Saddle Pad Selection

Horsemen have told us that only about 10% of saddles provide a perfect fit. A number of reasons are offered to explain the problem: unequal shoulder development and hip action and the fact a horse's back sometimes changes from, say, winter to spring. Exercise or the lack of exercise also can have an impact.

Saddle pads can also add to a horse's problems. A pad constructed of poor material will provide uneven support. If the material "gathers" or bunches up, then the result can be uneven pressure, particularly where the saddle tree meets the withers.

All these problems cause muscle stress which interferes with proper blood flow, most important to proper functioning muscles. Horses react to this discomfort with motion which can best be described as "unnatural”, leading to additional stress and mechanical imbalance. For those involved in serious competition, a horse with the saddle and saddle pad problems, mentioned above, will not be in either the physical or mental condition to perform anywhere near its potential.

Other thoughts to keep in mind:

  • One way to check the strength and resiliency of your saddle pad is to squeeze the pad; if you do not feel your fingers, the pad should have enough thickness

  • Another suggestion is to hold the pad to your mouth and blow -- if you feel your breath, this is a good indication the pad breathes.

  • If your saddle extends beyond the edge of the saddle pad, the pad is too small.

  • An improper fitting saddle pad is not much better than a poorly fitting saddle.

  • A thick saddle pad could be used underneath a saddle which is too wide but this same pad would not work on a saddle which is too narrow.

  • When you place a saddle pad on the horse's back and then the saddle, some horsemen suggest holding the front of the saddle up with one hand and lifting the pad slightly off the withers with your other hand. The procedure is designed to create a small gap between the horse and the pad to prevent the pad from constricting the horse's movement.

  • Multiple layers of pads, besides causing saddle imbalance, often cause as much pain and discomfort as a poor fitting saddle.

  • Likewise, a saddle pad which is too thin also results in pain and discomfort.

Note: For a more detailed discussion of saddle pads and the factors to consider when buying a saddle pad go to "A Complete Buying Guide”.