Show season is just around the corner, folks, so it's time to think about replacing worn tack and spiffing up your horse's accessories.

Many of Carroll County's best-dressed horses are sporting new custom-designed saddle pads from Seams Right. Horsewoman and seamstress Diana Capriola began Seams Right in Jefferson, Frederick County, in 1981 when she discovered that Josh, her first dressage horse, had a backthat did not take well to off-the-rack saddle pads.

"It's very important to have a pad that fits the horse and the saddle well," says Capriola. "I needed something made of a thicker fabric, so I began using mattress pad materials. I kept experimenting every day when I rode my horse."

Capriola settled on her first design, and soon after her instructor ordered three of the pads. Orders snowballed after that from word-of-mouth referrals.

Now Capriola has an active mail-order business, and she travels to various shows throughout the country.

"I already had a business doing clothing alterations, and I had a shop in Gaithersburg (Montgomery County)," says Capriola. "But I gave that up last September to devote full time to doing the horse-related articles."

Capriola's pads are used by competitors in several English and Western disciplines. In 1988 she supplied the pads used by the United States Equestrian Three-Day Eventing Team at the Seoul Olympics.

"That's when I developed the pocket pad with high-density foam to protect the horse's back and spine. That took a lot of experimentation," says Capriola, who has a bachelor's of fine arts degree in design from the Art Institute of Kansas City.

"I've always had an innate desire to create and I love to sew," she says sitting in her workshop surrounded by fabric, ribbon and piping swatches. "And I've always been crazy about horses."

Capriola says the design, construction and choice of materials set her pads apart.

"And our customers appreciate the fact that our pads last longer,"she adds.

The fabric for each pad is custom-quilted and a varietyof sizes assures a perfect fit; or, for the same price, a pad can becustom-cut for your horse. Initials, logos, breed emblems, monograms, piping and ribbon can be added.

Carroll County rider Sandra Essich chose a white pad with black piping and her initials in black for taking her horse Scarlet Sonny to dressage shows. Essich is a recent convert to dressage.

"This pad is great," Essich says. "It's heavyand it really stays in place. It looks and feels very special. My horse is very intelligent and he notices when this pad comes out. He knows when this pad goes on that we are going somewhere special."

Any problems with this paragon of a pad?

"Yes," says Essich with a laugh. "I feel obliged to try to live up to this pad when we show. Thefirst show we went to I said 'OK, here you are with this fancy pad, you'd better do well.' "

Essich says she and her horse did well and looked terrific in their custom-made pad.

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