Updated October 22, 2018 by Melissa Harr

The 10 Best Saddle Pads

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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. If you are going to burden your horse with your weight atop it, the least you can do is make it a touch more comfortable when you do so. These saddle pads are designed to eliminate chafing against bare skin, alleviate some pressure points, and allow for cooling airflow. Just be sure to start with a well-fitting saddle in the first place. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best saddle pad on Amazon.

10. Shires Airflow Non-Slip

9. Weaver Leather All Purpose Contoured

8. Roma F.C. Circle Quilt

7. The Montana

6. Kavallerie Gel Pad

5. OrthoRide Correction

4. ECP All Purpose

3. Vast Horse Cover

2. TuffRider Basic

1. 5 Star Equine Square Roper

The Evolution Of Saddle Pads

When horses were first domesticated, the saddle blanket was the only equipment placed on a horse's back to protect the rider.

When horses were first domesticated, the saddle blanket was the only equipment placed on a horse's back to protect the rider. As the role of the horse shifted from a work animal to a high-performance athlete, the need for better riding equipment was inevitable. Thus, the development of saddle pads.

Over the years, with modern medical technology and expertise influencing their design and fabrication, saddle pads evolved in function and form. Aside from absorbing sweat and keeping the saddle dry, their function is to reduce the concussive forces acting on the horse’s and rider’s respective spines. They are also used to modify the saddle’s fit on the horse. Modern saddle pads can even provide an element of fashion.

The Different Types Of Saddle Pads

The fundamental function of saddle pads is to provide cushioning under the saddle, distributing and lessening impact between the spines of the horse and the rider. Saddle pads are typically made of a durable and washable fabric blend, such as cotton with polyester fibers that are quilted over a thin layer of poly fill. Saddle pads can offer much more functionality, though, depending on the materials used and some specific design features.

Generally, the most common classifications of saddle pads are Western and English. The difference between these two is that they are built to slip underneath their respective types of saddle.

Western saddles are larger and heavier than English saddles. They are designed to spread the weight of the rider over a larger area of the horses back. Western pads are built like blankets, square-shaped or rectangular, and made from wool or similar material.

Gel pads help distribute weight more evenly along your horse’s back to relieve pressure points.

English saddles are designed to give the rider a closer feel of the back of the horse. While they are lighter and smaller, English saddle pads are generally a bit thicker and more padded than their Western counterparts. They come in different shapes, ranging from oval styles to more fitted. Some pads closely resemble the shape of your horse’s back.

There are several other types of saddle pads, including the dressage, which is essentially rectangular in shape with a long drop at the sides. This length is set to accommodate the long straight flaps of a dressage saddle.

Another type of saddle pad is the jumping saddle pad, which is good for general everyday use and commonly used for that particular discipline. For extra shock absorption when they land, jumpers need a good quality saddle pad. These saddle pads are often made of fiber or foam.

Half saddle pads, inserted over the top of regular saddle pads, are utilized for the purpose of added support and protection. These pads are used to fit more closely to the contours of your horse’s back and to the shape of the saddle. Half saddle pads come in different types of materials. Some of the most common materials used are sheepskin, memory foam, gel, and high density foam. Sheepskin is the thickest material and high density foams are the thinnest.

The gel pad is also one variety of saddle pad. Basically, they are half pads that are placed over a regular saddle pad. They come with front and rear risers for support in a particular area of your horse’s back. You may use it on a horse that has a tender back. These horses may be recovering from an injury or simply need a bit more support. They are intended to help or prevent sore backs. Gel pads help distribute weight more evenly along your horse’s back to relieve pressure points. They are also used to absorb the impact of rider activity.

Another variety is the numnahs. Whereas a saddle pad is usually rectangular, a numnah is more saddle shaped. The edges are visible when the saddle is in place because numnahs are usually slightly larger than the saddle. Also, they are used for two main reasons – to protect your horse’s back and to protect your valuable saddle from dirt and sweat.

How To Choose The Right Saddle Pads

Saddle pads come in a variety of colors and materials that can make it a bit difficult for you to choose the right one for your particular horse. You may choose pads that look aesthetically pleasing on your horses, but saddle pads are much more than just fashion accessories.

Most consumers purchase these types of pads to cater to their specific purpose or need.

When a horse is being ridden in a saddle that does not fit well, it will ultimately show a basic set of symptoms including soreness along the spine. To provide comfort and protection for your horse’s back, the saddle pad’s closeness and fit are important components that should be considered. Remember that, aside from providing closeness to your horse, a saddle pad should also offer weight distribution and shock absorbency. It should also absorb excess moisture while retaining airflow.

Custom-designed saddle pads are also available in the market. Most consumers purchase these types of pads to cater to their specific purpose or need. Specially designed pads are used to lessen the effects of sore spots or high withers. These problems occur when the fit of your saddle is not perfect or if you have challenges with your horse’s back. The type of saddle pad you should choose depends on function and on your riding discipline.

It is also very important to know how to get the correct size of a saddle pad to ensure you get the best fit for your horse. To determine the size of the saddle pad, you should match the pad to both the seat size and the type of saddle. To do this, measure the distance from one of the screw heads on the pommel side to the middle of the cantle.

If your saddle fits well, you may only need a simple pad, such as the dressage saddle pad. But if you add too much bulk with saddle padding, it can cause the saddle to become ill-fitting. As a result, pressure points will appear on your horse’s back, so be sure to choose your saddle pad wisely. Always consider its functionality and purpose.

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Melissa Harr
Last updated on October 22, 2018 by Melissa Harr

Melissa Harr is a language-obsessed writer from Chicagoland who holds both a bachelor of arts and master of arts in English. Although she began as a TEFL teacher, earning several teaching certificates and working in both Russia and Vietnam, she moved into freelance writing to satisfy her passion for the written word. She has published full-length courses and books in the realm of arts & crafts and DIY; in fact, most of her non-working time is spent knitting, cleaning, or committing acts of home improvement. Along with an extensive knowledge of tools, home goods, and crafts and organizational supplies, she has ample experience (okay, an obsession) with travel gear, luggage, and the electronics that make modern life more convenient.


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