Bareback Pads Are for Sissies! Or Maybe Not

The other night I decided about 30 mins before sundown that I was going to head out and ride Lily, in shorts and clogs.  Ain’t nobody got time to change.  So clearly I wasn’t about to slap my saddle on and attempt to rip all the skin off my calves and knees.  This is when I turn to my trusty bareback pad.  “You wuss, bareback pads are for weenies.  If you knew how to ride you wouldn’t need one.”  I used to totally agree with this, then about 8 years ago, I took a ride on Emma bareback…

“So you think a pad is going to keep your horse from dumping you in the dirt when she freaks out at the imaginary boogieman?  You are about to get dirty, very dirty!”  I almost wish that was the case.  “What could be worse than hitting the dirt?”  Blisters, lots of blisters, in places where only toilet paper should go.  “Eww, gross”  Agreed, also quite painful.  After it happened twice… “Hold the phones, you let this happen twice?”  Well twice in a row, and then it has happened one or two more times over the years.  Anyhow, this began my foray into bareback pads.

To be honest, if all you are doing is walking around like cooling out after a ride, then a regular saddle pad thrown on the back works just fine.  It’s tricky keeping it in place while you get on but once you are on, it doesn’t really move.  If you are like me, you do whole rides bareback.

So first, why a bareback pad?  Well, obviously if you have a horse that is built like a fence board (Emma), you want it to protect your crack from chafing.  “Well Fluffy Pony is nice and fat so I will save my money.”  Well ask yourself this, do you have a bony butt?  “I don’t think so.”  Try this test, get your best barn buddy of the human variety to sit on the mounting block or a chair.  Sit on their leg, wiggle around a bit, if your friend at any point says “Ouch, you have a bony butt!” you might want to consider a bareback pad.  Most of us are less stable without a saddle and stirrups so you will wiggle around more and a saddle distributes your weight down the whole panel, your butt is smaller than your saddle.  Just consider it back protection.  Also, a bareback pad with stirrups is a complete cheat, so before anyone asks, no I have not tried them nor do I intend to*.

So I started cheap, you know the navajo print with the D-Ring cinch strap.  This is great for walking and maybe some light trotting, as soon as they go full “Emma” and start spinning, attempting to take off, bolting out from under you or bucking (Emma is a bolter not a bucker), they start slipping and going wonkey on you.  The cinch never really gets tight enough to do much.

Next I went to the thick fleece ones with the girth, I was given one of these when I was a kid, it works ok but if your horse has high withers (Emma), its going to slide back.  You can usually get them tight enough to keep them from going rogue on you in the heat of an Emma moment.

The next one I got was called a Best Friend Comfort Plus bareback pad, it was spendy but super nice, the underside was lined with that neoprene checkerboard stuff like you use to line shelves and drawers so it didnt slip much and it had d-rings to add a breastplate if needed to help keep it from sliding back.  The girth is also neoprene mesh and the buckles have elastic so they stretch and give like the elastic on your girth.  I would have kept it forever, but in an odd and rare stroke of luck I won a bareback pad.

“Whoa you actually won something?  Was it one of those navajo bareback pads, that would be your luck!”  No actually I won a ThinLine bareback pad.  “You mean like ThinLine boots and saddle pads?”  Yes, that ThinLine, the pad is very similar to the Best Friend one above but it has a layer of memory foam in the seat.  I’m not going to lie, it’s so nice its almost cheating.  When you have a back like Emma does as can be seen in the picture, you need all the help you can get.  “Do you ever feed that thing?”  Oddly enough I do, a surprisingly large amount, yet she still looks like this. I would say that its a Thoroughbred thing but Lily has a nice and soft round back and body, so thats just Emma for you.  I did find that when you trot and canter through belly deep water in the creek, the pad has a tendency to slip back, in these situations I suggest a breast plate or something to help hold it in place.  And yes, I did ride Emma in the creek bareback at the walk trot and canter and did not die.

Do yourself and your horse a favor, if you haven’t ridden bareback before, start by ensuring you can ride in a saddle without stirrups comfortably first, then move to cooling your horse out at the walk bareback.  Then add trotting, then cantering, eventually you will be able to do everything bareback.

*I have seen these used in therapy/handicapped situations  and they are great but for the rest of us, ditch the stirrups.

**I may get a bit of a kickback if you purchase something through an amazon link on this page.