Turn Out for a Cause: Padded Ponies

Here at Horse Nation, we love to spotlight small businesses that have unique offerings for equestrians — especially when they support worthy causes as well. Padded Ponies is one such business. They offer a full range of handmade and customizable saddle pads, half pads, equestrian bags and more. 

Padded Ponies is a grassroots company that began in 2011 when founder Lydia Bilke recognized that there was a gap in the market when it came to printed saddle pads.

“I started Padded Ponies with my mother when I was in high school, mostly because I wanted to have a collection of cute pads that were still high quality,” she says. “At the time… most printed pads were cheap, thin, and fitted poorly. Our very first pad was a red skull and crossbones print saddle pad for my Arabian, Shah Bask.”

The company got its start on Etsy and began offering saddle covers, stirrup covers, various bags, and bonnets in addition to the saddle pads. However, by 2018, Padded Ponies outgrew its Etsy shop and launched its first website.

From the beginning, a large portion of Padded Ponies’ customer base has come from people requesting custom products — special sizes, shapes, colors and designs. Lydia had found the company’s niche by offering high quality, handmade equestrian products (all made in the USA) that can be customized for each rider.

These specialty requests led the development of an LGBTQ+ line. “A customer wanted a rainbow flag for their daughter,” Lydia recounted, “and we said ‘Hey, that’s a pretty good idea!’ We first started selling only the rainbow design in 2017, but not long after, added a full selection of flags.”

Photo courtesy of Padded Ponies Custom Equine Accoutrements

Once Padded Ponies started making products based on LGBTQ+ flags, Lydia wanted to continue making products that offered representation to all equestrians:

“Really what’s driven me to expand and grow our LGBTQ+ line is the lack of representation in the equestrian community. There is an amazing abundance of acceptance, and some corporate support, but you don’t see many LGBTQ+ products available on major websites … If you do, it’s never available outside of June, which isn’t very fair. You don’t stop being gay, transgender, etc. in July!”

Photo courtesy of Padded Ponies Custom Equine Accoutrements

Initially, the LGBTQ+ product line was limited to saddle pads, but has now expanded to the other product lines as well. And even if a product isn’t featured on the website, nearly any product can be made in a flag by special request.

Photo courtesy of Padded Ponies Custom Equine Accoutrements

What makes Padded Ponies even more impressive is that not only does the company seek to offer products that are unique to every rider’s identity, but also they back their commitment to representation to doing good in by donating to The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people. The site provides counseling, education and community to young people who find themselves in need.

As an aside, when I visited the site in preparation for this article, the first piece of information that appears is an emergency exit protocol so that if someone is on the site and is concerned about others realizing it, there is a fast way to leave the site without attracting attention. What an awesome way to create a safe space or young people in crisis!

Padded Ponies has been donating to The Trevor Project for many years, and currently a portion of each LGBTQ+ sale goes to The Trevor Project. Their support hasn’t stopped there. In the past, Padded Ponies has held raffles in order to raise more money for The Trevor Project, and they are looking to do so again in the future.

For all of June, Padded Ponies is offering 20% off the LGBTQ+ collection with code PRIDE2022.