5 Types of Western Saddle Pads [Most Common & What You Need]

There are several different types of western saddle pads to suit your horse, saddle, and personal preference.

Not only does this include the shape but also the material. In a study carried out by Dr. Joyce Harmon, D.V.M it was found that felt (compressed wool) provides the best heat control, whisking, and pressure protection. (1)

I’m here to help you choose the most suitable one.

There are several western saddle blankets to choose from:

  • Standard
  • Contoured
  • Round
  • Cutback
  • Cutout

CHECK: Best Western Gel Saddle Pad

5 Types of Western Horse Saddle Pads

I’ve listed the most common types of western saddle pads here.

1. Standard

These are mostly rectangular in shape, with the occasional square cut. This will be the best fit if your saddle is square-skirted.

They are a good fit if your horses have regular withers. They are also used for a wide range of sports involving horses. Most riders will have one of these in their tack room as they are the most versatile.

Another name for this style is a straight saddle pad. They not only suit horses with ‘regular’ backs but also those that have wide flat backs or mutton withers.

2. Contoured

Contoured saddle pads are cut in a way to provide more wither space. You will notice instead of a straight front, there is a higher section.

This is so that the pad fits a horse with high withers comfortably instead of putting too much pressure on them, which can happen with a standard pad.

Here is an example of a fantastic contoured pad that incorporates the best materials.

3. Round

This type of saddle pad comes with round edges, as the name says. They are a great option for horses that have short backs.

Another reason why many like this shape is that it has less material, which can help keep your horse cooler.

However, they might not suit all types of western saddles and are best for those with round skirts.

4. Cutback

Cutback saddle pads go best with horses that have an uncharacteristically high wither.

The name comes from a section on the front of the padding that is literally cut back. It will look a like a U-shaped gap in the pad in the wither area.

This shape removes pressure on the withers, providing full relief in this area. 

5. Cutout

Although this might sound similar to cutback pads, it is not the same.

Cutout saddle pads are similar to the cutback variety because they also have a section at the front that is removed. However, the pad is not completely disconnected from the front.

They resemble a crater in the middle of the pad, which is also meant to help reduce pressure on the withers.

Both cutout and cutback saddle pads provide more wither relief than contour pads.

You may also want to check out my article on the “best anatomical dressage girth” to find the perfect girth for your horse.

What Are Saddle Pads Made Of?

Saddle pads vary just like the saddles, the horses, and the riders themselves! For instance, English saddle pads are meant only for…you guessed it, English saddles!

leather saddle on top of a red saddle pad

Their makeup varies from synthetic materials to traditional saddle pad materials like felt. 


Felt is composed of breathable material made of compressed wool. It is one of the best materials for letting heat escape and wicking moisture away from the skin.

It is one of the most popular materials used, and you will find all types of western saddles pad made with it.

Sometimes, even if the core material for the pads differs, for instance, a foam core, manufacturers will usually include at least one layer of felt.

The only problem with felt-based padding is that they are high maintenance. They can be difficult to clean, but high-quality wool felt blankets will last you years if well minded.


Wool pads are also another popular choice among riders. The natural fleece material will offer an organic and comfortable ride for your horse.

Natural wool is excellent at disturbing pressure evenly and absorbing it. It helps pull heat away from the skin and is fantastic at moisture control.


Neoprene pads, although only recently used by those who prefer western horse saddles, are still a popular choice.

Unlike felt and wool, this is a completely synthetic material. However, because neoprene pads are liquid-resistant, they are terrible at absorbing sweat and can trap heat.

It is a good shock absorber, especially for tough rides. In addition to this, they are good at controlling saddle slippage.

Memory Foam

I admit I’d sometimes prefer my memory foam mattress to ride a horse, especially after a particularly gruelling session that has left me aching all over, but this is one of the superior cushioning choices on this list.

The name is self-explanatory, but if you want a saddle pad that can adhere to a variety of shapes, the memory foam pads are an excellent choice.

They also prevent the saddle from slipping as you ride. Manufacturers often cover this type of western saddle padding with all the other varieties of materials on the list.

In the end, however, you can pick whatever one of these affordable options appeals to you, according to a variety of riding styles.

Here’s a helpful video on why selecting the correct saddle pad matters:

Let’s take a look at why you need to use saddle pads.

Why Do I Need A Saddle Pad?

Saddle pads not only protect your saddle from dirt and sweat, but they also provide your horse with comfort, particularly some of today’s ‘high-tech’ designs.

horse wearing saddle pads that have zero horse air on it

One of their functions is to prevent any friction from hurting the horse’s skin. 

Moreover, you have to consider your horse’s anatomy. You need to check if you have a mutton wither horse, a high-withered horse, or a horse with normal withers. (2)

The pads you use should contribute to withering relief, especially for horses with prominent ones. However, regardless of wither shape, the pad should not be tight across them, creating excess pressure.

Another reason to use one is to help with shock absorption. Padding will not just absorb some of the shocks but can also help with minor saddle fit issues.

However, don’t substitute padding for poorly fitting saddles, as this can be damaging your horse’s back. Also, more isn’t necessarily better.

Too much padding can make the saddle fit too tight and increase pressure.

Make sure to check our list of the best saddle pad brands.


1. How thick should my western saddle pad be?

a horse with western saddle pad on it

Western saddle pads should be 1/2 to 1 inch thick with 1 to 2 inches of excess length to the front and back of the pad with the saddle one.

2. How much space should be between withers and saddles?

You need to leave around 2-3 fingers worth of space between the saddle’s gullet and the wither’s top.

3. How do you tell if a western saddle fits a horse?

The saddle should snugly (but not tightly) fit on the back of your horse. When placed with no pad, it should not slide up and down from the front to back on your horse. It is always best to get saddles checked for fit by an expert.


I hope to have helped you choose between the different types of western saddle pads.

Riding styles, different types of saddle pads, and materials will all impact the quality of your ride.

Hopefully, you’ll find the right fit!

western saddle pad and saddle


1. Uldpads | Saddle Up Well [Internet]. www.saddleupwell.com. [cited 2022 Nov 14]. Available from: https://www.saddleupwell.com/kategori/uldpads

2. Kavallerie. A Comprehensive Guide To Horse Withers And Problems [Internet]. Kavallerie. [cited 2022 Nov 14]. Available from: https://mykavallerie.com/blogs/equestrians-corner/a-comprehensive-guide-to-horse-withers-and-pr

Siun L
Siun L

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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