Saddle Pads- Why are they so important?

Saddle Pads are often the pièce de résistance to our matchy-matchy sets, and having a saddle pad addiction, well that is just all a part of the horse-riding game! Saddle pads come in all different colours, sizes, cuts, and designs but beyond the aesthetics, how important are they to our horse and what do they really do?

Types of Saddle pads

There is an ever-growing world of saddle pads, but strip back all the colours and sparkles, and we can group them into 5 main groups, based on their shape or cut

  • Dressage- These pads are almost square in shape, with a straight front and back edge that has a deep drop to ensure it covers the length of a dressage saddles’ saddle flap.

  • All-Purpose- These pads are shorter in-depth than a dressage pad, with a straight back edge, but a front edge that is curved. This provides the pad with more surface area to match the shape of an all-purpose saddle, which has a slightly forward-set saddle flap.

  • Jump- These saddle pads are narrow and compact in-depth, often with a slightly shorter length across the back than seen in a dressage or all-purpose pad. Like the all-purpose pad, they have a front edge that is curved, but more severely, to accommodate for a jump saddles’ forward set saddle flap.
  • Stock/Western- These pads are designed to cater to both the weight and size of larger skirted saddles, such as fenders. They are often made from pure wool to provide extra thickness and padding.

  • Numnahs- This little group has a fair bit of variety, as they include half pads, that may be used individually or in conjunction with a saddle pad, and somewhat follow the Dressage/All-purpose/Jump cuts. Or they may be made custom to the saddle, to cover the exact area of the panels and flaps, with minimal visibility beyond these boundaries (often used in showing). They may be foam, gel, fleece, or sheepskin materials.

Each of these 5 groups then offers different sizes within, from Mini to Full which involves taking the saddle pads shape and scaling length and depth appropriately. Additionally for the Dressage, All-Purpose and Jump styles, are options for various materials, which can make for different thicknesses. For example, styles may range from thin plain cotton to wool or fleece underlays.

What is the purpose of my Saddle Pad?

The role of the saddle pad is ultimately to provide comfort for your horse. They achieve this in several ways…

  • They make your saddle more comfortable for your horse
  • Saddle Pads draw heat and moisture away from horses’ back
  • Distribute pressure more evenly over your horse’s back
  • Can improve saddle fit (some varieties of saddle pads even come with shimming pockets which saddle fitters may add shims within to correct fits)
  • Reduce friction between the saddle and your horses’ skin
  • Protect saddle from sweat and dirt

Cleaning and Care of your Saddle Pads

Keeping your saddle pad clean is very important not just to look good but also for your horse’s health. Saddle pads accumulate a lot of sweat, dirt, and hair and if not cleaned they can become very hard and stiff, this will irritate your horse’s back and, even worse, lead to saddle sores and possible skin infections.

Caring for your saddle pad is important not just to help stop the spread of bacteria but it will also help them last longer as all of that dirt and sweat can make them wear out more quickly!

  • Brush off any dirt and hair after use with a firm brush
  • Shake out any dust
  • Hand or machine wash depending on what fabric your saddle pad is made from (follow manufacturer’s instructions, special detergents are often available for fleeces/wools)
  • Hang them out in the fresh air to dry
  • Keep in a dry clean environment

Written by Selena P.


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