Saddle Pad Fails: Top 3 Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Horse!

Giddy up, fellow equestrians! Saddle pad mistakes can be a real pain in the withers for our trusty steeds, but fear not – we’re here to help.

As expert horse whisperers and tack aficionados, we’ll share some common blunders and their solutions so you and your four-legged friend can trot off into the sunset, happy as a horse in the hay.

Let’s saddle up, take the reins, and embark on a whimsical adventure to perfect your equine ensemble!

Key Takeaways 

  • The fit of  a pad is just as important as the saddle fit 
  • Pads can cause sores if they are not centered on a horse’s back
  • Remember to press the pad into the saddle gullet so it does not slip

3 Saddle Pad Errors To Avoid!

Mistake #1: Not Having a Proper Fitting Saddle Pad

Saddle pad fit is just as important as the fit of other pieces of tack. According to a study by Kotschwar and Pelham, a  pad drastically decreased the maximum overall force on a horse’s back (1)

A saddle pad should be at least 2 inches longer than the length of the saddle.

saddle pads

If a  pad does not fit correctly, it will put extra pressure on the withers and other parts of the back and cause sores. The binding of the pad causes the sores.

The binding is usually along the edge of the pad. The sores that develop with rubbing are painful for the horse, and if they get too deep, they will need time off from work.

Saddle pads should not have a straight cut because they will not follow the curves of the horse’s back and create pressure points. Pressure points develop into sores.

The saddles for each riding discipline have a different shape, meaning that they require unique pads. If the pad does not fit the saddle, it can slip and cause discomfort.

For example, because eventing saddles have a forward design, a forward-cut saddle pad is the best choice to suit them.

A well-fitting saddle pad helps ensure the horse’s comfort and distributes pressure evenly.”

– George H. Morris, legendary horseman and author of “Unrelenting: The Real Story: Horses, Bright Lights, and My Pursuit of Excellence.

How to Fit a Saddle Pad

a girl fitting a saddle pad on high wither horse

The first step to purchasing a saddle pad is to get the measurements of your saddle so that it will fit inside.

The saddle measurements you need are the length of the saddle from front to back. All of the parts of the saddle that make contact with the horse’s back + 6 cm, and the drop of the saddle from the spine to the bottom of the flap + 6 cm.

If your saddle does not fit right, work with a professional saddle fitter to find the right size. Do not get a thicker saddle pad to compensate for an ill-fitting saddle.

Once you have the saddle measurements, you have to look at your horse’s topline to pick the right pad.

If you have a high-withered horse, they need a pad that has more curves in the front to accommodate them. The pad should match the shape of the spine.

To make sure a pad is a correct size, do the following:

  • Check if the pad can be pulled upwards at the wither area so they do not get pinched when the saddle presses on them
  • Make sure the seams are far enough away from the edges of the saddle to avoid rubbing
  • If the pad has fleece rolls, the saddle should sit between them

If you follow these tips and still cannot get the right size, consider getting the opinion of a saddle fitter or someone you know who has experience with saddle pads.

The saddle pad is essential for the well-being of the horse; it should be carefully chosen to avoid pressure points and to provide optimal shock absorption.”

– Dr. Hilary M. Clayton, renowned equine biomechanics expert and author of “Conditioning Sport Horses.

Here is a video that shows how to fit a saddle pad correctly:

Mistake #2: Placing the Saddle Pad Incorrectly on the Horse’s Back

Another common mistake is pad placement.  However, there is a proper way to place a pad to prevent bunching or slipping.

Ideally, the pad should sit above the spine and wither so that it does not restrict movement.

You want to leave at least 10 inches of space between the pad and the withers to protect them from the weight of the saddle.

The saddle pad should be centered so that it is neither too far forward nor back, as it will not provide adequate padding otherwise.

Here is a video showcasing the right way to place a pad

Mistake #3: Not Pushing the Saddle Pad into the Saddle Gullet

Many equestrians forget to press the pad into the gullet of the saddle once the saddle is on. The gullet is the space between the bottom of the saddle and your horse’s spine and withers.

Firmly pressing the pad into the gullet will prevent it from sliding or slipping as the horse moves and avoid putting excess pressure on the spine as the saddle pushes down.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to saddle pads; it’s essential to consider your horse’s individual conformation and your saddle’s design to achieve the best fit.”

– Charlotte Dujardin, Olympic gold medalist and author of “The Girl on the Dancing Horse: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.

Hey there fellow equestrians! Before you go, don’t forget to check out my other articles on types of English saddle pads, DIY saddle pad, and saddle pad cost. Happy riding!


What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a saddle pad?

Your horse’s body type (high withered, hollow-backed, etc.), saddle length, fit, saddle tree, riding discipline, and riding schedule.

Can I use the same saddle pad for all my horses?

You can only use the same pad for multiple horses if they have the same or similar body type. However, every horse has differences in their physique, so it is best to have correctly fitted pads for each horse.

How often should I replace my saddle pad?

Saddle pads should be replaced whenever they are torn or have other visible damage and wear. They can last for years as long as they are stored and maintained properly.

Can saddle pads cause soreness in my horse?

Saddle pads cause soreness when they do not fit properly and slip or place extra pressure on the spine and or wither.

Can I use a Western saddle pad on an English saddle and vice versa?

western saddle part, how to measure a western saddle gullet

This is not recommended because Western and English saddles have different shapes, and using the opposite pad will not provide enough cushioning.


As equestrians, we know that even small saddle pad mistakes can have a big impact on our equine companions. Ensuring proper fit, using the right materials, and regularly checking for wear and tear are essential steps to keep your horse comfortable and healthy.

Remember, communication with your four-legged friend is key! Pay attention to their body language and behavior, as they’ll often tell you if something is off. If you’re unsure, consult a professional to help you make the right choices for your horse’s needs.

Stay up-to-date with the latest equestrian trends and technologies, as innovations can lead to better performance and increased comfort for both horse and rider. And finally, don’t forget to share your newfound knowledge with fellow equestrians!

Now that we’ve galloped through the ins and outs of saddle pad mistakes, ask yourself: is there room for improvement in your tack setup to ensure a happier and healthier ride for your horse?

horse with western saddle and saddle pad


  1. 1. KOTSCHWAR AB, BALTACIS A, PEHAM C. The effects of different saddle pads on forces and pressure distribution beneath a fitting saddle. Equine Veterinary Journal. 2010;42:114–8.
Bryanna Tanase
Bryanna Tanase

Bryanna is a 23-year-old Florida-based Grade 1 Para-dressage rider based in Florida and she has been riding for 5 years. Horses are her passion and her ultimate goal is to be selected for the US Para-Equestrian Team and represent the US at the Paralympics. She rides at Quantum Leap Farm and Emerald M Therapeutic Riding Center and her equine partners are Shane, an American Paint Horse, and Cappy a Welsh x Thoroughbred. When she is not helping at the barn, riding, or training, she is learning about horses, writing articles about them, and using her social media platforms to raise awareness for therapeutic riding and para-equestrianism, shares her journey, and advocates for greater inclusion of para-equestrian in the media and equestrian sport at large.
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