Tuesday, December 22, 2020

DIY half pad shims + winter update

It's officially winter around these parts ---- happy (belated) solstice!! Everybody's favorite appropriated pagan holiday, amirite?? 

"where am i?!" -- charlie, probably
Anyway, as is typical in my part of the world -- we went from t-shirt weather two weekends ago (lesson recap probably coming eventually, but there's a video on the sidebar for those curious) to a snow storm this past week. 

"release me from this temporary paddock prison!" -- charlie, definitely
Maryland is right in that perfect dividing zone between north and south where snow storms are fairly common, but are often paired with what we call "refreeze events." Meaning, daytime temps are usually high enough to mostly melt away whatever snow accumulated.... But, only "mostly."

ermagerd, snerw
Nighttime temps, on the other hand, get plenty cold enough for whatever's left to harden into a thick impenetrably treacherous icy shell. So..... Kinda the worst of both worlds, ya know? 

exactly what winter means in the mid atlantic: ice + mud and nothing in between
This obviously makes movement around the farm kiiiiiiinda dangerous haha. In fact -- Charlie's winter turnout was inaccessible for a couple days bc it was straight up not safe to lead horses down the ice-slicked steep driveway hill. So his herd has been split into two paddocks -- much to their immense dismay. 

These horses are.... used to having room to roam. The small paddocks + unpleasantly icy ground means they're not moving much and have wayyy too much pent up energy lol. It's... exciting

prolite shim + dover sheepskin half pad
I figured tho that this little temporary period of being 'grounded' would be perfect for tackling a new DIY project. You see, I love my monoflap L'Apogee saddle with the fire of a thousand burning suns -- and Charlie has never given reason to believe he feels otherwise. 

behold, possibly my jankiest DIY to date
But trainer P has always had just one qualm with the saddle: her biggest 'thing' with saddle fit is channel clearance -- the room between the saddle's gullet and the horse's spine. Ideally you should be able to easily fit a few fingers into that gap even while seated in the saddle. 

couldn't find the third rear prolite shims, but figured this would be a good experimental proof of concept
The L'Apogee is on the wide side for Charlie, but padding it up with this big thick fluffy sheepskin from Dover has been more than sufficient to keep him comfortable and moving freely. One major advantage to sheepskin (similar to wool and other natural fibers) is that it doesn't compress to nothing (unlike some cheaper foams) -- so there's always cushioning. 

custom cut pieces from a yoga mat to fill out the rear
However, I also have on hand these really excellent shims from my Prolite half pad that are made from a super high quality foam that also doesn't compress (as demonstrated by the fact that some of these shims were used fulltime during the Isabel years and you can't even tell). 

So I wondered.... Was it possible to add pockets to my existing sheepskin pad for the shims?

fewer pieces turned out to be easier tho. using yoga mat for the rear shim
Sure sure, these types of pads are available on the market -- anywhere from ~$300 for the high end Mattes pads, to similar variations on the much more economical end of the spectrum.... But -- I already had all the materials on hand, so why not? 

pocket material is felt, hot glue gunned to the half pad
Sadly I couldn't find the rear prolite shims at first, so I sewed on a pocket (made of t-shirt material) with just the front and middle shims. This was enough of a 'proof of concept' to demonstrate that the shims definitely gave us the clearance we wanted without otherwise disrupting the fit. 

Except -- downside: as expected, only using the front and middle shims meant that more of my weight was concentrated on a smaller surface area on Charlie's back, vs utilizing the full length of the saddle panels. 

reasonably even sweat mark!
Once I knew the idea worked tho (after a couple test rides etc), I went back to the drawing board to figure out how to fill in the rear area for even contact. Some folks have suggested cutting up yoga mats as shims, so ultimately that's what I did here.

The new pocket uses felt hot-glued onto the half pad to accommodate the new shims. I left the prolite shim up front since that tends to be the most sensitive part of the horse's back (what one bio-mechanics trainer called the "junction box" of muscles from the shoulder, wither, neck and back) and then custom cut the yoga mat to ensure even contact all the way down the panels. 

needs a few tweaks to be finalized (note the safety pin) but pretty happy with performance!
Time will tell how long my moderately-janky DIY will hold up to the rigors of daily use. But.... Ya know, if Charlie stays happy with this configuration that's even more justification to invest in something nicer should this setup fall apart lol.

bc lord knows charlie abuses his clothing haha
Because... Well, let's be real. I can spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over Charlie's comfort and well-being -- like whether he's staying dry and cozy in the storm. When, meanwhile, Charlie was apparently straight up WALLOWING IN A MUD PUDDLE WTF OMG YOU PIG. 

