The Great Half Pad Debate

While standing in the booth at AETA watching the video for the Invictus pad, they flashed a pretty interesting graph. This one, to be exact:

halfpadstudy

Here’s the entire blurb from the Invictus website about their results (super complimentary of themselves, of course, but if you can set that aside the science is interesting):

We conducted the tests starting with 5 Joules of impact energy to determine the Peak Transmitted Force through the protective layers. (PTF is the pressure that can be felt through a material.) The impact energy was increased in 5J increments to a total of 40J. We show on the right side of the graph how we assign the impact energy in the tests to pressure that is felt under saddle. Pads, which reached maximum PTF at a given energy, were eliminated from further testing, because they could offer no further values. The tests were conducted under EN1621 tests standards.

In the range from 5J – 25J, the tested pads recorded from 123% to 329% more PTF (Peak Transmitted Force) than Invictus

In the range from 25 – 40J – the tested pads recorded up to 123% more PTF than Invictus

Our tests show that, while high quality memory foam pads like Ogilvy® and the Equi-Fit pad provide good protection at all energy ranges, both are considerably thicker and only conditionally breathable. This translates into diminished contact and a less than ideal heat/moisture balance. The Invictus pad showed the overall best protection values with the least displacement, convincingly delivering on all points, from superior all-round performance to ergonomic and sleek design.

Gel – both oil-based and regular – as well as the Thinline® material cannot come close to providing sufficient protection at the same thickness. Water based gel only performed to 20J before bottoming out. Oil-based gel did a little better, but also only showed low protection values and dropped out at 30J. Thinline tested a little better to 40J impact energy but it can’t come close to the standards of the Invictus D3O® XT Mesh with intelligent molecules.

halfpads

This kind of information is far more interesting (and helpful) in my mind than things like The Truth Tack Review lady who likes to test impact protection by dropping a bowling ball on things. That irritates me. A lot.

Half pads are one of those items that people always seem to have strong opinions about and even stronger preferences for. Some people will argue for Thinline until they’re blue in the face, and the same for Ogilvy. Or the reverse – those who absolutely hate a certain pad with a fiery passion. If you’ve ever been to a horse message board, you’ve seen it.

I personally used Thinline for years and had no complaints, then decided to try Ogilvy. Henry the princess said that he preferred the Ogilvy (which should surprise exactly no one) so that’s what I’ve stuck with. I have no passionate feelings either way, personally.

ADE5
Pony says what Pony likes. I obey Pony.

Side note: wouldn’t it be nice if some tack shop set up a half pad trial program so you could demo several different ones? How do we make that happen? They do it for bits and stirrups so surely half pads wouldn’t be much different. I digress…

I have always wanted a comparative study between the different pads, so the Invictus one has got me pretty fascinated. Mostly because of two main things:

  1. It makes the Invictus pad look pretty intriguing (of course) especially for those that don’t have a saddle with enough extra width to accommodate something thick like the Ogilvy.
  2. Memory foam seems to offer way more impact protection than I might have thought. I mean… Henry’s positive reaction to the pad told me that he preferred it, but seeing numbers to back up my own personal observation is captivating. I want to see more. Also interesting that the Equifit didn’t perform all that differently considering how much thinner it is than the Ogilvy.

So, half pad users, what say you? What do you think of this study and it’s results?

55 thoughts on “The Great Half Pad Debate

  1. I’ve used Thinline – never actually cared for it nor thought that it provided much impact protection. I didn’t like the Ogilvy at all – just way too thick and since my saddles fit perfectly, the thickness actually hinders rather than helps. I loved the construction though – excellent product.

    To be honest, I was a member of the half pad craze for a long time. Then my saddle fitter asked me why I had that huge pad under my perfectly fitted, wool flocked saddle, and I realized that, to me, the half pad was just a fad. Fiction didn’t need one. The wool-flocked, cushy padding of his saddle was more than enough to dissipate most of the impact of my seat. Plus I am a very light rider and Fiction has a strong back. So now I use a single saddle pad, nothing else.

    But, if I was in need of a half pad, I would definitely be intrigued by the Invictus!

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  2. I have a grippy air flow 1/2 pad I picked up in Ireland a few years ago that I love. I believe it was made special for a particular shop.
    It grips the saddle nicely, gives just a bit of cushion, and adds some air circulation between the saddle and the main pad. My pony seems to like it quite a bit and I do think it helps keep his back just a bit cooler. I also like that it grips my saddle, so instead of 3 items between my butt and my pony’s back (saddle, 1/2 pad and pad) its like only having two, so it cuts down on friction too.

