An English Saddle Pad Buying Guide
Did you know that the equipment you choose can greatly affect the comfort of your horse?
If you choose the wrong equestrian accessories, you risk exposing your horse to more strain, friction, and other injuries while riding. As a horse owner, it's your job to minimize these issues and ensure your beloved animal is just as comfortable as you are.
A key element of horse comfort is the saddle pad. If you’re new to saddle pads or want to get more educated on what to look for when you buy them, we've got everything you need to know.
Read on to find out more.
What Are Saddle Pads?
English saddle pads are also known as numnahs, so often these two names are used interchangeably. A saddle pad is essentially a thin layer of fabric that provides cushioning between your saddle and the horse's back, working as a protective layer. The main purpose of a saddle pad is to reduce friction from the saddle rubbing against the back, but it also helps with:
- Preventing the build-up of heat
- Decreasing shock while riding
- Absorbing perspiration from your horse
- Protecting your saddle from wear and tear
- Reduce the risk of saddle rubbing your horse
Different Types of Saddle Pads
When it comes to how to choose a saddle pad, the first thing you need to know is that there's more than one variety available. The different types of saddle pads are designed for different riding disciplines and provide slightly different functions. They are also designed to suit different saddle styles i.e jumping, dressage, GP and close contact. It is essential you make the right choice to keep your horse comfortable.
Here are some of the different pads and a quick run-through of their differing purposes:
The most popular and best English saddle pad for English riding (except for dressage) is the shaped pad. This copies the shape of the horse's saddle and comes in a range of colors and materials. Traditionally, white shaped pads are used for shows. There are also Jump, Close Contact and General Purpose pads to suit your saddle style and discipline.
These are also known as dressage saddle pads or even all-purpose pads. In dressage, there's a need for longer saddle flaps and pads than in other disciplines, which is where this style will be used. They're often quite thick and can even have a foam or gel center, providing plenty of protection between the saddle and the horse.
Half pads focus on the area between the saddle tree, covering a smaller area of your horse's back. They're mainly used in jumper or hunter shows and are more common in Europe than in the US. Half pads should be used in conjunction with a saddle pad or numnah.
Baby pads are very thin and not designed to provide much cushion. Instead, it's normal to keep them under larger, more expensive pads to keep them clean and cut down on their cleaning.
Comfort pads provide the most protection and shock absorbency for you and your horse. These are much thicker than other pads due to a quilted polyester batting filling. If you're looking to purchase comfort pads, it’s important to also make sure you have the right saddle fitted by a professional to accommodate them.
What About Custom Pads?
If none of the above pads are exactly what you want, it is possible to have custom pads made. These can have a variety of unique features, such as no-slip surfaces, sheepskin outers to mold to your horse's back and wick away moisture, and correction pads that can be adjusted to sit properly on your horse. If your horse has specific requirements, custom pads can be a great investment.
Saddle Pad Materials
If you're looking for saddle pad buying tips, we recommend knowing a little about the fabric choices before making a purchase. Saddle pads come in a whole host of different materials, and each is going to work slightly differently on your horse. Take a look at some of the options:
Felt pads are actually made from wool, and they're better for Western disciplines than English. However, if your discipline creates a lot of shock (like jumping) they can be useful to reduce the impact. If you have a horse that you struggle to find the right saddle for, felt is also a great option as it can reduce pressure on delicate spots.
If you struggle with saddles that keep slipping, try neoprene. More modern and less widely available, they have much more grip than other pads.
Classic and traditional, fleece is a popular choice. It gives great padding and wicks away sweat, keeping your horse comfortable during riding. They're also less expensive than some other options and widely available.
Cotton is very common in English saddle pads. It's a thinner fabric and doesn't offer too much padding, but it's perfect for basic riding and very breathable.
Foam is ideal if you do a lot of hard work under saddle and participate in show events. It offers exceptional padding and molds to your horse's back easily, maximizing comfort and helping achieve a good saddle fit.
Which Saddle Pad Should You Pick?
The saddle pad you choose should depend on your riding discipline. For example, a cotton shaped pad is going to be ideal for basic riding and light training. Consider what you'll be using your pad for the most and choose yours based on this, using the above information to make a more informed decision.
Buy Saddle Pads
If you're in the market for a new saddle pad, be sure to check out our wide range of equestrian tack. We curate the best products from the most well-known equestrian brands including a large selection of high-quality saddle pads. For incredible quality, expert knowledge, and the best saddle pads, be sure to shop with Country & Stable.