Using the BALANCE Pad System

Yes! There may be a BALANCE registered Saddle Consultant or Test Ride Facilitator who can do a Saddle Check for you if you are unsure of anything and can't find the answer you seek in the relevant BALANCE Saddling System Manual or via the website here. Find out who is in your area by selecting your country on the 'Find a BALANCE registered team member in your area' page and view the team member profiles to see what services they offer.

If there's no-one available your area, we will be very happy to help you from BALANCE HQ. We have been very successfully helping people all over the World distantly for over 20 years.

Please don't be tempted to work with a non-BALANCE saddle fitter, as they don't know/understand enough about what we do, so they could cause a lot of confusion! 

In order for us to start helping you, you'll need to send us some specific photos as shown in the 'Photos needed for a query' PDF below:

Please send the photos exactly as shown in the document and please do not send any extra photos or videos unless specifically requested by the Office, or to show something very specific.  The PDF also explains how to send the photos to us; please don't email them to us as they may block our Inbox and stop other enquiries from getting to us. 

You will need to send an email to accompany your pictures to outlining the problems or concerns you are having.

If you bought the saddle directly from us, then this service is free of charge

As you will appreciate, the pressures we are under to deal with all the enquiries that we get every day, mean that we have to work very hard to keep up and also allow time to offer free support for people who have bought a BALANCE saddle from us.   We are also happy to help, where we can, the people who manage to find a BALANCE saddle from somewhere else, but we have had to start making a charge to cover some of our time and staff salaries for non-straightforward cases. 

If yours is a second-hand saddle, you can still send the 6 pictures to us. If we can make a quick and easy suggestion via email, we will do so free of charge. If there are numerous relevant issues that need to be considered/addressed, if we need to study further photos or videos, or if it's a more complicated case for any reason, we will notify you via email that we'll need to make a one-off charge of £50 (+VAT for EU) so that we can devote all the time needed to helping you as much as we possibly can.

Air-filled pads are not suitable for using with any saddles that are fitted in accordance with the BALANCE Saddling System Principles (also known as Functional Saddling). This is because air-filled pads or panels rely on pressures from the saddle to stabilise the movement of air from one part of the pad/panel to another, whereas Functional Saddling is designed to minimise pressure. Therefore, a correctly 'fitted' BALANCE saddle will tend to 'float' on this kind of pad, which is not helpful for the horse or rider.

You can use a non-BALANCE numnah under your BALANCE saddle, but whether your horse will be as comfortable with it we can't say.  Below is information about our Wool pads, so that you can see why we recommend them for use with the BALANCE Saddles:

The properties of wool make it an ideal point of contact between the underside of the saddle and the horse’s back. (On rare occasions we come across a horse who seems to dislike the feel of wool against their skin. In these situations, we can provide an alternative pad.) 

When Wool fibres are used in the form of a fleece pile, they have a natural elasticity and an ability to move as the horse moves. This helps to create an effective and consistent protection from friction, which is highly beneficial when you consider the amount of movement there can be in the horse’s back and the rider.

Wool can absorb/disperse up to 30% of its own weight in moisture, before feeling damp, which means that wool can help to keep horses comfortable all year round, even in hot temperatures. Research shows that wool has an ability to level out changes in muscular temperature which helps to reduce the likelihood of muscle damage.

The 'horse friendly' features found in the BALANCE Saddle Pads have:

  • A contoured shape along the spine to respect the natural curves along the horses back. You will see a lift at the front for the wither area and a small lift at the back to avoid pressure across the spine at the back of the pad.
  • A generous size/shape to ensure that the saddle panels do not sit over any of the bound edges, as this can cause discomfort and damage.
  • Fixing straps that are positioned at the front edge of the pad. Many pads have their straps sewn further back on the pad which can cause pressure points under the saddle.
  • A long life if looked after well. The materials that are used for the horse’s side of the pads (pure wool, cotton etc.) have stood the test of time to offer considerable benefits.
  • All of our standard wool pads are made using natural coloured, (un-dyed) fleece. This is to avoid the risk (albeit a small risk) of an allergic reaction to the dyes used, or the chance of the colour staining the coat of a light coloured horse.
  • The combination of top quality materials and workmanship make the pads easy for the horse owner to use and clean, which is another benefit to the horse. 

