Well I have to say, since my mare received her back injections, et al, I have been diligently researching the saddle pad industry for the best choice of pad. There are so many different pads, I have read about closed cell, open cell, impact resistance, saddle fit until I am blue in the face. However, I have gleaned some information that is helpful, but I still have not come to a conclusion. So your input can help immensely, including that of the "experts" if they don't mind tossing in a few comments.
I ride lower level dressage and hope to aspire to Working Equitation (not familiar, watch youtube, beja 2008 speed trial in Portugal). And most probably, in the end I will retire my 16 year old mare in the next couple of years because of her arthritis development and bone spurs. Okay, if you have gotten this far, here is what I have determined.
The saddle pad must breathe, well of course. (wool F10 or F11, and layered, not needled, no foam breathes)
The saddle pad must distribute weight, or adjust to weight distribution, no back is symetric. (memory foam seems to last longer than gels as I understand it because after a short period of time, the gel moves away from the contact points due to vibration, and thus, dissipates from the area of impact, leaving hard contact)
The saddle pad must reduce impact. (wool, sorbothane)
Healing properties in a saddle pad (use of Celliant) ...this is just an extra perc.
This leaves me with several questions:
1. A good quality wool breathes, but if it is layered with one or two of the other products, does this not reduce or negate its' breathing capability?
2. Does wool distribute weight?
3. Since the synthetics, by themselves do not breathe, I assume they are only a short term (1/2 hour riding pad) and probably would not even consider using them for that long in hot arizona climates.
4. Assuming thus far, that wool has the best protection factor, and based on a recent study wherein I read that it also has a higher impact resistance level than any synthetic (assuming that is absolutely correct); wool is the first choice for saddle pad. However, that being said, I also read that there are differences of opinion on thickness of the wool required to obtain the protections. For dressage purposes I tested a nice western wool 1" thick pad and it was too thick. I could not feel the horse. However, if I choose a wool pad with lesser thickness, 1/2" or even 3/4", would the thickness negate the impact resistance?
If you have braved the world of saddle pad confusion and answered any of these questions, I would sure like to hear your input.
Thanks to all !