Stimulite thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) sheet from Stevens Urethane, Easthampton, Mass. (www.stevensurethane.com,) was originally designed as a wheelchair cushion. But an equestrian rider who was also a physical therapist saw firsthand the relief the cushions gave to wheelchair-bound patients and deduced that the same benefits would help prevent horses from developing pressure sores under the saddle.

A number of Stimulite honeycomb saddle pads especially suited for either equestrian, western, jumpers, endurance, and ropers now come from Supracor Inc., San Jose (www.supracor.com). The pads flex with the horse's movements to absorb shocks and prevent the saddle pad from slipping. The most popular version is the Cool Grip, which reportedly provides maximum shock absorption and ventilation. The pad's unusual ventilation -- tiny perforations within the honeycomb cell walls -- circulates air and evaporates moisture, so the horse stays cool. The polyether grade of TPU used in the pads is antifungal, antibacterial, and easy to clean.

-- Jean M. Hoffman