The original BALANCE Wool Fleece lined Pads have been made for us by the same English Company since the mid 1990's. These pads have proven themselves to be wonderful value, with many clients happily using the same pad, every day for over 10 years! They are made from a high quality, pure wool fleece, that has a short, but dense, pile length that is knitted onto a cotton backing material. This method of manufacture ensures that:

  1. The depth, density and quality of the wool fleece is always reliably consistent.
  2. The pads are very easy to machine wash and they also dry quickly.
  3. The pads last for many years of hard use, when looked after well.
  4. The wool is obtained from the shearing of live sheep rather than after the death of the sheep, which is important for some people.

In order to get the most out of your BALANCE saddle, it needs to be used with appropriate BALANCE Add-on pads, such as a Base Pad and/or JB Pad(s).  It is important then to have a thick enough saddle cloth/numnah underneath.  For example, with our Regular Thickness Wool Pads, you can only use either a ¼”JB or Large ¼” JB on top of it unless you are also using a Base Pad, whereas our Extra Thick Wool pads are thick enough to directly attach any of the Pro-Complete Add On Pads to, which is very useful if your horse does not want/need a Base Pad.  Some non-BALANCE numnahs are very thin and so unless you are using a Base Pad, you will need to be sure not to use anything more than a ¼”JB or Large ¼”JB on top of it, and that may or may not be enough cushioning for your horse.  We have certainly known horses change their way of going dramatically for the better when swapping from a thick numnah to a BALANCE Wool pad, even though we were also using the same Add-on Pads.

Yes, the BALANCE Pads can be used with
Tree-less saddles.  Click here and scroll down to read about 'Tree-less Saddle Support' using a particular pad set.

In the 25 years that Carol Brett
(co-Founder of The BALANCE Organisation) was working with Functional Saddling, she never saw a horse in a Treeless saddle that didn't show significant improvement when the BALANCE Pads were used underneath. 

BALANCE saddles are simply well designed saddles that contain the features that horses seem to need and in horse friendly widths.  They can be used as part of the BALANCE Saddling System, which pays attention to the difference between the static and dynamic back width and posture,  or they can be used in a Conventional saddling method, which uses the static posture and shape of the horse as its reference to match the saddle to.  

Obviously, everything we have studied and observed in the past 20 years makes us believe that in order to get the most from your BALANCE saddle and to provided your horse with the highest level of comfort and bio-mechanical freedom, you need to be using a width of saddle that provides the room you need to use the BALANCE Pad System underneath.   However, we appreciate that some people would rather stick to what they know and use the princples of Conventional Saddle Fitting.   

Rather than deny their horses the benefits of the good design features found in all BALANCE saddles, we are happy to provide saddles to anyone who is interested in using them.   If you want to buy a BALANCE saddle to fit more conventionally, please contact the office to discuss your needs. 

Air filled pads are not suitable for using with any saddles that are fitted in accordance with the BALANCE Saddling System principles which are designed to minimise pressure.  As air filled pads (or panels) rely on pressures from the saddle to stabilise the movement of air from one part of the pad/panel to another, a correctly 'fitted' BALANCE saddle will tend to 'float' on this kind of pad, which is not helpful for the horse or rider.

Please remember that most, if not all, air-filled pads have been designed with conventional saddle fitting principles applied, or are designed to decrease the damage done by saddles that are fitted too narrow on the horse and are therefore tight and restrictive. There is no doubt that in this situation, air filled pads can provide much needed relief for many horses. However it is a temporary solution, and should ideally, be followed up by addressing the shortcomings of the saddle, thus making the pad unnecessary.

Some additional points to consider:

  • Some people inflate air pads unevenly to compensate for uneven patterns in the horse and/or rider, however, we would not advise using asymmetric padding to disguise problems that should be addressed by paying attention to the habits of the rider and/or horse .
    • Air does not absorb concussion and therefore needs to be combined with other materials to create comfort for the horse.
    • The use of air between the saddle and the horse can create a rather strange feel for the horse in which the riders seat aids can feel ‘fuzzy’ or unclear.
    • Some air filled pads offer a non-slip material by way of a cover. If it is the non-slip element that you want, you can get this effect in pads that do not contain air.