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  3. I agree that half pads are a fad. Why exactly do we need them? I can tell you this for sure – they do not fix a sore back. I use a Thin Line 1/2 pad for everyday because my saddles are fitted with them in mind. I use just a thin line half pad with fleece trim for hunters. I hate the look of the Ogilvy – looks like a maxi pad under your saddle. Gel pads are awful and Mattes if you need something thicker can’t be beat.

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    1. It’s 100% certain that no pad is going to “fix” a sore back, and that’s not what they’re for, so I agree with you there. I personally think half pads are great when you’re in the situation of owning/riding multiple horses and/or cannot buy custom saddles. Or if you own a particularly sensitive horse that appreciates a little bit of buffer. Or if you’re a rider with a particularly bad back. I personally don’t see them as a fad as much as an innovation, just like saddle technologies (bless the person who invented flexible tree points), clothing technologies, horse boot technologies, etc. Some are better than others, no doubt about that. And I agree that half pads aren’t totally necessary, definitely not, but helpful in a lot of situations or for lot of horses and people, absolutely.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Perfect timing for this post! Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that my beloved ’08 Delgrange saddle is not the perfect fit for my new guy – it fit my quarter horse perfectly but my narrower thoroughbred needs a medium-narrow tree, I believe. While not a clearly awful fit to the untrained eye, the new saddle has begun to leave minor rubs where the back panels sit, which I’m horrified by. While battling a pile of medical bills, I absolutely cannot afford a new saddle so I’ve been on the lookout for a new pad. I’ve used a thinline trifecta pad the whole time I’ve owned him but am now considering something like the ogilvy. Wish there as an option to rent before buying!!

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    1. I’d never recommend an Ogilvy for someone who’s saddle doesn’t have the extra space to accommodate some thickness. Mine do, so they work great for me, but something to keep in mind.

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      1. I may I have been unclear – my current saddle is a medium and is too large – I believe he needs a medium narrow which is why I think a thicker option like Ogilvy might be the right choice as opposed to the thinline I’m currently using 🙂

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  5. I also agree that half pads are a fad and not every horse needs one. I prefer thinline, as it helps when my horses are out of shape and building muscle, but doesn’t get in the way of my saddle fit. I also have used fleeceworks to pad my dressage saddle where it doesn’t *exactly* fit my horse, because I don’t have $2k to buy a brand new saddle. I want an Ogilvy SO BAD, but really, don’t need it for the saddle I have. What drives me NUTS is when people buy into the fad and MUST have one regardless.. No. just no. The stats are interesting though for those who participate in high impact sports and might be concerned about the extra impact on the horse…but for me, I don’t buy into it

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      1. fashionable and trendy. The Invictus study kind of goes along with the question “is it really needed”? or just a new thing people cane be obsessed with like Ogilvy (I’m obsessed so….).

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        1. I don’t know that impact protection or horse comfort is really a trend or fad. As far as “is it needed”? Well no probably not, a lot of things aren’t needed. But can they help? I think there’s a lot of value in them, personally. I think a lot of people like to hate on Ogilvy for being trendy, and they certainly ARE, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also have actual value and work really well for a lot of people and horses. This graph shows just how much impact protection they actually do provide. Just as with anything else, they won’t work for everyone, but if you like it and it works for you/your horse, who cares if it’s “trendy”?

          I bought my first half pad in the 90’s and in those days they were big giant chunks of material – usually foam or wool felt. Innovation has come a long way in the 25+ years that half pads have been popular. Of course, saddles were a lot different back then too and I don’t know anyone that would call all of our saddle improvements a fad. Does anyone miss the narrow gullets, rock hard panels, and wooden trees? LOL. Or super heavy wool frock coats (praise cheezus for fabric innovation)? To me half pads in general are certainly not a fad. Some brands are, some styles are, for sure (as with any product) but the idea in principle? Definitely not. It’s been around for a long time and improved in leaps and bounds with the evolution of better materials and better understanding through science. Just like all the studies that Fairfax has done with anatomic girths and bridles, which I think is brilliant.

          I like that Invictus has actually done the science here, and I like seeing how all the half pads compare (the Invictus didn’t even perform the best across the board, which is probably why they showed thickness and breathability as well – both important factors to consider – although I do wish they’d included a shimmable/not shimmable check point as well). The format they’ve presented the information in, IMO at least, makes it really valuable for the educated consumer to apply the science to their own particular needs.

