When I first came across the VIP saddle pad a few months ago, I had a quick look at the website. I must confess my first thought was “How much for a gel pad?” and left. (I’m very Yorkshire that way!) I didn’t read anything about it – what its made of or anything. Like many horse owners, I want the very best for my horse, but I have to balance that with the cost and wasn’t ready to take the risk then.
It was only a few weeks later that I saw a video of how good the VIP was. Anyone who is prepared to test their ‘gel pad’ against a car has serious faith in it. I’ve added the video below – it’s a must-watch.
So what’s it made of if you said it was a “gel pad” Spot that did ya?! well its made of a material called Akton polymer. This has been rigorously tested worldwide in 40 years of scientific research. Invented around 40 years ago it was designed as a human-grade fat substitute, to help prevent things like bedsores, and pressure sores.
So after watching the video, I thought, why not try it – if it can protect a chocolate mini egg, it has got to help my horses back. and it’s super thin so it doesn’t alter the fit of my saddle.
Over the course of a year, Mickie will lose a little weight and muscle in the winter and gain a bit of weight during the summer months. This alters the fit of his saddle, only enough that I can change from a thin saddle pad to a slightly thicker one. So saddle pad risers, gel pads, half pads, all change the fit of the saddle. I’ve used a thin fleece half pad in the winter, and that had helped in the past. But I could only use it in the winter with his thinner summer saddle pad. It meant there were always a few weeks when he would wear the half pad, and it would become sung. Not ideal added to the fact that I used to feel further away in the saddle from Mickie.
So anyway – I bought one. I paid the retail price, ( at this point I didn’t even know that I was able to be a supplier. ) and it arrived. Why do I mention this – because sometimes when I read reviews – I wonder if the item would be as good if you had actually paid for it.
The first thing I noticed is that it wasn’t sticky – At All. This is what had put me off gel pads in the past. They are fine on top of a saddle pad, but place it underneath the saddle pad, and it grabs the hairs and rubs.
The next thing I noticed was how squidgy it was, but also how, no matter how much I squidged it, it didn’t bottom out. Also, I was impressed with how quickly it reverted back to its original shape. So the only thing to do was to test it out on my horse. After two weeks off he needed lunging first – I do this to help him loosen off before I work him the next day. I try and make sure it’s not high intensity, but more to get him loosened off, relaxed and swinging along.
Although not designed specifically for lunging – I folded it in half, and used it under his roller. He’s not great at having a roller put on – he’s always been quite girthy. Although better when fed chaff before work, you can still see him tense up when you tighten the girth.
So off I went, and within minutes he was walking around stretching over his back. This was new – he hardly ever stretches down in the warm-up phase, and not this consistently. So I asked for trot, and although he hollowed through the transition a bit, he then started stretching. So, convinced I was looking for things that weren’t really there, I gave him a lunge the next day, and the same thing occurred.
The third day I decided to hack him. Although he had been worked the two days before, I still know that he starts off his ridden work tense. After a break he can be cold-backed and tense and takes a good 10 minutes to relax. I never try and rush this stage, it’s important for him to warm up and loosen off. At 20 he’s no spring chicken. (despite his frequent episodes of acting like a 4-year-old). When in regular work it takes a lot less time to get him swinging along, but even so, we still struggle to do sitting trot, or properly work through and over his back.
Anyway, by the end of our drive, his back was down, and by the time we’d got to the bridge, he was starting to swing along.
Desperately trying to be cynical, and not convince myself that it was all the VIP, I’ve tried it every time I’ve ridden for the last two weeks and strange things have started happening. My back doesn’t as much hurt, which in turn means I can sit quietly in the saddle, and relax more. Mickie’s back is a lot softer, and he allows me to sit on him so I can now do siting trot even just for downward transitions. He’s stopped spooking as much out hacking, and when he does, it’s not as violent. He’s stopped pulling back on the yard, and breaking free, ( as he hates it when you drop things or put things down in front of him when he’s tired up).
He’s not as fidgety, and he’ll stand at the mounting block, and wait for me to mount. He’ll stand in his stable and eat his tea, without getting stressed that other horses are moving around the yard. Things that I would never have associated with his back. But I guess the thing is – if he hurts, and is hiding it, he will always be more alert, and less able to relax, as he must always be ready to more.
Well – you’ve made it this far – I’m very honoured to say I supply these fantastic pads. They are well worth the investment – and a do say that, as I know gel pads start at about £25.00, but for the massive benefits this half pad provides – it’s worth every single penny. We are looking at ways to spread the cost, and offer trial facilities (this may take a long time to become feaseable, with the current COVID-19 situation)
If you have any questions about the VIP – feel free to add a comment below