When developing the BALANCE Padding System we tried many different materials over the years and always referred back to countless horses for their feedback. The BALANCE Padding System is the best combination of materials that we have found to work with the BALANCE Saddles and to offer the properties needed for the BALANCE Approach to Constructive/Functional saddling to work at it's best.

Yes, the BALANCE Pad System can improve the ‘fit’ and comfort of other makes of saddle.  If you own a tree-less saddle or an adjustable width saddle, you might like to know that our experience shows that the components found in the BALANCE Pad System could increase the comfort and the versatility of fit of your saddle. For example:

Tree-less saddles:
The BALANCE Pro-Complete Base Pads create a shallow channel down the spine which helps to avoid heavy pressures in this area associated with some treeless saddles.  This is particularly important when you are helping your horse to recover weak and atrophied muscle either side of the spineous processes.  The Pro-Complete add-on pads can also help to create a more supportive shape in the top of the saddle for the rider and will soften the firm front edge of the saddle by gently lifting it away from the back of the shoulders.  There is also extra built in protection in the area of most pressure around the stirrup bar and girth attachments. 

Adjustable width Saddles:
These can work very well when taking a horse through a remedial programme of recovery and the synthetic versions are often chosen to fit in with a budget.  However, to get the best from this kind of saddle, you need to work with a pad system that supports this adjustment and the changes the horse makes.  The BALANCE Pad System was designed specifically to do this job and can turn an inexpensive synthetic saddle into something that is a big improvement on many conventional, expensive leather saddles that you see!

BALANCE pads come in a range of shapes and materials to provide the rider with a whole selection of ways in which to improve and support the way their saddle works, to keep in line with the changing needs of their horse.

All makes of saddle!
The BALANCE Add-on Pads are designed to affect the balance of a saddle, so if your saddle is fitted to match the horse's stationary back exactly, you will find that using a Base Pad, for example, will make the saddle sit too high in front. This is because the BALANCE Saddling System involves using a saddle that is wider than the horse's stationary shape (because the horse's back naturally widens when it lifts during natural, bio-mechanically correct movement) along with pads that balance the saddle and offer protection to the horse. So, if your saddle has been conventionally fitted, the Add-on pads most likely won't be ideal, however...

If your saddle has been fitted with consideration for your horse’s comfort to allow room for a well made, protective saddle pad, you could make use of any of the BALANCE Wool fleece saddle pads. The excellent properties of natural wool fleece are well known and our pads are very well shaped, are machine washable and designed with the horse’s comfort as the priority. The Wool fleece saddle pads do not affect the balance of a saddle because they are a consistent depth throughout.

One thing you need to be aware of if you want BALANCE pads for use under a non-BALANCE saddle, is that our pads are deliberately made to be a generous size to avoid the chance of an edge sliding under the panels of the saddle.  BALANCE saddles are also more generous in their panel width than many other makes of saddle.  These things combined mean that some of our pads may look bigger under your saddle than you are used to.   

A Basic Explanation of the BALANCE Padding System.

The Functional Saddling method known as The BALANCE Saddling System combines a well-designed saddle, deliberately chosen to be wider than the horse's current static back shape and width, used in conjunction with an adjustable padding system that provides comfort, protection, stability and the balance of the saddle, which always involves a slightly deeper layering of padding under the front of the saddle.

In order to do this, the pads have to have a variety of important qualities and this requires a mixture of materials.  

The pad that goes against the horse needs to provide some cushioning, the ability to regulate body heat, and the ability to wick away sweat.   There are many high tech materials around, but as is so often the case, when the horses themselves are asked for an opinion, the material that seems to fit the bill more often than not, is wool.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule and very occasionally, we come across a horse who dislikes the feel of wool and then an alternative needs to be offered.  However, this is unusual and therefore, BALANCE saddles are usually 'fitted' with a wool-fleece, lined saddle pad to go directly onto the horse.

This pad is always an equal depth/thickness through its length, but we do offer two different choices of thickness because some horses want more padding than others.  The pad will lift the saddle up and off the horse's back a little, but it will not impact on the front to back balance of the saddle.

