not support bacterial growth. In the humid summer of Virginia, and using the pad on multiple horses every day, you can simply wipe it down with a wet cloth and hang to dry, and it’s as good as new. Without a staff of grooms, ease of daily cleaning and durability rank high on my list of important factors.
I’m happy to say that the VIP Saddle Pad is one of my new favorite barn accoutrements, and based on the results I felt from many horses, I would easily recommend it. For horses that are sensitive, prone to back soreness, or riders simply looking to add some protective cushioning to their ride, the VIP Saddle Pad is definitely worth your time.