While there's a lot of information available about how to pick the right Western saddle or English saddle for your horse, saddle pads typically don't receive the same amount of attention. As it turns out, choosing the right saddle pad can be just as important as picking out the right saddle. This part of your tack plays an important role in your comfort and safety as a rider while also directly impacting your horse's experience when you ride. Learn more about how a saddle pad should fit to help make sure you select the best one for your needs.
General Saddle Pad Sizing Tips
When you're looking to find the right saddle pad, whether it's for Western or English horse tack, it helps to keep the follow rules in mind:
- The pad should extend above two to three inches farther than the saddle. Too much more will be excess bulk, and a pad that's too short could cause the saddle to slip out of place or expose the horse to unnecessary friction from the saddle.
- Don't choose a pad that will sit too close to your horse's wither. You should be able to fit your fingers between the wither and the pad.
- It's best to have your saddle and your saddle pad fitted at the same time if possible so that the pad is wide enough to accommodate the saddle. Similar to trying on shoes without wearing a pair of socks, the fit might be off if you base the saddle size on a bare back and then try to add a saddle pad later on.
How Should a Western Saddle Pad Fit?
Western saddle pads tend to be a little thicker compared to English saddle pads. This provides more cushioning for the Western saddle style. They are also typically slightly larger in terms of overall coverage on the horse, which matches up with the larger Western saddle skirting. A great example is the Classic Equine Zone ContourPedic Pad.
Be sure to keep the thickness of the saddle pad in mind when choosing your saddle. If the saddle is fitted too closely to the horse's body shape, the pad may not fit properly underneath.
How Should an English Saddle Pad Fit?
Some English riders choose to go with a thin saddle pad for a more direct contact with the horse. If you are going to use a half pad, plan for that when deciding on a saddle pad. Keep in mind that saddle pads serve many important functions besides cushioning, include preventing excess friction on your horse's back and protecting the saddle from absorbing sweat from your horse.
Other Considerations for Buying Saddle Pads
There are two other features you'll want to think about when selecting a saddle pad:
- Material: There are a number of options for saddle pad material, including fleece, felt, wool and cotton. A rider may choose natural materials are because they can be more breathable than some synthetic options.
- Shape: Square and rectangle pads are the most common. However, you may need a specialty pad to accommodate your horse's unique features. For example, contoured saddle pads work for sway-backed horses, and some horses may require correction or shim pads for therapeutic purposes.
Be sure to use this guide to inform your decision when selecting the right saddle pad size for your horse.