When you fit a saddle to be slightly wider than the horse when at rest, it will not be stable/balanced when you only use the wool-fleece pad alone.   The saddle will rock and tip down and forward at the front as soon as any weight is put into the stirrups.  In conventional saddle fitting this would be considered to be a fault.  However, in Constructive Saddling, this feature is essential because the saddle width has to allow for the use of an additional, protective, therapeutic pad under the front of the saddle without lifting the front of the saddle out of balance.

Saddle needs to dip down when pressure applied to pommel in order to use the protective Padding System

The extra pad under the front area of the saddle is the key to the success of the BALANCE Saddling System and the feature that time and again, transform horses from short striding, tense and resistant, to free moving, happy athletes!  One would never imagine something so seemingly simple and innocent could cause so much controversy in the saddle industry, and yet it so often does!!

If the horse is well muscled and has been trained well enough to carry its rider in an engaged and lifted posture, it will probably only need a modest amount of therapeutic padding under the correct width of saddle.  Indeed, there is no benefit to the horse from using more pads than are necessary.

This is where we use, what we call the JB Pad (so called because they sit over what we call the Junction Box area).  These pads, sit under the front of the saddle and depending on which version is used, or which combination of JB pads are used, provide anything from a quarter of an inch of lift to three quarters of an inch of lift to the front of the saddle.   These pads can be fine-tuned in their actual position to work for every horse.   The material used inside the JB pads is a closed cell, gel foam.  This is important because the material in these pads has to be able to respond/recover fast enough to keep up with the rapid muscle movement in the horse's back and must not stay compressed.  

Please Note: Slow recovery (memory) foams will not work in the same way.

Combining the qualities in both types of pad is what helps the horse.

It is the combination of the wool-fleece next to the horse and then the closed cell foam layers between the saddle pad and the underside of the saddle that creates a dynamic and protective interface between the soft tissues of the horse and the structures of the saddle.

Whenever a rider gets onto the saddle his or her physical weight impacts on the horse.  The structure provided by a well-designed tree of an appropriate shape, length and width is important because it makes it easier to distribute the rider's weight over a larger area than can be achieved in a bareback pad or treeless saddle.  

However, where you have weight from the rider, you also have compression of the soft tissues in the horse's back.  The closed cell foam in the JB pad and the wool-fleece pads work together and act like a protective barrier for the horse.  Rather than the soft tissues of the back being directly compressed by the rider’s weight via the structures of the saddle, it is the materials in the pads that get compressed well before anything on the horse!

Some horses demand even more cushioning under the saddle than the wool-fleece pads can provide alone and for them, the BALANCE Pro-Complete Base Pad was designed.   In two thicknesses, it extends the protective quality of the closed cell foam along the full length of the saddle, but also has a built in JB pad at the front.

Showing the layering of a Wool-Fleece saddle pad, with a Pro-Complete Base Pad and a JB pad to create a therapuetic/remedial pad combination.

The therapeutic BALANCE Padding System also offers several versions of what we call Remedial Pads. We usually see these as temporary pads that are used on occasions where a horse has become so compromised in its natural, healthy posture that a layer of the protective gel foam needs to provide some support under the back of the saddle or under the middle.   The long term solution to these problems has to lie in the correct training and management of the horse as it is usually in the training and management where the negative influences and the cause of the weak posture, have come from!!   However, there is no doubt that for some horses, the Remedial Pads provide what they need during the time of transition.

All of the pads have been designed, to offer very versatile options to fine tune to any horse.  The fact that they are a layered and adjustable system makes them easy to use.  Taking care of the horses saddling needs is not rocket science!   Unfortunately, there is a huge growth in complicated, expensive merchandise and diagnostic tools that are making some people a lot of money and that seem to suggest that ensuring that the horse is comfortable in its saddle is beyond the average rider.

This is simply not the case, and provided the rider has access to the tools he or she needs as in:

  • a) a well-designed saddle that is available in a good enough range of widths that go considerably wider than a conventional extra wide tree
  • b) a simple, adjustable and layered range of pads in materials that offer what the horse needs a
  • c) some simple principles and information about how to work with them, you have a recipe for keeping the ridden horse healthy, happy, sound and performing well.