Ahem, cough cough. So... it's entirely possible that Charlie and I have different ideas on "optimal comfort" lol.

hyper pony is hyper
Which brings us to today's other update topic: Charlie's winter wardrobe. This weather has really complicated my efforts to keep Charlie dressed appropriately with only once-a-day (if that) blanket changes. 

some predictable wear and tear already on the shoulder guard
And I've definitely gotten it wrong a few times -- including having to beg barn mates to pinch hit some changes for me... whoops. It's cool tho --- they all know I'm always happy to help with their horses too, so it all works out in the end. 

note i added a loop of baling twine to the front tab to more easily attach to blankets
One bright spot in the crazy weather and blanketing shenanigans tho is this new Harrison Howard shoulder bib. Charlie wears this rub guard any time he's blanketed, and it's gotten about a month of steady use so far. 

overall tho, really happy with this guard!! fit + material are pretty much perfect
Obvi it shows signs of that use -- it's dirty and the branding is peeling off. But.... Honestly? I'm pretty impressed with it! 

I originally had some misgivings about the material but it's really wearing in very nicely. The seams are staying strong - no signs of wear there. Plus the fleecy patches at the wither and base of Charlie's neck are still soft and sturdy. The cut / fit is great for Charlie, and - obvi most importantly - no rubs whatsoever on Charlie's clipped shoulders. 

where there's a will, there's a way
I did end up adding a baling twine loop to the front tab to make it easier for attaching the blankets (to avoid the bib spinning around Charlie's neck). Other than that, tho, I'm pretty pleased with it and would 100% replace it with the same should something happen to it. 

Obvi if you're thinking about getting the same, be sure to check out the size chart. Charlie is 17'hh+ with a reasonably large build for a TB, and is wearing the full/large size. There's room for a horse with larger neck and shoulders, tho, so if your horse has a more petite build you might get away with the cob/medium

mountain goat charlie needs all the freedom he can get from his clothes
So ya know. That's kinda where things stand as we face winter and the impending new year head on. Here's hoping at least the weather improves a little bit, as I'll be taking my annual 'staycation' between christmas and new years and am hoping to fit in some fun adventures. 

Anyone else dealing with sudden onset winter? Or planning any time off?? Either way -- hope you say safe warm and have a very happy holiday!!


  1. Smart design for your shim pad! I thought about rigging up something similar when my fitter recommended I buy the Mattes shim, but ultimately I found it on sale so bought it. Hope yours holds up, but if it doesn't I can speak from experience the Mattes is worth the (substantial) cost and keep an eye out on sales, I think I got mine 25% off on a holiday sale from The Tack Room in Camden (online). In the meantime, keep us posted on how the pad is working!

    Sorry your weather has turned. In the Carolinas it's turned into the perpetual mud pit from hell, so crap here too with time off scheduled for the beastie.

    1. ha yea -- there was actually a new mattes pad in exactly the configuration i was looking for on ebay for 50% off while i was making the above monstrosity but.... idk. i just have a hard time spending that kind of money when i already have materials on hand that i know will work. esp bc in my experience with shimmable half pads, the most critical aspect is the foam used to make the shims. i already know these prolite shims are grade-A so... eh, felt like a safer bet lol! tho yea, i reserve the right to change my mind later if this thing ends up getting ratty or falls apart haha!

  2. OMG that's a muddy blanket.

    Okay, that shock aside. Impressive DIY! A little janky, yes, but impressive nonetheless! And effective to boot. I like your breakdown of it...much simpler than my brain would have created trying to attempt the same thing.

    1. lolol it's definitely 'simple' i'll give ya that! haha, jk... for real tho, i've kinda been thinking about it for a while -- it's a tricky material to handle without completely disassembling, since obvi the leather part of the sheepskin is difficult to stitch through or anything like that. and i was kinda reluctant to make any modifications that couldn't be undone (why i stitched it the first time). but... the glue gun is so easy haha. so we'll see i guess if it holds up!

  3. Awhile back I used an old thin line to make shims for Jampy. Repurposing for the win! I hope this one holds up for you! (And agree, sheepskin is my favorite for all the reasons you stated.)

    1. tbh at first i liked the sheepskin for its aesthetics... but honestly it just works so well! really hoping repurposing these shims will do the trick so i don't have to buy any more crap to stuff in my locker LOL

  4. Yeah for DIY! Lol At least this way, you'll know if the shims work and can later decide if you want to buy another pad. I used to have a barn full of stuff I bought on a whim and then it didn't work for one reason or another.

    It is winter here, but we've been getting a bit of a break - above normal temps and not much snow (or rain) so kind of nice for us. I have all my blankets out and ready to go, but I'm still using rain sheets right now!

  5. Those shims are genius.

    Man.. ice is just something I never deal with but it sounds pretty scary.


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