Saddle pads are a necessary tack item, but many riders give them little thought.
However, saddle pads provide a lot of protection for your horse’s back and extend the life of your saddle. Choosing the right pad will depend on many elements, including your discipline, horse’s back shape, musculature, competition needs, and personal preference. In addition, you’ll want to find a durable, easily washed pad that will hold up over time.
If you are in the market for a new saddle pad, or two, take a moment to figure out the best saddle pad match for you, your horse, and your saddle.
Picking the Right Saddle Pad Shape and Style
It is essential to consider the musculature and contours of your horse’s back and match them with the pad. This helps to ensure the pad won’t move while riding and that no additional pressure is applied to the horse’s spine or withers.
Saddle pads work to enlarge the saddle’s contact area and, when well-fitted, can alleviate pressure points. There are three basic styles of saddle pads in English riding: shaped, square, and half-pads.
If you are riding competitively, check your discipline’s rules for saddle pads. Most Dressage riders prefer square pads, while Hunters and Jumpers prefer shaped pads. Both disciplines commonly use half-pads to provide additional support where needed.
Saddle Pad Material
Saddle pads come in various materials, and the “right” choice often falls under personal preference for the horse and rider. Natural fleece and cotton have superior wicking materials if you live in a hotter climate or ride extensively during summer. Cotton is an excellent budget-friendly material and often holds up well to daily use. You’ll sometimes see wool pads available, and while these are very durable, they will be a higher initial investment—and sometimes, a challenge to clean.
Saddle pads are filled with foam, gel, or polyester material. These fillers provide additional cushioning and shock absorption while riding. Polyester is the most common filler and is the thinnest option for riders. Gel pads are a great way to provide shock absorption, but keep in mind the gel will move away from pressure points, so a second pad is almost always needed. Foam is a very stable filler option and tends to be thicker than polyester.
Far-infrared emitting minerals can be added to your pad to give additional support and provide therapeutic properties. The combined power of far-infrared technology emits rays to keep your horse’s back muscles warm and relaxed during a workout. This is ideal for “cold-backed” horses or horses who tend to get sore after a workout.
If your saddle fits well, make sure to recheck the fit after placing the saddle pad under the saddle. Thick or ill-fitting saddle pads can change how the saddle fits on the horse’s back.
Saddle Pads for Unique Backs
One common challenge with saddle pads is fitting unique contours, such as high-withered or mutton-withered horses. High-withered horses generally need a cut-back saddle pad (meaning the front of the saddle pad has a cut out to give wither clearance) or a prominent upward curve towards the front of the pad to accommodate the higher area.
Mutton-withered horses often benefit from flatter saddle pads with less contouring. Keepers are also beneficial here as they help stabilize the saddle pad and prevent movement.
If your horse has unique contouring, you can also look for specialty pads designed and marketed for these issues.
NEW Benefab® Saddle Pads
As with all of our products here at Benefab®, these two pads are loaded with benefits:
Keep in mind our website offers the benefit of installment payments using ShopPay for purchases over $50.