With so many options available on the market, it can be quite confusing to decide which saddle pad is right for you, your horse and how you ride.
Not only are saddle pads, saddle blankets, saddle cloths, or whatever you like to call them one of the most essential pieces of tack, they assist in equine comfort, can improve saddle fit, prevent cuts, bruising and grazing/rubbing on your horse and prevent wear and tear of your saddle – as well as many looking very pretty!
Selecting the right saddle pad can be overwhelming, so we discuss the many considerations for use, purpose, discipline and fit to help you decide on the right pad to buy.
Types and Materials of Saddle Pads
There are a variety of materials that are often used for saddle pads, with the most common materials being wool fleece or sheepskin, cotton or synthetic, as well as foam, gel and polyester. The latter is generally used to fill the inside of a saddle pad for extra comfort and cushioning. Synthetic saddle pads are less expensive than wool fleece or sheepskin saddle pads, and far easier to care for and maintain, but are also not as absorbent as wool fleece or sheepskin saddle pads. Wool fleece saddle pads often require special care and are most costly in comparison with synthetic material saddle pads, although they are well known and respected for their wicking abilities and comfort.
The six main types of saddle pads are:
- Square Saddle Pads
- Western Saddle Pads
- Sheepskin Half Pads
- Corrective Half Pads
- Corrective Saddle Pads
- Shaped Saddle Pads
Which Size of Saddle Pad Is Most Appropriate?
Most saddle pads are sold in three standard sizes: small, medium, and large or Pony, Cob and Full. Small saddle pads are most selected for saddles under 16″ or for a pony, medium saddle pads are best suited for saddles 16.5″ upward to around 17” / or for a Galloway/cob sized horse, whereas large saddle pads cater to any saddles larger than 17” or hack sized horses”.
Saddle pads should cover the length of your saddle, and past the edges of the saddle without passing the equine’s last rib; keeping in mind that each horse has a different and unique shape and build depending on its breed and various other factors. When purchasing a saddle pad, you should always take the contour of your equines back into consideration, along with the underside to ensure you are not unintentionally causing any damage via pressure on your horse’s withers, or on their Spinous process. It is also worth noting the height of your horse’s withers when looking at saddle pads; if your horse has high withers, it would be best to invest in a high-cut pad for optimum results.
Saddle pads for Function
Saddle pads are also a very functional piece of equipment! Some have inbuilt pockets for carrying water and snacks on trails, phone holders, and many come standard with Velcro looped straps to feed through at the girth and on the girth points under the saddle flap, to help keep the pad in place under the saddle with minimal shifting.
Saddle pads for Improved Saddle Fit
There are many different styles of pads and halfpads that can be used to improve the fit of your saddle. Some work as an all over riser lifting the whole saddle off the horses back and improving spinal and wither clearance (this can be quite helpful if you have a horse that you are working to build topline and increase body weight with), some have removable shims either in the front or back or both which can be very helpful in correcting the balance of a saddle.
How Can a Correction Pad Help?
The correctional pads, such as the Zilco and Thinline pads, can be used to help in a few different ways including:
More info on the different types of correction pads can be found here.
Choosing the Right Saddle Pad for Your Discipline
When choosing the right saddle pad for your horse, you must first consider what saddle you will be using, as well as the shape of your horse and what discipline you are riding.
For those involved in Dressage, your saddle pad should have a straight line up the front and align with the flaps of your Dressage saddle, These pads are usually square in shape or can be contoured for style (Euro cut). Saddle pads required for use in show jumping tend to be shaped, smaller and boast curvature in the front to match up with the flaps of a jumping. There are general purpose saddle pads available also, which combine both shapes and are widely used for a range of riding activities from general riding, through to Dressage and jumping when using a General Purpose saddle Half pads are also a type of saddle pad commonly used in combination with main saddle pads and are generally utilised across all disciplines.
When it comes to Western/stock saddle pads, like other disciplines, there is a variety to choose from. They are generally a more rectangle shape that are much longer to allow for the length of these saddles. The Pad must be at least 1 inch bigger than the saddle the whole way around, the best way to determine the size is to measure your saddle and add 2-3 inches to that measurement.
The western pads come in many different thickness’, some think the thicker the pad the more comfort for the horse – this can be true in some cases but you need to keep in mind the thicker the pad the tighter the saddle may be sitting on the horses back (this goes for all disciplines). If you intend to use a thicker pad it is suggested that your saddle fitter fits your saddle with the same pad to ensure it is not too tight.
Discipline Specific Requirements
Keep in mind that when selecting a saddle pad for competition there may be specific requirements like colour, for example in Dressage competition you must use a white saddle pad. Riders may be penalised, or in some instances eliminated altogether from the competition, for having a saddle pad that is not the correct colour. – It is important to know your discipline and the associated rules and regulations to which you must adhere to, before rushing out and spending your money on saddle pads.
Washing and the importance of keeping your saddle pad clean
How to wash
Most cotton/polyester saddle pads are machine washable but just like your clothes it is important to check for any special washing requirements on the tag first. Saddle pads with sheepskin should be either handwashed or washed on a gentle cycle using warm or cold water and a wool wash then left to dry in the shade.
Western pads can be washed using a curry comb, some soap/detergent (depending on the material) and a hose
Why washing your saddle cloth is important
There are a few different reasons why you should regularly wash your saddle pads:
- It will extend the lifespan
- It will help keep your horse and tack cleaner
- Reduce the risk of bacteria or any type of scald on your horse (important not to share pads with other horses to also reduced this risk)
- A clean pad can help you determine whether you have any saddle fit issues (uneven sweat patches, ruffled hair etc that can be signs of an ill fitting saddle)
You can find our range of saddle cloths and correction pads here.