SmartPak Product Review: SmartTherapy Saddle Pads

SmartPak launched a new line of unique SmartTherapy products on June 15, and since then NM’s editors have been putting them to the test! Last week Jumper Nation editor Lynn Mueller reviewed the SmartTherapy Mesh Sheet — you can check out her observations here. This week, Eventing Nation editor Leslie Wylie is taking the SmartTherapy Dressage Saddle Pad and SmartTherapy All Purpose Saddle Pad for a test drive. Next, we’ll be testing the wraps with Horse Nation editor DeAnn Sloan. 

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

I am 100% that girl who borrows her horse’s ice boots after a hard workout, uses a Back on Track sheet as a throw blanket, and buys epsom salts in bulk for ridiculously long, hot baths with wine + the most recent Chronicle issue “abscesses.”

And I know for a fact that I’m not alone. (See: “#EventerSolutions: 15 Times We Borrowed Our Horse’s Stuff for DIY Physical Therapy.”)

Don’t judge. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Let me be clear: There are times when stealing cookies from your horse’s wellness cookie jar isn’t a great idea. Like last year when, four weeks postpartum, I used Vetrap to keep my guts from literally falling out of my C-section incision during a jump lesson. Not a great idea!

But it’s no breaking news that, when it comes to our equine partners, we’re always looking for ways to keep them happier, healthier and better performing — and hey, if we can benefit a little on the side, OK!

Which is why I’m looking forward to using my horse’s new SmartTherapy saddle pads as a therapeutic mini-dress, or bath towel, or yoga mat, or something because the technology it utilizes — ceramic far infrared radiation (cFIR) — works. To wit: Ceramic particles are embedded in the fabric to absorb body heat and reflect it back to the horse as soothing far infrared rays that activate blood flow, which may help to decrease inflammation, improve recovery, and protect from oxidative stress. That translates into a more supple and loose back.

I tried the AP and Dressage pad styles and loved the result: a horse that warms up quicker, performs better, and recovers easier. If “tight in the back” or “tense” are common refrains on your dressage score sheets, this pad along is a great tool in your toolbox along with plenty of suppling work. It’s like the pad’s technology encouraged my mare to take a deep breath and relax her topline into work. I think the results would be exponential in a horse that was cold-backed or high performance.

SmartTherapy Dressage Pad. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

SmartTherapy AP Pad. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

With all the technical talk about recycled body heat, combined with 90+ degree temps this summer, I was worried about it getting too hot under there. But the pad actually had the opposite effect: The back muscles are warm and loose from the ThermoBalance™ material on the underside of the pad but not overheated thanks to ample ventilation from the exterior mesh layer.

The back muscles are warm and loose from the ThermoBalance™ material on the underside of the pad but not overheated thanks to ample ventilation from the exterior mesh layer. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

When I take the saddle off there are no pressure points or marks. For a human equivalent, it’s the difference between wearing a cotton tee-shirt and a technical fabric tee — one traps heat, and the other lets your skin breath. Post-ride it dried quickly, too.

Like all SmartPak pads, the curving ergonomic shape hugs my horse’s topline with plenty of wither clearance. Bonus: I love how a hint of metallic thread peeking through the exterior mesh layer gives it a subtle shimmer in the sun! The black binding, grey piping and subtle shine are très chic. The girth and billet straps are well placed and plenty sturdy.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The pad is available in AP, Dressage and Western cuts and retails for $59.95 or $56.95 with the USEF member discount. 

Go Eventing.

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