Back on Track Polo Wraps Review

glitterlabelsThe Back on Track polo wraps are nothing if not interesting. They are most definitely not your typical polo wraps, down to the material. Two things that gave me positive feelings toward them right away, yet have nothing to do with their functionality, were the gold glitter lettering and the cute packaging.

blackBOTsGood first impression made, I set out to try the wraps on Eli’s hind legs. I ordered the longer of the two available lengths for this purpose.

I failed to take before and after pictures with the first use, but I noticed some reduction of the minor wind puffs Eli has on his left hind after our ride on Sunday. That typically doesn’t happen with regular polo wraps, so I was determined to get before and after pictures with the second use.

I rode Eli fairly early on Monday evening, wrapped his hinds with the BoT polos, and away we went, cruising around in daylight on a week day!

windpuffIn this before picture from Monday, the lighting is wonky, but you can see a little bit of a wind puff on the outside there above his fetlock.

I rode Eli at the walk, trot, and canter, cantered over a pile of flower boxes back and forth a few times, tried to get lead changes (only missed one!) and worked over a trot fence three or four times, set at 2’6″ with trot poles and generous ground lines on either side. This is a very typical workout for us.

nowindpuffWhile the angle is not exactly the same and the lighting is different, this is Eli’s right hind after the ride. The wind puff is no more! At least for now. His hind legs were definitely warm, but not hot. This is a good result, in my opinion.

Another feature of the Back on Track polo wraps is, of course, the fabric itself.

materialThe fabric is not the typical polo wrap felt-y material. The outside of the wraps is soft, like velvety terry cloth, similar to polo wrap material but not quite the same. The inside of the wraps–the part that goes against the horse–is almost like standing bandages, smooth and slippery-feeling. I was concerned that such material would slip against itself during a ride, but that didn’t happen. The wraps stay in place throughout the ride. The fabric is somewhat stretchy, but not so stretchy that I wasn’t sure if I was pulling it too tight or not tight enough.

goodwrapThe longer length is perfect for Eli’s back legs. I can start at the top, wrap all the way down, and back up to the top. The wraps are not designated left and right, so the label is on both wraps in the same direction, meaning the label on the right hind will always be upside down. This is a minor drawback that is only cosmetic in nature, but it bugs me just that same. I have the same problem with my monogrammed polo wraps.

Ultimately, I am thus far very happy with the polo wraps and will continue to use them on a regular basis, especially for flat work and cavaletti work. I look forward to trying more Back on Track products in the future on Eli and myself. I’m even interested to try the products for dogs, too!

Back on Track Saddle Pad Review

dramaticAfter reading a ton of positive reviews on Back on Track products, I thought the saddle pad might be a nice addition to Eli’s winter wardrobe.

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.

withallthetackIt 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.

packagingIt 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.

BoTsaddlepadThe plastic bag inside the plastic bag might be overkill, though.

fuzzysoftThe 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.

clearanceIt 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 sessionĀ  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.

relaxedAfter 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!

Sunshine and Swelling

Friday’s ride went fantastically. We had the ring to ourselves, no distractions, and perfect weather for a light hack.

Eli is like, no.

But Friday, you may remember, also involved my car getting worked on. And it was really sunny. And the cedar pollen count was astronomical, I’m sure. So after riding, I felt a little headachey. Here’s the thing. I get migraines. The combination of stress, bright sunshine, and allergens was certainly enough to trigger one, so I took some medication as soon as I started getting a headache, even though I didn’t have any aura leading up to it. The medication makes me feel kind of weird. I got a ride from the barn to pick up my car (thanks, Mom!) and decided I needed a crap ton of protein and fat to make my brain feel better (literally–there is a complex relationship between food and migraines; fat helps nerve tissue, so I draw my own completely unsubstantiated conclusions about what does and doesn’t make me feel better during migraine symptoms). Enter Whataburger.

Must have fat. And chocolate shake. And more fat.

If you are not from Texas, you are missing out on this stuff.

