Horse Saddle Pads

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Welcome to Horse Saddle Pads

A high quality saddle pad is essential to protect your horse's back. Without the best materials and the proper fit, he will have no protection from pressure points, gouging, galling and other problems created by uneven weight distribution and heat build-up. When pressure points persist, the blood flow to the muscles is cut off or restricted and muscle soreness and damage can result. Any blood flow loss will result in a performance loss for your horse.

A pad should never allow pressure from the bars of the saddle to penetrate to muscle. It must cushion the edges and corners of the saddle tree to keep it from digging into the horse's back and shoulders when weight is wobbling back and forth and to and fro on top of the saddle. It should be resilient and re-conform as the weight shifts.

Additionally, no horse is developed equally on both sides. Your saddle will constantly put more pressure on the weakest side, inhibiting the blood flow, causing the horse to pull away from the uncomfortable area. The pad must make up for the difference in saddle fit when the saddle is constantly rolling to the less-developed side.

A good saddle pad must also pull sweat away from the horse's skin to help cool the back.

Most horse owners know most of this instinctively. But very few know how to decide among the many offerings. Which pad is best for your horse may be one of the most important considerations you will make for the well-being of your equine partner.

 

FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION

Some features of your pad depend on how it will be used. For instance, a cutting horse needs flexibility. He will have tremendous rider movement as he bounces back and forth, rocking the bars of the saddle into the pad. However, the pad should not inhibit his agility or gouge into his flank or shoulder as he pops back and forth.

He generally works for short periods of time, so he is allowed to cool down between usages. A thinner pad with closer contact is OK for a cutting horse.

A Roping horse, on the other hand, absorbs a huge impact when the steer hits the end of the rope, driving the saddle bars deep into the pad. The most important feature for a roper is the pad's ability to absorb shock.

Endurance riders need a pad that will not trap heat and moisture over long trips.

Pleasure riders (sometimes not the best riders) need a pad that will distribute weight evenly as well as absorb shock and wick away moisture and heat under a wide range of conditions.

 

SADDLE PAD MATERIALS

Saddle pads are made from various materials - from tried-and-true, natural wool or mohair to newer synthetic nylons, rayons, and neoprene.

Wool and mohair still lead the pack in the natural fiber world. Wool has a natural barbed crimp that helps it to keep its shape and rebound - a type of springiness that helps it constantly adjust to the pressure as it rolls around the back. The natural fiber's compression characteristics allow it to conform to the shape of your horse's back without compressing so much that the shock absorption is compromised.

Wool fibers allow air to pass, and they wick water away - both important features to keep your horse's back cool.

Many of the newer materials are combined with wool or mohair to maintain the cooling features of natural blends.

One of the best multi-material pads today has a wool under, a bar-insert made of hospital grade orthopedic foam, and a cordura upper.

One of the most frequently advertised new materials is neoprene. Neoprene has no heat dissipating characteristics. It has no fiber-gripping to hold onto the horse's hair. It has little compression. Its positive attributes are minimal.

 

 

CONFORMATION OF SADDLE PADS VS. HORSE

The best saddle pads conform to the shape of your horse. Many are now made with a raised withers and a slightly curved back up to the croup. A contoured pad requires less cinching - always a good thing. Some have a withers cut-out for even more comfort and for more versatility in fitting many horses with different withers heights.

Many pads will eventually conform to your horse's shape, but the "break-in" period can be uncomfortable because it causes pressure over the withers when the saddle is cinched down.

Some pads have a center line of air holes to further increase their ability to let heat escape.

Wear leathers are the small patches of leather that protect the pad from wearing away under the constant chafing of the stirrup leathers and fenders against them. They are a very good addition to your pad as long as they do not get too large or thick and keep your legs too far off the horse.

 

SADDLE PAD FIT

Pads should not extend very far outside of the saddle skirt. One inch is sufficient. Longer and wider pads tend to trap more heat, gouge the horse in front and rear muscle masses during tight turns, and keep the rider's legs too far away from the horse.

Too much padding is a major cause of heat build-up and galling. The skin cannot breathe properly through all of that material. It tends to bunch up like a bad sock in your shoe. Too much padding can also raise your saddle too high off the horse's back, changing the rider's center of gravity and causing the rider (thus saddle) to rock and roll like a sailing schooner. The tipping and rolling causes pressure sores.

Most over-cinching is caused by a poor fit of the saddle pad. If you need more than one pad and maybe a blanket, you should re-think the reason for so much padding.

It is not possible to make a saddle that is too tight fit any better with more padding - only to raise it higher and higher. If the problem is that the gullet touches the withers, consider putting a bottom pad on with the withers cut out and a 2nd pad over it. If that is not sufficient, you must change saddles.

 

Here are some of our favorite pads. They embody all of the best features mentioned above: Contour, Cut-outs, shock absorption, moisture wicking, and heavy leathers.

 



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