In a perfect world, there’s nothing obstructing the connection between you and your horse.

In reality, every horse’s back and shoulder conformation is different and changes over time. Even the best-fitting saddles can benefit from a little extra support to ensure optimal comfort for your horse at every level of competition.

Enter the VIP™ Original Half Pad (from $180) from VIP Equestrian, a non-gel half-pad that’s bringing science to saddle-fitting.

The VIP’s unique, proprietary polymer has been in rigorously tested in worldwide scientific research studies for more than 50 years. VEteq™, as it is known, is considered the universal gold-standard in human medical use for pressure protection, helping to draw and disperse heat without leaking or bottoming out under pressure.

And the VIP Half Pad? It’s not a gel pad. It’s not a foam pad. It’s not a (sticky) non-stick pad. It’s a revolutionary cushioning technology that helps to alleviate pressure points while evenly distributing weight across your horse’s back. Here’s how:

1. The VIP acts like a second skin

Foams, memory foams, and wool can lose their shape over time as they are worn down by the rider’s weight or a horse’s way of going. These changes can impact the straightness of the horse and the symmetry of the rider. VIP founders Tamara Hudleston and Amanda Renouard decided to take a different approach.

While researching materials that have been used successfully in human medical technology for decades, they landed on VIP’s VEteq polymer. The polymer—which has been rigorously tested worldwide in peer-reviewed research—behaves just like fat and skin. In fact, it’s used in hospital settings to both treat pressure sores and ulcers in patients, and as a skin/fat substitute in radiation therapy to protect human skin.

In saddle pad form, VEteq effectively adds a thin layer of fat to your horse’s back, helping to regulate temperature and offer better cushioning throughout your ride, while also reducing impact and friction. 

This same technology is used in military and space programs, where it’s found in gun recoil pads and spaceship harnesses; in sporting equipment, including football helmets and motorcycle seats; and on Hollywood movie sets where it helps protect stuntmen.

2. The VIP is designed to complement saddle fit, not alter it

The VIP has another secret weapon at its disposal: Bobbles. Inspired by bubble wrap, this design feature allows for a small amount of movement, thereby protecting the soft tissues of a horse’s back without adding excess weight.

At only 8mm thick, the VIP is designed to complement—not alter—a correctly fitting saddle. Think of that favorite pair of loafers in your closet at home. Will the addition of a very thin insole make them any less comfortable? NO! It just makes them the best pair of loafers you’ve ever had.

But don’t just take our word for it. In Europe, many dealers of the VIP are saddlers and physios in their own right. Those physios who have treated back-sore horses report positive changes in these animals after using the VIP, including immense improvement in their comfort, willingness, and way of going.

3. The VIP is hygienic and durable

The VIP can be used directly on your horse’s back under a traditional saddle pad, or between the traditional saddle pad your saddle. Many horses will have a preference, so it’s important to try both placements in order to figure out what your horse likes best. In either case, the VIP’s Bobbles should face toward the horse’s back (or be in direct contact with it), while the smooth side should face up.

Both hypoallergenic and bacteriostatic, the VIP’s intentionally minimalist design (i.e. no fur trim, sticky finish, or air holes) keeps it from growing mold or transferring bacteria, making it safe to use on multiple horses. The VIP should be stored flat, folded down the length of its spine, rolled up, or draped over a saddle. It should also be kept away from sunlight or excessive heat sources, such as a hot car.

Because it’s nonporous, the VIP can be rinsed with water in the sink or cleaned using a damp cloth (avoid using alcohol, detergents, or harsh brushes on the material). Washable, brushed cotton covers (sold separately, $40) can help keep the VIP in tip-top form. Multiple sizes and colors available.

Learn more about VIP Half Pads at