BY JESS CLAWSON
A few months ago after noticing that my thoroughbred wasn’t using his back as well as he normally does, I asked my saddle fitter to come take a look. When she flipped my beloved wool-flocked dressage saddle over and pointed to a dent in the panel that aligned perfectly with the bar of the steel rack my saddle lives on, I was horrified.
Fortunately, because my saddle is wool flocked, she could fix it on the spot. But she cautioned against keeping my saddles on the rack with no protection. She also told me that, had my saddle been foam flocked, I would have needed the whole panel replaced. Yikes! Immediately I brought out some old half pads to put between my saddles and the racks to prevent future damage.
The old half pads work okay, but they slide off every time I remove my saddles and don’t look very nice. Plus, I wasn’t sure how much protection they really offered. I just figured they were better than nothing.
Then I learned about SaddleMattress and realized it could be the solution to my problems. Not only are they attractive, they’re proven to work. Fellow TPH team member, Allie Carlson, and I each tried a different model to see if they work as well in practice as they do in theory.
I tried the SaddleMattress Supreme, the model that fits on the wall-mounted saddle racks I use for Mo’s saddle. It’s nice-looking—much more polished than a beat up old half pad—and stays in place when I take the saddle down. Two points in its favor, for sure.
It’s clear that the makers have put a great deal of thought into the design over the two years of product development and testing they’ve done. The exterior ultrasuede cover fits over an interior comprised of two types of foam: a base layer that creates a shock absorbing barrier (significantly reducing pressure) and a contoured weight-bearing layer that lifts and redistributes the weight of the saddle. The center ridge supports the saddle through the gullet and allows the panels to rest on two beveled fins.
The design is great, but I love nothing more than evidence. The creators of SaddleMattress do too, and have put time into testing their product before releasing it onto the market. They used a gel-filled Port Lewis Impression Pad under a saddle on a steel rack to first measure the pressure from the steel bars. The pad showed significant dents from the bars. They repeated the experiment putting the impression pad under a saddle sitting on a SaddleMattress-covered rack and found that there was no indication of pressure points.
They then used sensor technology to measure the pressure points on a saddle with and without the SaddleMattress, and found that the SaddleMattress redistributed the weight of the saddle over a much larger surface area, minimizing pressure and eliminating hot spots.
Allie enjoys the SaddleMattress Vertex, meant for standing saddle racks: “I have had two very different and very hard to fit horses over the last few years, and I have invested a ton of time and money into finding and maintaining perfect saddle fit,” she explained. “The Vertex has been a great addition to my saddle maintenance. It was easy to install on my saddle stand, and provides a nice soft support system for my saddle, allowing it to stay the perfect fit for my horse’s back. The fabric is also great and doesn’t allow the saddle to slip or shift the way using old pads or towels would. And while it was designed to fit most commonly on a standing rack, it also is balanced and designed well enough to fit on the triangular wall mount saddle racks we just installed in our tack room, allowing it to be multifaceted for my ever moving and changing Air Force wife life.”
It also fits winged and wooden saddle racks and will work with any kind of saddle. Not only does the SaddleMattress look nice and work well, it’s also easy to use anywhere. If I want to use it when traveling, I can just pull it off the rack at home and install it in my trailer instead. To keep everything safe in motion, I secure the saddle with a flat bungee cord.
The makers of SaddleMattress have hit on something a lot of us didn’t know we needed, and now won’t be able to live without. They come in black or dark blue, and you can add custom embroidery for just $10. I envision the nicest tack rooms outfitted with SaddleMattresses on every rack with their owner’s initials embroidered on each of them. Not only will it look lovely, but each of those saddles will be beautifully protected to keep horses and their riders happy for years to come.
If you have a team or barn logo they can even embroider that and with 13 colors of piping and embroidery thread there’s sure to be a combination to suit your individual or team colors.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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