Find the Best Equestrian Saddle Pad for Your Horse.

Find the Best Equestrian Saddle Pad for Your Horse.


What to look for when buying a saddle pad?

How to Buy a Saddle Pad As a rider, you probably know that a comfortable, well-fitting saddle pad is essential to your horse's comfort and overall health. Knowing how important they are, though, can make them particularly hard to buy, because there are so many choices available. 

Wanting to make the best choice for your animal, it's often hard to sift through all the information out there to choose the pad that will help your horse, and therefore your riding, the most.

Initial Considerations - You and Your Horse.

When buying a saddle pad, the first thing to consider is what type of riding you will be doing. English saddle pads are usually white and cut to be just larger than the outline of the saddle itself, and any special inserts are hidden inside this larger pad. 

Western saddle pads, on the other hand, are usually square and are often decorated with colorful material, a farm's brand, or some other sort of addition to make them stand out.

Before you buy a pad, you will also want to think about how much riding you plan to do. In general, the more you ride, the more cushioning your horse will need between your weight on the saddle and his back.

While there are other things that factor into which type of pad you should buy, this general rule has saved many horses and riders from weeks of the pain, suffering, and frustration that can occur when rehabilitating an animal who has had a back injury.

The shape of the horse is also an important factor when considering which pad to purchase. A horse with a swayed back will need more padding at the back than the front. A horse with low withers, on the other hand, may need more padding in front to protect this sensitive area. If you have questions, check with your veterinarian before you purchase a anything, to ensure you're getting something that fits your horse's body.

Saddle Pad Materials.

One can be made of all sorts of different kinds of materials. Usually, there is some sort of soft fabric on the outside, to make it comfortable for the horse. In addition, the part up against the leather of the saddle is usually non-abrasive as well, so it doesn't damage the leather.

Fleece is a common material in both the English and Western styles. Synthetic fleece usually makes up the cheapest pads, because it is common and easy to come by, and it generally lasts quite a long time. 

A real fleece pad can also be nice, as it is more absorbent than the synthetic kind and has slightly more cushion, but it will break down quicker than the synthetic, too. The fleece is usually white and so looks nice and crisp on the horse.

Felt is another common material used in the construction of the saddle pad. It's more common among Western riders than English. Because felt is basically several layers of compressed wool, it has moisture wicking properties, even beyond those of real fleece. 

It also absorbs shock well, so it can be used under a saddle that rubs just a little or has other minor points of irritation for the horse.

A cotton version is more common under an English saddle. They are usually quilted, and have a clean look. However, they do not absorb either moisture or shock very well, and so are usually used in combination with some other kind of saddle pad

Cotton is nice because it is relatively cool for the horse, so can be good in hot summers or when you're going a long distance and don't want to risk overheating your animal.

Foam saddle pads are becoming more and more common. These are made to mold to the horse's back, so he will specifically experience comfort where he needs it the most. 

Though these pads are very comfortable for the horse, they are not usually particularly absorbent. Thus, most riders who use them have fleece or felt covers for them to help with this issue. On the positive side, these pads can help keep your horse cool, as they allow for more airflow than other types.

Neoprene saddle pads are becoming more and more common. These are usually molded into a waffle pattern, so the horse can have good airflow to his back while maintaining the maximum shock absorbency. 

Because a neoprene saddle pad is waterproof, it can be great for trail rides where it will come into contact with a lot of sweat and maybe even some water. Many riders have fabric covers for these pads, as they can get quite sticky up against a saddle.

Gel inserts are common additions to the modern saddle pad. Many pads come with slots that close with either a zipper or a velcro flap, so you can slip different inserts inside of it and make them invisible. These gel inserts are similar to the gel inserts that go in some shoes. 

They are made specifically to cool and enhance shock absorbency. If your horse struggles particularly with back problems, your vet might recommend these inserts to make him more comfortable. You can use them with any other material, though you may have to make slots if your pad doesn't already have them.

Saddle Pad Fitting and Maintenance.

Your saddle pads should fully cover the area of your horse's back where your saddle sits, and should have, at minimum, an inch of coverage all the way around in addition to that. Thus, it's important to try your saddle pad on your horse with your saddle on top of it, as each piece can influence the fit.

In addition, make sure your it does not rub your horse. It should stay tight to his skin and not slide back and forth in any way that might become uncomfortable over time. If you're unsure, put a piece of paper between the pad and your horse and see if it falls out or stays put.

Your saddle pad also should not slip. While many pads, especially fabric ones, are slightly slippery when you first purchase them, there should not be any danger of your saddle sliding around while you're riding. 

If you're having problems, first make sure that your girth is tight enough. If that doesn't fix things, you will probably need to purchase something that fits better.

Most saddle pads are easy to maintain so that they will last a long time. Spot clean your saddle pad regularly using a washcloth and water, with soap if necessary. Launder your pad at least once every two weeks. 

This cleans out sweat and keeps any irritants from harming your horse's skin. Make sure you use a detergent that does not bother your horse. Generally, your usual detergent will do, though some horses have allergies, just like people.

Finally, to give your saddle pad the best chance at having a long and useful life and continuing to maintain a smooth and easy ride for both you and your horse, brush it before and after each use. This will get rid anything that may irritate your horse's skin and will allow it to fully air out between uses.