Saddle Pad: 9 Things You Should Know (Read This First!)

Saddle pads are essential in ensuring the safety and comfortability not only of your horse’s back, rather its whole well being which can affect its performance.

But finding the most appropriate saddle pads can be a daunting task as there are lots of choices in the market. These choices have stunning materials, shapes, colors, and features which even trouble you from making a decision. 

So, what are the basic things that you need to know about saddle pads?

Can You Ride Without A Saddle Pad?

Yes, it is possible to ride without a saddle pad, but it depends on the saddle. As recommended by experts, you do not necessarily need to use pads for English saddles, but you definitely need one for Western saddles.

Saddle pads are primarily used to give a thin cushioning between the saddle and the back of the horse.

They act as a protector of your horse’s back against any friction or pressure from the saddle. Saddles are directly rubbing on your equine’s coat and skin that can cause soreness or even serious injuries.

It also absorbs the horse’s sweat and keeps dirt away to protect saddles.

Some might think that riding bareback would be better than using saddles and saddle pads. Just like what was being done in the earlier times when people can just ride freely without thinking of any other equine equipment.

However, we also consider the fact that horses have diverse activities today that need some specialized gears to fully protect them.

As for riding without a saddle pad, you can do so if you are using English saddles. A perfectly fit English saddle does not really need a pad since it is tailored to provide comfort and stability on its own.

If you prefer using pads on this kind of saddle, you can do so, of course. It is then suggested to get only the thin ones that fit seamlessly under the saddle’s panels.

However, it is a different story for Western saddles. These saddles are tailored to use cushioning under their surface to shield the horse’s back from possible painful frictions.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Saddle Pad?

You can use blankets that are made of real fleece, cotton, or wool instead of a saddle pad.

You might be thinking if you can use other materials as an alternative for a saddle pad. Well, yes you can!

During the earlier times, riders were not using saddle pads at all. By the time they realized they needed something under their saddles, they only utilized basic cotton or wool pads. These were beneficial in preventing sweat and dirt under the saddle.

Today, modern saddle pads serve the same benefits. Yet, they became more sophisticated and innovative.

As a replacement for saddle pads, you can put blankets under your saddles. The blankets must be made of fleece, cotton, or wool which are similar materials used in saddle pads.

You need to fit the blanket first to make sure that it will be a perfect substitute for saddle pads. Perhaps, you can use two single-layer blankets to achieve the appropriate thickness that you need.

You can use these substitute blankets during simple rides.

It is still best recommended to use the right saddle pads if you are to do extreme activities. The fit and comfort of real saddle pads cannot be wholly fulfilled by the substitutes.

Can A Saddle Pad Be Too Big?

No. A saddle pad cannot be too big for the horse and the saddle as it can deter movements.

Just like saddles, saddle pads come in various shades, sizes, designs, and purposes too. And these factors can trouble you regarding which to pick as you consider the overall safety and comfort of you and your horse.

Choosing the right size is one of the crucial decisions as standard sizes might not actually fit on your horse just like others due to its physique.

You might worry if the saddle pad is too small or too big so you need to decide accurately about the measurement. If not properly fit on the horse’s back, injuries might happen.

Based on the standard rule, it is recommended that your pad is 3 inches long from your saddle, both front and back. These allowances are important to ensure exact coverage and free motion.

You should be able to fit your fingers between the pad and horse’s wither.

A saddle pad must just be wide enough to cover the saddle to ensure your horse’s back will be protected against any kind of tension. If it is too big, it might rub over your horse’s hips.

How Do You Stop A Saddle From Slipping When Mounting?

To stop the saddle from slipping as you mount, you should first check the girth and ensure it is tightened tightly. You can also use an elevated surface as you mount, not from the ground, to lessen the impact of your weight that can pull down the saddle.

You might experience having a hard time mounting on your horse. Worst, your saddle might even slip as you try to climb which makes it even challenging.

One of the reasons why the saddle is slipping is its improper fitting and girth tightness.

Some girth might be loose that they are not tightened enough to support the saddle in place. Before you ride on your horse, make sure to put the saddle properly; check if all the straps are secured.

