It’s an age-old question. So, what’s your take?
With any sport or discipline, personal preference plays a large part in determining the equipment you use in your favourite past time. It’s no different with horses and sweat pads.
Some will argue that if the collar fits the horse correctly, you don’t need a pad. Others say using a collar without a pad is like wearing a pair of boots without socks.
And staying with the footwear comparison for a minute…
Fitting collars is like shoe shopping. While you may find a pair you really like the feel of, the next person may not like the fit at all. But maybe if they try them on with an insole or a heavier pair of socks, the shoes become quite comfy.
A pad works the same way, allowing for small irregularities in the fit between the collar and the face of the horse’s shoulder. Kind of like the way a layer of butter fills in the nooks and crannies of an English muffin. (Yes, we’re very much into word pictures today!)
What it really comes down to is the comfort of the horse. We’ve used pads on all of our horses, except for one. LeRoy’s collar fits him so well there’s no need to pad it. He never refuses to take a load nor has he ever had a scald or sore from his collar. Both of these tell us he’s pretty comfortable.
So if you’ve decided to use a pad, what kind of pad will it be?
There are three kinds:
1. Deer hair. This is the traditional blue or black and white-striped pad from yesteryear. They’re fairly thick (about 2 inches). Two disadvantages of the deer hair pad are that it’s hard to keep clean and it holds moisture. (And they really stink!)
2. Felt (also from days gone by). These are usually a special order and can be found in either 1- or 3/4-inch thickness. There’s not much demand for felt so they can be a little difficult to find.
3. Vinyl foam pad (also known as a healing pad). It works pretty much like a neoprene saddle pad, riding on a layer of perspiration. They’re easy to clean and the good ones have pleats in the material on the top. This minimizes creasing on the bottom where it folds over the neck, maximizing your horse’s comfort.
Here’s an example from our experience:
One spring, we had a young mare that we started to drive. Of course, she lost quite a bit of weight in a hurry because she was finally doing something besides mowing the lawn. After a few days, we noticed a small scald on her shoulder (a little bigger than a quarter). We gave her a day off so it could scab over and put a healing pad on her the next day. When we took her collar off, the scab was still intact. She healed up really well and never missed a beat.
The other nice thing with the vinyl foam pad is that if you’re into showing or parading, you can order them with a coloured fake fur (also known as a borg or velvet top) to dress up your outfit.
But you have to make sure to get the sizing right.
The rule of thumb is that you order a pad two inches larger than the collar you’ll be using it with:
Collars are measured in a straight line from the top of the hole (the inside of the hole that the collar makes when fastened) to the bottom as though you’re going through your horse’s neck. Pads are measured around the curve of the neck or collar, so if you’re using a 20-inch collar, you’ll want to order a 22-inch pad. If your collar is pretty close to fitting, then you’ll have to buy a bigger collar in order to add a pad. On the other hand, if the collar is too big for your horse then adding a pad can get you the right fit.
Make sense? Have other questions about pads? As always, if you need more information or details, drop us a note or give us a call. We’re here to help you.
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