Plum Shade Farm markets new saddle pad with improved fabric

Change often comes slow for the equestrian industry. ---- A small local company, Plum Shade Farm, located in Newlin Township, is hoping to change one of the more traditional pieces of tack used by all riders, the saddle pad. Even if you don’t ride you’ve likely seen a cowboy in a western throw a blanket over his horse before putting his saddle on the horse. As far back as most people can recall, riders have been using saddle pads or saddle blankets. ---- The pads provide some real benefits to the rider and horse. They help stop the saddle from sliding on the horse, block the horse’ sweat from getting on the saddle, provide a barrier between the horse and rider so the rider’s legs aren’t in constant contact with the sweating horse, provide some cushioning under the saddle which is good for both horse and rider and also help wick some of the moisture away from the horse, hopefully keeping the horse cooler and drier. Given all of the positive functions that the pad performs, it’s no wonder that there are millions of pads sold each year. What is strange is that almost all the pads are the same. ---- On first glance, they may not look the same because they are shaped and colored differently, but from a base fabric standpoint, they’re almost all identical. They’re all made of woven cotton or wool. Even the few that aren’t cotton or wool, are made from synthetic fibers, woven the same way that standard cotton and wool pads are.---- About 10 years ago JoAnne Nightingale, Plum Shade Farm’s president and an avid horse rider, who is a Coatesville resident from Newlin township, had a hoof abscess problem with one of her horses. Her vet told her what supplies she needed to purchase to take care of the problem. What JoAnne found was that she had to buy relatively large quantities of each item to handle the problem. This sparked an idea. Since the treatment of hoof abscesses is something that many owners struggle with, why not put all of the supplies needed to treat the abscess in a small inexpensive kit. Thus was born the HOOFix® Abscess kit and the first product of the new company, Plum Shade Farm. Since that time the company has introduced other products that help horse owners care for their horses, These products were readily accepted because they were like everything else in the industry, pretty much slight improvements on the status quo.---- Two years ago, David Chopko, an East Marlboro township resident, while walking an industrial fabrics tradeshow, uncovered a material, which seemed to have the potential to change a staple of the industry, the saddle pad. David had worked with JoAnne on many of Plum Shade Farm’s new products, and has industrial experience working with fabrics. What intrigued David was that this material, instead of being two dimensional, was essentially three dimensional, in that it had flexible fibers of synthetic material attached such that they were perpendicular to the main cloth. After contacting the materials manufacturer, David learned that what he saw was only one of the many varieties of this material that the company offered. ---- Over the next nine months JoAnne and David ran numerous field tests to determine which of the materials might be suitable for a saddle pad and what saddle design would work for each material. Each time a new material or design was developed, a new pad had to be made. Local sewing shops in Chadds Ford and Unionville built the test pads, which were tested by JoAnne’s riding friends in Unionville and Landenberg. Two pad designs and one special configuration of the three dimensional materials eventually were adopted. Once a patent application was filed, a large field test of these saddle pads was run, which included many local testers and other riders from around the country, as far south as Florida and as far west as Arizona. All told over 25 riders were given pads and asked to keep detailed records on the pad’s performance. The pads were tested under hot and cold conditions and in the humid and arid climates. Riders graded and kept detailed records the pads performancein many key areas, such as---- • Keeps horse cool ---- • Provides cushioning---- • reduces heat and sweat build-up---- • reduces slippage on horse---- • Eases of washing and drying---- • Protects the saddle from sweat ---- • Offers durability---- The test results far exceeded even the expectations of the inventors with over 90 percent of the riders reporting that the test pad performed better or much better than their current saddle pad in almost every criterion. Not surprisingly the one area where everyone agreed that the pad especially excelled was in keeping the horse cool. This was to be expected since the seemed perfectly suited to accomplish this critical goal. The manufacturer of the fabrics claims that fibers within the material have outstanding wicking ability and the material itself is 10 to 100 times more air permeable than woven sheets of cotton or wool. Plus the three dimensional structure of the material allows air to circulate under the pad as the rider moves/bounces along. ---- Because this product looks so different than every other saddle pad, there still is a huge challenge to get equestrians to try the saddle pad As JoAnne Nightingale says, “We’re certain that once riders try this pad, they’re going to like. We just need to get them to try it.”---- As a local company let’s hope they succeed. ---- Additional information about the company can be found at www.plumshadefarm.com