Another reason is the weight of the rider. If the rider attempting to ride on a horse is heavy, there is a possibility that the saddle might slide due to the pressure caused by the weight.

If you are quite heavy, it is recommended not to mount from the ground. It would be best to use an elevated surface like a block or fence so you can be taller. This will help you step onto the horse instead of climbing using the stirrup that may glide the saddle.

Will A Breastplate Stop My Saddle From Slipping?

Yes. A breastplate will stop your saddle from slipping with the help of its straps that will be put around your horse.

A breastplate is also known as an English breastplate or hunting breastplate.

You can commonly see this equipment in the hunt field, cross country phase of eventing, and even in jumping competitions.

A breastplate is made with the major purpose of stopping a saddle from slipping, either backward or sideways. It could be made of leather or even of synthetic materials.

There are three-point breastplates and five-point breastplates. These breastplates have straps that will be fastened around the body of horses and shall be hooked on the saddles.

What Does A/P Mean In Saddle Pads?

A/P in saddle pads means “all-purpose”. All-purpose saddle pads are specifically tailored to fit under all-purpose saddles.

If you are a new horse owner, it is just natural not to be familiar with all the terms that you will encounter in the equine industry at first.

Perhaps, one of these unfamiliar jargons that bother you is “A/P” when it comes to saddle pads.

A/P simply means “all-purpose”. All-purpose saddle pads are particularly crafted to go along with all-purpose saddles.

These pads are designed quite differently from others as they are created to be larger and moderately curved at the end.

This is because all-purpose saddles are a combination of dressage and close-contact saddles, thus, some modifications are needed.

A/P saddle pads can be formed of various materials like cotton or fleece.

As its name implies, all-purpose saddle pads are ideal in various activities from training, to competitions, or even just for a typical, stress-free ride with your horse.

What Is A Close Contact Saddle Pad?

A close-contact saddle pad is made primarily for close-contact saddles. Conveniently, it can fit under all-purpose saddles and jumping saddles as well.

There are lots of saddle pad designs in the market that you can choose from based on your needs.

One of the common ones is the close-contact saddle pad. From the term itself, a close-contact saddle pad is crafted to support close-contact saddles.

It can be made of cotton, fleece, CoolMax, or even a combination. With these materials, close-contact saddle pads can be contoured easily for perfect fitting.

These pads are designed to be versatile enough that they can even fit other saddles such as jumping saddles and all-purpose saddles.

Close-contact saddle pads are cut in a way that allows comfortable and secure fitting to various activities. These also help in maintaining the dry surface of saddles by pulling away sweat or moisture from the horse’s body.

How Many Saddle Pads Do You Need?

The number of saddle pads that you need to have depends on the activities that you do and how often you do them.

If you are a new horse owner, you might wonder how many saddle pads do you actually need?

Well, it depends on the activities that you are doing and how regularly you ride on your horse.

Basically, you will have 1 to 3 pads for your daily rides or training.

You may have other pads specifically fitted for your various saddles such as for jumping as well.

If you are joining competitions, you might have special saddle pads which you will only use for these special events.

Some saddle pads are tailored for specific saddle pads only and not so versatile to be used for other purposes.

With all the different brands and models in the market, which saddle pads are the most popular?

Below is the list of the 10 best-recognized saddle pads (not in order) that are known for their comfortability, pressure points mitigation, innovative design, and airflow benefits.

  1. TuffRider Basic – $17
  2. Roma Circle Quilt Pads – $34 to $52
  3. Derby Originals English – $42
  4. ECP Equine Comfort – $55
  5. Kavallerie Gel Pad – $79
  6. Weaver Leather Contoured Wool Blend – $ 90
  7. Southwestern Equine: The Montana – $119
  8. Kavallerie Maximum Airflow – $130
  9. OrthoRide Correction – $160
  10. NRS 5 Star Natural – $299


Kentucky Equine Research. (2017, December 7). Bareback riding: Is it comfortable for your horse?

Blocksdorf, K. (2020, January 17). Learn what a girth is and why it’s important on a saddle. The Spruce Pets.

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