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          1. I think you think I’m hating, when I am not. I also am terrible at bringing up my points in blog comments tactfully. I use half pads, I see the benefit. But I personally do not think EVERY horse and rider pair needs them and most people are buying into a fad. That’s all. Right now, all I see Invictus as is another fad, since what I’m using it working for the purpose it was intended. We don’t jump 4ft jumps or do insane dressage where I *need* the extra impact protection. In the future, yes, for sure. But not now. I will applaud the study, its informative and a great marketing tool.

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            1. Perhaps “fad” is the wrong word here. I don’t know. What I’m saying is not all horses/riders need a half pad. Some do. But not all NEED an Ogilvy or Invictus. I wish I needed an Ogilvy because I am in love.

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            2. No, I don’t think you’re hating. My comment wasn’t even wholly at you, honestly lol I just started typing and away I went with the word diarrhea. Just my opinion on the whole “half pads are a fad” or “trendy automatically equals bad” viewpoints in general, which I definitely don’t agree with. But I am a lover of innovation and technology in general.

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              1. Well, I appreciate the points you make and theyre always well written. Mine always come out kind of like word vomit haha. I agree, innovation is wonderful, but a lot of people see it as new and shiny and MUST have when they don’t need it. But hey, its their life, they can do what they want I suppose, right?

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    1. Agreed! And when they leave something out it always makes me wonder WHY. I do statistics and I know very well why I leave certain things out of my results section: usually, they don’t support my hypothesis! Now, I’m not (necessarily) accusing Trifecta of cherry-picking the data, but everyone does it so it would be surprising if they did not. Easier to just say you “didn’t test it” than “we tested it and it was too close to our own means for comfort…” Of course, they can’t necessarily test EVERY product on the market, and they did test another memory foam pad, so perhaps that was all they wanted to do.

      Regardless, it would be great if someone with a little bit more technology than bowling balls would do a comprehensive review! Any materials scientists reading this??

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      1. Honestly it’s likely as simple as – this is a European company & a European based study, and Ecogold isn’t really known over there at all. They haven’t crossed the pond yet the same way that Equifit and Ogilvy have.

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  6. I think studies like this are much more helpful the Coth debates that can get way out of hand. I only really have experience with Ogilvy, and compared to the standard sheepskin pad I was using, it is so much better. Since I sometimes ride a variety of horses, so my fairly standard saddle with the Ogilvy works for most, but if I were in the market to get a more specific fit, I would absolutely appreciate these kinds of numbers. Trying to read through reviews that are often pretty skewed one way or the way is a bit overwhelming, and not all that helpful much of the time imo.

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  7. I don’t think half pads are a fad, they’re a useful tool that’s developed a whole bunch of fads. I use the old school Thinline, the slightly thicker one, since it’s supposed to be better at eating up shock for both horse and rider compared to the newer Ultra model. I can’t get anything thicker than that under my saddle. The saddle fits perfectly without it, but I figure some extra shock absorption can only help while I’m trying to learn to properly sit the trot. My horse deserves the extra protection while I’m making a fool of myself and we have been testing negative for back pain while using it despite my flopping.

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  8. Equus Tack in Oregon has a trial Ogilvy program, or at least they did a year ago when I got mine. They have a demo pad that you can put a deposit down on and they let go out for a week. I don’t know if they do that with other pads. I’d totally be willing to pay for a demo program with others!

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    1. I’ve seen a couple of small businesses pop up here and there with a demo Ogilvy. None with a full half pad demo program though. I’m sure it would be a nightmare to pull off, but so valuable to the consumer.

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  9. kinda love their analysis (and obvi wanna try one out now… so, uh, nice move, pr people). really tho my use of half pads is dictated by the saddle fitting pros i use since i don’t trust my own judgement in that category (let’s just not talk about how the first fitter i used led me far FAR astray…). the current set up includes a sheepskin half pad for the dressage saddle (which, frankly, i love) and a shimmable half pad for the jump saddle (which i do not love ugh). i’m holding back from trying anything else tho bc what really needs to change is the jump saddle itself FIRST, then i can look into other fun techie half pad options.

