Stability Pads are interesting tools to add to a bodywork session. Equine specific models are available through Surefoot however, with a little creativity you can fashion your own at a much lower cost.
Balance: Stability pads can challenge your horse’s balance and encourage it to engage its core for more mechanically sound posture and movement.
Strength: Stability pads can be combined with exercises. Horses can perform targeted exercises while standing on pads to affect different muscle groups and encourage them to use their core to stabilize their balance.
Self Awareness: Stability pads bring awareness to how your horse is placing its weight. By stimulating proprioception in a new way, a horse can learn to distribute its weight more squarely and find a more productive posture. Exercises like teaching the horse to stand on soft pads behind and gently sway the hips can help them understand how to move with swing through their back.
Supple: Stability pads can supple the shoulder sling, chest, hip or back by slightly changing the horse’s stance and creating a gentle passive stretch. Try standing on one yourself and gently settle into it for a few minutes and think about the changes you’re feeling in your hips, pelvis and lumbar.
Relaxation: Soft pads can be soothing to tender feet, different angles or placement of pads can offset postural concerns and create a new balance and the soft swaying that often accompanies pad use can be very relaxing.
Passive Stretches: Pads can be a useful tool when asking your horse for passive stretches. In these pictures I’ve asked the horse to rest its toe on the pad and relax its muscles from its topline down. The pad makes the stretch a little bit easier initially by raising the height of the toe a couple of inches. You can then use the pad to gently slide your horse’s foot one way or another and encourage your horse increase or decrease the stretch in a certain direction. This type of stretch may take a little practice but can be a great suppling exercise for your horse.
Potential Stability Pads: When I was first interested in using stability pads I was hesitant about spending so much money on them without having enough experience to justify the cost. I was able to successfully substitute much less expensive items with the same benefits.
What to look for:
- Safety first – you want a pad that won’t slip too easily, doesn’t make scary sounds when they step on it or it slides across the floor, and no sharp or hard edges. I also avoid pads that might pop.
- Sturdy – you want your pad to last more than a few uses.
- A variety of thicknesses, densities/give and different angles.
I use these pads:
- Performers 1st Choice Felt/Neoprene Wither Pad – Easy to separate
- Yes4All Multicolors Balance Pad
- Fitian Kneeling Pad, Knee Protection – I cut mine in half and taped none, one or both sides to create different stiffnesses.
- Slant Board – EVA Foam
I also like to use folded towels of different thicknesses and old, past their prime stable wraps.