Also a good hangover cure

Saturday I just rode Eli around at the walk in the fields because the ring was super busy, and I let him go for a roll in a turnout after, but watched him the whole time as the turnouts were still muddy/tacky and I didn’t want him to pull a shoe. He walked right up to me right after he rolled anyway. I brought him in and cleaned him up and gave him peppermints and let him graze a bit more.

Sunday was a perfect Texas winter day. It was also busy at the barn. Eli played in turnout, as the turnouts were now all dry. I bring him in, let him get a drink and chill in his stall for a bit, then tack up, get on, pick up a trot to the left which goes okay, I then change direction and half halt because Eli’s getting a little quick, a little on the forehand and BAM! Giraffe-mode. And okay, we need to longe. Plays, bucks, and runs on the longe. Cheetah-mode. I get back on, but there is now too much going on in the dressage arena, and the jumping side still too wet. Plus the footing in the dressage arena needs more grooming. (At the rail, it’s almost cement, but toward the center it gets more forgiving.) I go up to the field and never get a good trot but do get a good canter with an occasional opinion from the pony, but nothing melodramatic. Wrap giraffe cheetah pony and curry lots.

Post workout cuteness
Or perhaps a face fit for a freaky horror movie. One photoshop away from demon clown.
and back to being cute.

Got to ride while it’s dry, so Monday (a state holiday woohoo) I get out to the barn and pull wraps off, everything looks good, I turn out the pon-pon. Eli plays in turnout, but is decidedly less amped, the tension is gone. Bucking very lackadaisically. Playing his pawing game with his pawing game friend Tophat in the adjacent turnout. Has a good roll. Same routine from yesterday, but the ride is great, seriously wonderful, no longe necessary. Lovely long trot and forward canter both ways, trot over all the jumps while they are set at cavaletti height. We go for a short walk out in the field. It’s warm enough for Eli to get rinsed and he dries while grazing in the sun. I put liniment on legs and notice localized swelling with heat on inside of his right hock going about 1/3 way down the leg. It wasn’t there before. Argh. Found no cuts or suspicious bug bite welts. For a minute, my brain is like fuuuhhhhhh I broke my pony but then I snap out of it, and focus on making sure Eli is comfortable. Too late for what ifs.

I wrapped him, and trainer/barn manager will check on him Tuesday. If it’s still swollen, she will put some DMSO on it. Turnout should be fine. I plan to walk Eli and cold hose the hock Tuesday night. Eli has not taken a single lame step over this entire time, so hopefully this inflammation is minor, is just a tweak or twinge and no connective tissue damage, probably from not working because of the weather and then working quite a bit on Sunday. Maybe he has a little arthritis (not exactly unheard of in an 11-yr-old OTTB). Maybe I’m going to try the BoT hock wraps. He has swelled up randomly before in different places, and the swelling has always gone down within a few days, if not just a day, and the swelling improves with movement and light work and standing wraps. If he gets even slightly lame in connection with this, I will want x-rays and ultrasound, and will go over every possible therapeutic resolution before deciding how to go forward, but we are not there yet. We’ll stick with wrapping, liniment, possibly bute (powder in some grain, preferably) if he seems stiff and see how he goes. Could try a sweat wrap for a few days. I can’t make it out Wednesday night, and Thursday’s weather looks like shit, so he’ll get a bit of a break regardless. Already got a text today from trainer saying he still has swelling but there is no heat. She went ahead and turned him out, which I’m glad for, as in Eli’s case turnout seems to reduce swelling rather than aggravate it. I’ll see how he is tonight after work.

In other news, I’m trying a Back on Track saddle pad. I used it for Monday’s ride, the one where Eli felt great. He doesn’t have a history of back issues, so this is purely for adding to our arsenal of things that make the pony feel good.

BoTsaddlepadIt came in all this packaging, in a zipped cover, like how comforters are packaged. I also had it monogrammed (duh).fuzzysoft The underside of the pad is extremely soft. So far, I like it, but I want to use it for a while before I know just how much I like it. It will probably be just a winter-only saddle pad, as we have no problem creating heat everywhere on every body part in the summer.

Fingers crossed Eli is sound tonight!