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  10. I don’t think half pads are a fad. I purchased an Ogilvy – thank you, Luxe Eq! – not because it was pretty (well, not entirely anyway), but because I was riding a lot of different horses at the time with my old trainer. When I bought my saddle, it wasn’t fitted to one particular horse and was only custom to me. Do I expect my Ogilvy half pad to be the end-all, be-all and make my saddle fit every horse perfectly? Absolutely not. But, I find that the memory foam does help my saddle fit a bit better. I’ve used a half pad with Roger for every ride so far because his body and topline are completely different now than they were last April, and I don’t plan to get my saddle professionally fitted to him until his body stops changing on a monthly basis. I’m hoping to get my saddle fit to him in the fall, and I may not need my Ogilvy every ride, but we’ll see how it goes. For right now, the Ogilvy helps my saddle accommodate his constantly changing muscle and topline, and helps make things more comfortable.

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  11. Seriously, I want half pad trials, too!!
    I have a gel pad and a memory foam pad. Fancy Pony seems like have no preference between the 2, but she does seem to prefer having them vs. not…

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  12. Thanks for sharing, very interesting.

    Last year I had one ride where my mare bucked me off a few times, in a way that was extremely out of character for her. I re-checked saddle fit, couldn’t see anything that might have been pinching with the girth or saddle pad, and her back wasn’t sore after the ride, but it seemed like something was off in a discomfort way. I bought an Ogilvy pad that week. I haven’t had any problems with bucking since. I’ve generally assumed that the Ogilvy pad was more acting as a placebo effect for me than actually doing anything, but interesting to see that it might be helping after all. I’ve also learned to sit her giant canter a lot better since then so that probably helps as well.

    I had a Thinline pad for a while, but I found it slid out of place easily, I like how the Ogilvy squishes down and stays where I put it.

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  13. I definitely don’t think half pads are a fad either. It’s a tool that I use to make sure my horse is as comfortable as possible when we work. My saddle fitter recommends the use of a half pad with a fitted saddle as it provides more impact protection. Granted she fits the saddles a bit wider so they can accommodate a half pad. I think half pads are a fad when you use them just for style points when your saddle completely does not fit. Bc no half pad will make a crappy saddle fit.

    I really like the research tests that Invictus provided. I’m a scientist so seeing actual research makes me happy. That being said I’ve been wanting to see the research done on the Voltaire smart saddle…

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  14. I thought it was really interesting when my saddle fitter partially disassembled my saddle–the bottom section is basically the world’s coolest half pad. This is why my fitter is not super in to half pads.

    Sad for her, I am.

    It works out though–my dressage half pad (mattes because I assimilated) is shimmable and we’re taking advantage of that with my not-symmetrical horse. I still adore my ogilvy for jumping because my saddle is not an ideal fit, though not terrible. The Ogilvy makes it all ok. If I was jumping high or often, I’d have to buy a new saddle, but instead, I can just use the pad.

    Love the chart and research! I wish this sort of thing was done so much more often in the horse world.

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  15. Half pads are a necessity for some but they have become an accessory for others.

    The Invictus popped up on my radar at a time when the CWD fitter suggested that I needed to find a thinner half pad than what I was using (a mattes). Equifit wasn’t providing a lot of information on the sizing of their pads online and I could only find the older version that hardens when cold at my local tack shop which felt like it would do nothing based on my ability to squish it to nothing with my hand and well I live somewhere that gets quite cold in the winter and don’t want a frozen pad on my horse’s back.
    The Invictus has a great feel to it, squishes more when you are compressing a small area than it does when you compress over a big area like your entire palm which intrigued me. It is completely unaffected by the weather.
    Really the even better data however has been that I have been able to use it on Stampede with success. With his back pain issues due to kissing spines/arthritis of the facet joints even after buying a new saddle I was starting to feel like we wouldn’t ever get him comfortable so if just going to this pad from a Mattes helps him I’m a believer. It provides the perfect amount of lift for my saddle and I have shims (which I purchased separately and are also neat and have holes to allow air flow) if needed later on. Really looking forward to reviewing this pad in the next couple months.

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  16. I’d love to see this done by a 3rd party (science nerd). Since it’s a study for the Invictus product, naturally they would present themselves as superior.

    Current saddle is padded up with a Beval wither pad for mare. I’d love to go back to using my Thinline or try something new, but unfortunately, I’m a broke student, mare is a hard saddle fit, and I’m just making due. 😦

    I wish I could find something that provides back comfort/impact protection but still gives my saddle enough clearance for a very round mare.

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    1. I think it’s interesting that they didn’t actually come out as superior on purely impact protection. It’s only when you weigh in with thickness and breathability that the scales tip in their favor. But I agree, would love to see a 3rd party study. On half pads, and helmets, and all kinds of things!

