Choosing a saddle pad is more than just choosing a decoration for your horse. At their most basic level, saddle pads help to protect your expensive saddle from dirt and horse sweat. New designs can also protect your horse’s back, or help to correct the fit of a saddle, which can make a real difference in your ride. With so many choices, it can be difficult to find the right saddle pad for you and your horse.
Type of Saddle
One of the first things that you’ll want to consider is the type of saddle that you own. All purpose pads will fit most jumping and close contact saddles in addition to all purpose saddles. However, if you have a dressage saddle you’ll need to purchase a saddle pad designed for that type of saddle due to the longer, straight flap shape. Saddles with a more forward flap, such as cross-country saddles, will also need a specialized saddle pad shape.
If you show, you’ll also want to consider the traditions and rules of the discipline. Show hunters typically use a closely fitted, shaped fleece pad, while dressage requires a square pad in a conservative color, generally white or black. The Ovation Europa Corona Shaped Pad features genuine sheepskin with a cotton quilted pad in the saddle area to promote a close contact feel. The Horze River Dressage Saddle Pad features a cotton quilt square pad style with trim and piping for custom look.
Saddle pads are available in a variety of materials, ranging from traditional genuine sheepskin to technical and moisture-management fabrics.
One of the most popular fabrics for schooling and square saddle pads is cotton, or a cotton blend. This material is lightweight, available in a variety of colors and, perhaps most importantly, is machine washable. Synthetic fleece is a popular choice for contoured pads as it is machine washable and more economical than sheepskin. If you want luxurious comfort and style, genuine sheepskin is a great option and provides some impact protection for the horse’s back. Unfortunately, sheepskin is more difficult to wash, requiring special soap, and it may require hand washing. Technical fabrics are also becoming a popular choice for saddle pads and include temperature control, anti-slip/friction, and moisture control. The ThinLine Back on Track Contender II Saddle Pad combines the innovative ceramic fabric of Back on Track with the impact and shock protection of ThinLine for a truly comfortable ride.
Fit and Protection
Saddle pads can also be used to improve the fit of your saddle or help to protect your horse’s back during exercise. Fit adjustments can be designed to help specific conformation faults, such as a lift back pad to compensate for a sway back, or they can be adjustable to relieve temporary conditions. Shims are typically used to compensate for temporary ailments or to make minute adjustments, and are used in conjunction with a pad that has special pockets. A qualified saddle fitter can help you to choose which type of fit adjustment pad is best for you and your horse. The Mattes Dressage Square Correction Saddle Pad with Pockets for Shims combines the comfort of Sheepskin with a cotton square pad for a traditional look with an adjustable fit through the shims.
If your horse is in hard work, or you just want a little more comfort for him, impact protection pads are a great choice. Protection is generally provided by an insert within the saddle pad of a technical material. Depending on the material used, these can help to distribute Popular styles of inserts include ThinLine, Matrix BioKinetic Inserts, gel and memory foam.
Color and Style
Of course, no matter what type of saddle pad you choose, you’ll want something that looks good. Coordinate with your riding outfit, show off your stable or cross-country colors, or just have some fun. Saddle pads come in a rainbow of color choices and are available with a variety of binding and trim options from cute designs perfect for the young pony rider, like the Equine Couture Pony Girl Saddle Pad, to elegant colors and trims perfect for dressage rides like the Horze Double Cord Dressage Saddle Pad.