In barrel racing, the difference between winning and losing can be measured in just fractions of a second. That is why top riders are always searching for every advantage possible. A speedy, well-trained horse, hours of practice and good riding form are, of course, important if you want to win — but so is owning the right equipment.
For example, tacking up your mount with a saddle that is too tight in the withers and an inadequate pad could pinch your horse’s shoulders. To avoid the pain that it is experiencing, your horse is likely to alter its form. It might, for instance, decide not to take a barrel as tightly as you would like, causing you to lose that fraction of a second that could ultimately cost you a win. Even worse, your horse might start to associate pain with barrel racing competitions and begin to balk at entering the ring.
How to Choose the Best Barrel Racing Saddle Pads
When choosing a pad or ordering a custom-made one, make sure that it is not too long. In general, most barrel racers prefer a 28-inch pad, although you may be able to use a 30-inch pad if your horse has a longer back. You just need to make sure that the pad you choose won’t extend over your horse’s hip area and interfere with its stride.
Top barrel racers prefer using a compressed wool pad. Wool absorbs and wicks moisture away from your horse’s back. This, in turn, will allow it to feel more comfortable while under saddle. Danyelle Campbell, a three-time NFR Champion prefers using Best Ever Pad’s washed pressed wool pad because it holds its shape well and won’t compress, but it is also soft enough to conform to a horse’s back.
Although some riders prefer fleece pads, Campbell believes that they allow a saddle to roll too much during a race. Of course, some horses just seem to prefer to have fleece against their back. If you own one of these sensitive types, Campbell suggests using a pad that combines ½-inch wool with a fleece bottom.
For barrel racing, you want a pad that is thick enough to provide your horse the comfort it needs and deserves to make a fast run, yet won’t add any weight that could slow it down. In general, barrel racers don’t require the extra padding that, say, a roping horse needs to absorb the shock of stopping a calf. For most riders, a 3/4-inch pad offers the perfect amount of protection for their equine’s back.
While some riders believe in using a thicker 1-inch pad to prevent their horses from getting sore backs, Campbell disagrees. She doesn’t believe that the extra padding is necessary and could cause your saddle to roll during your run. There is one major exception, however: If you own a horse with high withers, it may need the extra padding. In that case, a 1-inch pad might be the best barrel racing saddle pad for your mount.
Made to Your Specifications
If you’re in it to win it, your best bet is to have a barrel racing saddle pad custom-made for your horse. That is what many of the top riders on the barrel racing circuits do for their athletes.
If you’re interested in customizing a pad for your horse, please contact Best Ever Pads. Also, if you would like more information on how to find the best horse saddle pads, check out this video from Campbell.