With so many different types of saddle pads and materials in the market, it can become overwhelming to choose the one that suits you best.
For instance, did you know that traditionally natural materials like felt can actually be made 100% of synthetic materials, but also 100% of wool? (1)
This impacts your ride, which is why I’m here to guide you through the types of saddle pads and their materials.
Table of Contents
What Is A Saddle Pad?
Sometimes called a saddle blanket, the saddle pad is a piece of fabric that goes underneath a saddle to help the horse and rider and make the saddle fit better.
With a proper saddle pad, you can make an ill-fitting saddle seem like a well-fitting saddle. (2)
They come in a variety of materials, so you can choose between synthetic materials and natural materials according to your personal preferences.
There are so many choices to make, such as choosing between western saddle pads, English saddle pads, and some types that fit in between, which is what I’m here to help you with!
They also mean to cater to horses with prominent withers or normal wither definitions. Some come with wither pads to help make your horse happy with a more comfortable ride.
Check our review of the most popular saddle pads!
Watch this fun video about a rider’s insane saddle pad collection to see how much variety there is!
4 Types of Popular Saddle Pads
You can find different types of saddle pads suitable for the type of horse, the sport you play, and your riding style.
Most types of pads are meant to be used with materials that improve their efficiency. Here are some of the most common types.
- All-purpose Saddle Pads
- Western Saddle Pads
- English Saddle Pad
- Contour Saddle Pad
1. All-Purpose Saddle Pads
All-purpose saddle pads are meant for all-rounders, fit for almost any discipline. They usually come in square or rectangular shapes.
If you’re just starting out with selecting a saddle pad and are potentially short on time or too confused to pick one, you can start off with an all-purpose pad.
They are not too expensive compared to the others on this list. You’ll usually come across polyester and cotton combinations in terms of material. Occasionally, you might find one with moisture-wicking fabric.
This would make your horse riding experience easier, especially in the summer.
The fun part about all-purpose pads is that they come in so many colors that you can start a collection if you’d like! I know some people who decorate theirs to show off their horses!
They offer more than just color. Some of them have girth and billet straps to help make sure your saddle does not slip away.
You can also find extra supportive gel and foamy pads in this category.
2. Western Saddle Pads
Using this kind of pad automatically entails a thicker saddle pad because of its design since the seating area of the western saddle pad does not contain padding.
This type of pad would usually point to the use of sheepskin fibers or sheepskin pads in terms of material. Some use natural fleece liners and memory foam to help with shock absorption.
They are rather large and look like rectangles. Although they’re meant to be used only with western saddles, they can fit underneath the saddle skirts of endurance riders.
But an English saddle would be a poor-fitting saddle choice for such a pad.
Check our separate guide about the different types of western saddle pads.
3. English Saddle Pads
There are quite a few different types of English saddle pads, including but not limited to square, contoured, and specialty pads.
As the name goes, these fit best with English saddles.
The square padding is meant to alleviate excessive friction, which is usually a consequence of the saddle itself.
Specialty pads can be custom-made to fit your horse’s needs. For instance, they can be used for horses with high withers and help with sore spots.
They can also add comfort for your horse if the natural symmetry of your saddle makes it a poor-fitting saddle.
Many of the English varieties are meant to fit the natural shape of the saddle. This is especially true for shaped pads, which are meant for most English riding disciplines.
But when it comes to dressage, a longer saddle pad is needed because of the longer saddle flaps.
Most of the shaped pads are also called “numnah.” English pads are also directed toward keeping the saddle clean, besides helping the rider maintain balance.
Some English varieties include no-slip pads, sheepskin pads, wither back pads, and correction pads.
4. Contour Saddle Pads
Contour saddle pads usually remain underneath your saddle, with only a selective amount of fabric visible under the saddle skirt. This is because they’re meant to fit the saddle as well as a pad possibly can.
Most users prefer to use them for everyday practice or horse training, including frequent jumping.
They are usually lined with fleece, but you can choose any saddle pad material you want. You can choose between cotton, fleece, or any other materials.
These materials make sense because this kind of pad is usually meant for the summer.
Check out this great video:
Don’t forget to check out the insightful article on “Saddle Pad Mistakes” for some useful tips and tricks to ensure your horse is comfortable and happy. Happy riding!
1. Is a thicker saddle pad better?
Yes. A thicker saddle pad offers more support to the saddle and keeps the horse’s skin from chafing due to friction.
They can also decrease the pressure the saddle exerts on the horse’s back through proper pressure distribution.
2. What saddle pad keeps a horse the coolest?
Wool or gel-lined pads keep your horse cool in hot weather.
For instance, neoprene doesn’t work as well if you want to achieve a cooling effect. Some synthetic saddle pads also heat up more.
3. Does it matter what saddle pad you use?
Yes, it does. The saddle pad and saddle must be compatible for the best riding experience.
There are a plethora of saddles and materials to choose from, depending on your riding style, your horse’s withers, and your sport of choice.
Now you can pick the best between the different types of saddle pads. Let me know which saddle pads you prefer in the comments and why!
1. Saddle Pads | Pink Equine [Internet]. Pink Equine. [cited 2022 Nov 30]. Available from: https://www.pinkequine.com/saddle-pads/
2. Dyson S, Carson S, Fisher M. Saddle fitting, recognising an ill-fitting saddle and the consequences of an ill-fitting saddle to horse and rider. Equine Veterinary Education. 2015;27:533–43.
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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