A bareback pad is often the choice of riders who are looking for more grip and weight distribution versus simply riding bareback. Though you may lose some support or stability, a rider will gain additional contact for communication of cues and signals. With a bareback pad the rider may assume a more natural position, and because there is no heavy or stiff leather, your horse will not suffer sores from an ill-fitting saddle.
The Sonoma High Profile Bareback Pad we chose to review is constructed with a non slip microsuede top with felt filler, polyester fleece bottom and a coolback® girth. The high profile design provides for wither relief.
Our tester loved the contoured cut of this pad and how it sat comfortably on her sway backed mare from the first time it was placed on her back. It didn’t bulge, shift or look odd. The girth has a wide range of adjustment options but may be too large for a pony. This mare is an average built 14.3hh Morgan / TB cross and the girth was at its tightest setting, though if there were more room for holes, it could’ve put it up one more.
The roller buckles make tightening the nylon ends of this girth a snap, and the synthetic suede top on the actual bareback pad provided ample grip throughout a variety of rides. There were a few improvements that would have turned this from a decent product, to a great one, and they’re only minor. While our tester mainly wore suede chaps while riding on this pad, someone riding only with jeans might feel the roller buckles underneath their knees. The addition of nylon sleeves to cover the buckles would stop that. The nylon grab handle at the front of the pad would also be easier to grip if it were rolled instead of flat. Having a horse with high withers, it would’ve been nice if the wither area was slightly more padded, though it wasn’t a big deal.
One of the rides in particular will stick out for a while. The neighbor’s donkey had gotten loose so our tester put her horse herding ability to the test. Throughout canter and gallop stretches, hard stops and tight spins to round the ornery donkey up, the rider was able to stay in place atop her mount and never once felt insecure. The pad never slid around on the horse, and the convenience of not lugging a heavy saddle and fittings around was unbeatable.
Riding schools would benefit having a bareback pad to teach students proper feel and balance on a horse – something every rider should work towards. We found it fit a variety of horses (though unless you get a smaller girth, it probably would not fit ponies) and is secure for a rider to sit on, which is confidence building for those who might be nervous. This pad was also very easy to clean (Just use a vacuum to remove dust until it got too dirty – or can throw it in the washing machine). The price is also reasonable for such a quality item.
The major drawback? No stirrups. While we don’t think bareback pads should necessarily have stirrups to begin with (an unbalanced rider could cause the horses spine discomfort, or to a much greater level, spin the pad underneath the horses belly and get hurt), you may have a hard time mounting any horse unless you get a leg up, or have a mounting block handy. While this situation would be fine in an arena or a riding ring, there’s not always a helper – or a mounting block – close by on the trail!
All in all though, Our tester was very happy with this bareback pad. With a list price of $62.95, this pad is a reasonable addition to your tack room. We have seen other pads for triple, and even quadruple, the price while not offering such good quality. Our tester found this pad to be a treat to ride on, and something she will continue to use – especially through the winter when regular saddle billets are hard to tighten up. It’s nice to be able to ride bareback without looking like it after you’re done!