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  17. I wish they had compared it to Ecogold too! I’m always fascinated by the science behind the pads and I love that they do these comparisons. Though I must admit the only half pad I’ve ever used are just the fleece ones…

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  18. Super interested in the Invictus pads. I hate the online Internet qb mob that insists that every horse have a custom saddle – sorry, I find that unreasonable and unpractical (though I’m sure the saddle reps love it). I think half pad options are a great tool to have when you’re riding multiple horses and need to make sure they are as comfortable as possible. I’m glad to see companies doing more testing like this, too.

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  19. I think it’s really nice to see actual scientific research, versus just a bowling ball. The Equestrian World seems to lack a lot of research. I’ve tried and owned a lot of half pads, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually started to learn about saddle fit. I was one of those people who just always used a half pad because I used a half pad. I still don’t know a lot about saddle fit, but I am trying to learn. I had a saddle fitter out to look at my horse a few weeks ago and I have found what would work perfectly for him. That is, if my money supply was endless. The fitter also said that if a saddle fits well you shouldn’t need anything more than a plain saddle pad. However, a bit of extra shock absorption is always nice for the horse, in my humble opinion of course. The reality is that not only would it be unwise for me to buy a custom saddle for a not in shape horse, but I won’t be able to afford one. In a perfect world, I’ll find exactly what I need used, but if that doesn’t happen (and it probably won’t), I’ll look at a half pad appropriate to my horses’s situation. I did try and Ogilvy and it was a really nice pad. Though with my particular saddle, it didn’t work the best. I would be willing to try another in a different situation though. I think the Invictus pads sound pretty neat also.

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  20. Hey, I was wondering if you knew which EquiFit pad was used in the testing. Looking at EquiFit’s website they seem to have two types of half pads — the T-Foam ones and something called ImpacTeq. I foresee making do with approximate saddle fits in the days to come (young horse meet student budget) so I’m trying to educate myself about the options beyond the sheepskin one I currently own. Thanks so much for posting this, it’s seriously helpful in that process! And yeah, a try before you buy setup for half pads would be so amazing!

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  21. I’m a half pad ho (seriously I own 5 or 6 for one horse). Sadly my pretty pretty princess decided he does not like half pads and will not tolerate anything besides air panels.

    That being said, I love studies like this and wish there were more available.

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  22. I really appreciate you posting the study! This feeds perfectly into my horse tack addiction! I won’t lie, I’m one of those people that would convince myself that buying a half pad was a good idea based on looks alone; however, I’m horse poor and can’t buy all of the pretty things I want. I’ve always been on the fence about usefulness v. fad with half pads (especially since I only own and ride one horse) and have a hard time taking anecdotal evidence too seriously. This study tells me that yes, I really should buy a pretty, pretty half pad. 😉

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  23. Very interesting read. Curious how they determined how much force is actually felt with the different activities. I believe saddle type would also affect impact.

    Also, take “breathable” claims with a grain of salt. There is no industry standard for what this means. Some companies mean that it’s air permeable (ASTM D737), that it wicks (moves mositure) through itself, moisture vapor transmission (ASTM E96), etc. Sweating/mositure/comfort is a complicated process: moving of moisture through the item to increase surface area, which needs to be balanced by how easily the material dries (so the moisture evaporates, giving you that cooling sweating mechanism), etc. Then you also have the factor of certain types of material holding heat better..

    Regardless, I love science and testing technology of our horsey items! Always good to see… Dream job right there for me for validating claims made for a equine company. ☺️

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  24. Interesting…

    I either use a wool half pad or my ridelight… I also have a thin line which i like for my back pain.

    I like the feel of the wool half pad with a baby pad best 🙂

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  25. We’ve talked about trying to start a pad demo program at Mary’s. The trick is getting the pads cleaned when they come back so as not to spread germs. I think it would help a lot of people find what they love.

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  26. I really want to use an Ogilvy, but my mare has a huge, set back shoulder that doesn’t allow extra space under my saddle. So we use the thinline. It seems alright – I have no direct complaints, but I also get my horse a full-body massage every month for general maintenance. I hadn’t heard of the Invictus, but just emailed them to find out how to try/get one locally. If I manage to get my hands on it, I’ll post on here for Thinline v Invictus experience. If my mare is shockingly better with it, I’ll rep that so hard! She’s a princess and the pea type!

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