Types of Saddle Flocking
Choosing the best flocking material
for you and horse is a personal choice and should be based on many different
that it’s important to have the fit of your saddle checked on a regular basis
and in the case of wool flocked panels, adjusted as necessary. It is
recommend that the fit be checked at least once a year, more if you ride a lot
or if your horse is progressing quickly in training. Even if your saddle
has foam panels or air panels, it’s important to be sure your saddle is still
fitting your horse correctly. An ill-fitting saddle will not only affect
your horse’s ability to perform well, it can cause your horse a lot of
pain. That pain can have long term affects that can result in expensive
vet and/or chiropractor bills. It can also cause dangerous behavior that
could put you at risk.
So please have your saddle fit checked regularly. Better safe than sorry!
Identifying the Contents of the Panels
Determining what is in your saddle can be tricky, but it’s important to know what you’re riding on. Wool flocked saddles will often have what is known as rear gussets (the seam along the back of the panel), although some foam saddles can have gussets to allow them to fit a broader backed horse. Foam-filled saddles are typically are firmer and feel more solid when squeezed. Foam will have a definite shape to it, while wool panels have a softer shape. One good way to check for wool is to lift the flap and check for “port holes” (slits cut into the panel). You can sometimes see the wool peeking out, or you can feel them by sliding your fingers up under the panels.
It is possible in some cases to have foam or air flocking removed from saddles and replaced with wool flocking. It is a great option if you want to keep your current saddle but your horse has changed shape or you have a new horse that your saddle doesn't properly fit. Depending on the quality of your saddle it may be less expensive than purchasing a new saddle. However in many saddles the foam is glued to the leather of the panels, so it is impossible to remove it without completely replacing the panels themselves which can make the process more expense than the saddle is worth.
Wool flocked saddles may be best suited for riders who use the saddle mostly on one horse, since the saddle will mold to the shape of the back and might not fit multiple horses. They are also a better option for horses that have any unevenness in their body or muscles as the saddles can be flocked according to your horses specific shape.
Pros Of Wool Flocking
- Wool is a natural fiber that breathes well and maintains elasticity, it keeps the horse’s back much cooler than foam.
- Wool flocking can easily be adjusted to fit a new horse or a horse that
changes in weight or musculature.
- Wool can easily be adjusted by a saddle fitter to create a custom fit for the
- Altering panels on wool saddles is very inexpensive and can be done quickly.
- As your horse gains/loses muscle in the top line, your saddle can be adjusted accordingly.
- Wool panels can be flocked differently on both sides if the horse has asymmetrical muscle development from an injury.
- Wool flocked panels have rounded edges, which are easier on the horse's back.
- Wool flocked saddles gradually settle down and conform to the shape of the horse's back to create a custom fit.
- Wool panels can be raised in the front and/or back of the saddle to help achieve perfect saddle balance.
Wool flocking is easy to replace when saddles get older and the wool wears out.
Cons Of Wool Flocking
- Wool flocking compresses over time and needs to be checked regularly for maintenance and adjusting.
- Wool (especially lower-quality wool) can bunch up into balls and cause pressure points.
- Wool panels must be thicker than foam. If you have an equal mass of foam and wool, foam will have greater cushioning power, so you get a different feel.
Foam Flocked Saddles
Foam flocked saddles may be best suited for riders who use their saddle on a variety of different horses. Foam is much more resilient than wool and will hold it's shape and will not mold to one particular horse.
Pros Of Foam Flocking
- Foam panels offer a versatile fit and are a suitable choice for riders who may ride multiple horses or have a horse that might change in musculature.
- Foam panels offer greater cushion with less bulk than wool and offer a closer-to-the-horse feel for the rider.
- Foam panels can often be a help in fitting the really broad, round horses, since they reduce the amount of bulk between the saddle and the horse and won’t make the saddles “perch” up on the horse’s back.
- Foam Panels are extremely resilient, and maintain their original shape which
is a plus if the saddle is to be used on more than one horse.
Cons Of Foam Flocking
- Foam panels do not breathe which can cause the spinous process to overheat.
- Foam panels can not be altered to fit a horse should the horse change or should you change horses.
- Foam panels on some higher end saddles offer the option to purchase new panels in a different, but it can be very costly and take a long time to receive the new panels as they need to made and shipped from the country where the saddles are manufactured.
- Foam panels that eventually breakdown over time become hard and crack and it is very expensive and not always cost efficient to replace the entire panel.
Air Flocked Panels
There are two main types of air panels CAIR and FLAIR. CAIR panels are not adjustable and consist of air sealed pockets enclosed in the panels. FLAIR panels consist of two sealed pockets with valves that are enclosed within each panel, allowing you to add or remove air to customize the fit they are very adjustable and are well suited to horses with particularly difficult back conformations.
Pros of CAIR Panels
- CAIR panels maintain their original shape which is a plus if the saddle is to be used on more than one horse.
-CAIR panels that are properly fitted can help eliminate lumps, ridges, and unevenness that cause discomfort for sensitive horses.
- CAIR panels can easily have the air pockets removed and have the saddle converted to wool flocking without having to have the whole panel replaced.
Cons of CAIR Panels
- CAIR panels consist of air encased in plastic pouches under the leather panels this plastic does not breathe and can cause the spinous process to overheat.
- CAIR panels can not be altered to fit a horse should the horse change or should you change horses.
- CAIR panels can be affected by changes in temperature and weather and this can cause the air panels to feel either over or under inflated therefore causing inconsistencies in the way that the saddle fits your horse on a daily basis.
Pros of FLAIR Panels
- FLAIR panels are extremely adjustable and are ideal for horses with a particularly difficult back conformation or horses with significant muscle atrophy or asymmetry.
- FLAIR panels that are properly fitted can help eliminate lumps, ridges, and unevenness that cause discomfort for sensitive horses.
Cons of FLAIR Panels
- FLAIR panels consist of air encased in plastic pouches under the leather panels this plastic does not breathe and can cause the spinous process to overheat.
- FLAIR panels can be affected by changes in temperature and weather and this can cause the air panels to feel either over or under inflated therefore causing inconsistencies in the way that the saddle fits your horse on a daily basis.
- FLAIR panels should only be adjusted by a professional saddle fitter that is trained properly to work on them and it can be difficult to find someone qualified to do the adjustments.