I’m not going to talk about the science, or Chinese medicine, or testimonials from top U.S. riders, because you can find all that easily if you’re interested. The testimonials are from riders I greatly respect, so that was a factor for me. In this review, I’m going to talk solely about my experience with the product. I had a Dover gift card, and purchased the saddle pad at Dover’s retail price of $83. I paid extra for the monogram. And the shipping.
It looks like a regular saddle pad. The thing is, I’ve been using baby pads with half pads since 1997 or so, and I had forgotten how freaking big an AP pad can get. The Back on Track saddle pad seems big to me, but only because it’s not what I’m used to. I think it seemed weird to Eli at first, too, because it’s not what he’s used to. Because there is some bulk that isn’t usually there, he gets a little girthier than usual with the BoT as opposed to a baby pad, but he gets over it quickly.
It comes in a lot of packaging. The zippered bag it comes in will be handy for storage–it’s similar to zippered bags comforters come in, so I’m going to hold onto it in case I need to store the saddle pad.
The underside of the saddle pad is soft and felty. Except that you know there is ceramic in the fiber, you’d never know there is ceramic in the fiber. I half thought it might feel gritty or rough, but it doesn’t.
The pad is contoured at the top.
It just barely clears Eli’s withers. Any less contoured or any more withers, and it would not work. Eli definitely has ottb withers, but we’re not in shark fin territory. I’m not sure how this pad would work on a horse with more prominent withers. When adding the half pad on top, I made sure that the pads were centered under the saddle, and pulled up enough. It took more wrestling than it does with just a baby pad.
I have been using the saddle pad for about a week, and have not jumped in it. I don’t know that I would jump in it. My two concerns are 1. the contoured part over the withers isn’t contoured enough to accommodate Eli’s withers over a jump, if he jumps at all round (which he definitely does sometimes) and 2. whether the heat generated by the special fabric loses the therapeutic qualities if the horse’s back gets too hot. Eli seems pretty warm by nature and I don’t want so much heat that it becomes detrimental. In our week of using it, I noticed Eli’s back felt warm where that pad had been, the warmth was evenly distributed as far as I could tell, and his back was never overly hot after a ride. He has not had back issues while I’ve had him, and I check his back after every ride, and he didn’t flinch anywhere. He had no negative reaction to me poking around his withers and along his spine, so the saddle pad is not causing problems. I did not see that the saddle pad rubbed his withers in the week we have been using it.
During our rides with the saddle pad, I will say I noticed Eli was a little more willing to stretch his nose out and down earlier in the ride than usual. Our typical flat work session in the winter starts with roughly two laps on the rail of just trotting forward with no contact. I don’t touch his face at all except with indirect rein to steer a little. With the Back on Track saddle pad, it seemed he was ready for contact and framing up after about one lap instead of two. I noticed this two days in a row. Now, we did have a few days of warmer weather, so maybe Summer Eli was showing up to the party instead of Winter Eli. Maybe the saddle pad brings out Summer Eli even in winter. I think there are too many factors to say for sure it’s the saddle pad, but I am comfortable suggesting that the saddle pad is a contributing factor to Eli feeling relaxed in the tack.
After a ride, as you can see Eli is relaxed. If nothing else, the saddle pad doesn’t hurt. I think I’ve noticed just enough positive effects of the saddle pad that I am interested to try more Back on Track products. I am also interested to see any changes over a longer amount of time with the saddle pad. And I think it would be extra special super great if Back on Track would make baby pads, if that’s possible.
I washed the saddle pad over the weekend in a top-load washer. It washed up well, but the care instructions indicate hang dry. That means the felty underside of the saddle pad still had quite a bit of horsehair that wouldn’t be caught in a dryer’s lint filter. I lint-rolled the underside thoroughly to remove the horse hair. Dirt and light staining from my boots and saddle all washed out completely.
To really give Back on Track a fair test, I want to use a product where Eli might really need it and could stand to benefit from it more so than with a saddle pad, as he doesn’t really have back problems that I know of, and I don’t have access to heat imaging technology to see a difference that way. In light of this, I have purchased a set of the 125″ Back on Track polo wraps for Eli’s back legs. He has a history of lightly stocking up behind sometimes, wind puffs on his back left, and random swelling once or twice, although he manages usually to stay sound through all of that by some miracle, knock on wood. I will be very interested to see how the Back on Track polo wraps affect especially his wind puffs and stocking up, to see if the swelling goes down after a ride in them. So stayed tuned for another Back on Track review!