Saddle Pad Buying Guide

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Saddle pads and blankets are placed under a saddle to protect a horse’s back, and absorb sweat. They also act as a cushion under the saddle for a more comfortable ride. Specially designed models that compensate for a horse’s body structure can help when a saddle doesn’t quite fit properly. Saddle pads are made from many natural and synthetic materials, each with its own benefits and purpose. Cloths and blankets were used to cover horses’ backs for riding long before saddles became popular, and they have since evolved to match various equestrian styles. To choose a suitable saddle pad, buyers will need to consider their horse and the saddle they ride with most often. Saddle pads and blankets can be purchased at tack and saddle shops, and they are also sold by many online equestrian retailers. A diverse mix of saddle pads can also be found through online auction sites like eBay.

Selecting the Right Saddle Pad

A well-chosen saddlepad may lessen a horse’s muscle fatigue, allowing for longer rides without unnecessary strain or injury. Some saddle pads are designed for generaluse, while others are made for shows and competitions. Consumers will need to take the shape of a horse’s back and withers into consideration when choosing a saddle pad, along with the style of saddle used with the pad and the equine discipline practiced by the rider.

Types of Saddle Pads

There are several terms used to describe fabric and other materials placed between a saddle and horse. Saddleblankets and pads are two different types of saddle cushioning. A blanket generally refers to a piece of cotton or wool that is folded and placed under the saddle. Commonly used under westernsaddles and packsaddles, blankets originally served two purposes for the military: padding and warmth. On long marches, the thickness of the blanket could be adjusted as the horse got skinnier. Saddle pads, sometimes called numnahs, are thicker than blankets. They are made of multiple layers of material shaped to match the contours of the horse and saddle.

Saddle Pad Designs

Horse owners and riders can use this chart to find a Western or English saddle pad that will complement their horse’s body type. Using this information, buyers will be able to make an informed decision rather than just guessing as to which pad would be the best choice for a particular horse.

Shape of Pad

Usage

BuiltUp

With extra padding along the center, a pad that is built up is useful for high-withered horses because it raises the saddle up off the withers.

Contour

A contoured pad will help compensate for prominent withers or a swayed back. This type of pad can reduce pressure on the withers.

Cutout

Horses with high, prominent withers might be more comfortable in a cutout pad. Instead of resting on the withers, there is a cutout at the top of the pad, which relieves pressure on this area.

Round

Sometimes called a contest saddle pad, these rounded pads are used under saddles that feature a round skirt, or for short-backed horses.

Swayback

With extra thickness at the center, a swayback pad is specially designed for horses with a dip in their back. This type of pad also corrects uneven saddle pressure on horses with extremely high withers.

Just like a saddle, a pad must be properly fitted to a horse’s proportions. There should be at least an inch of padding visible around the edge of the saddle, and the pad should not rub or press on the withers. Care must be taken to ensure that none of the seams are positioned in a way that could chafe the horse during rides. By choosing a material that is suited to the rider’s discipline and the horse’s preferences, an equinesaddlepad will absorb shock and enhance the riding experience.

Materials Used to Make Saddle Pads

Buyers can also choose a saddle pad based on the material used to make it. Each material has benefits and drawbacks, so riders should consider which would be the best option for their horse and saddle. Both natural and syntheticmaterials are used in the production of saddle pads.

Sheepskin and Synthetic Fleece

The most traditional saddle pad material is sheepskin. Sheepskin with the hide still attached reduces friction in a way that can’t be matched by man-made fleece. It’s used mainly because of its natural ability to wick moisture away from a horse’s skin, but it can be difficult to clean and dry. Over time, chemicals in a horse’s sweat can break down the fleece on a sheepskinpad, if it’s not properly cared for. Syntheticfleece is often used on the underside of saddle pads, and it holds up better than sheepskin. Real fleece often becomes flattened and matted by the weight of the saddle and rider. Synthetic materials are affordable and hold up over time, but are not as breathable as the real thing.

Felt

Felt is a common material in saddle pads designed for Western saddles, and is sometimes found in Englishpads, though less frequently. This compressedwool is absorbent and efficient at wicking moisture. Felt is a great insulator, and it can relieve pressure points caused by a saddle, so it’s often layered under other materials for maximum shockabsorption.

Foam

Foam is used to alleviate pressure points on a horse’s back by absorbing shock and evenly distributing the weight of the saddle. There are two types of foam used to make saddle pads: open-cell foam and closed-cell foam. Closed-cellfoam is more popular because it’s denser and can conform to body contours, but it’s less breathable than open-celled varieties. The main drawback to foam is that it lacks the wicking ability of natural fibers.

Gel

Some saddle pads come with gelinserts for additional cushioning. These are helpful when a horse has a tender spot that requires additional protection from impact. A layer of gel is placed between the padding, or embedded in the fabric. The addition of this material makes gelsaddlepads heavier than other models, but they can make a horse much more comfortable by cushioning sore spots.

Neoprene

Neoprene is a waterproof material used in certain saddle pads. This type of rubber is also called wafflebottom, because of the distinct pattern imprinted on it, which allows the saddle pad to breathe. Pads made of neoprene are extremely durable and easy to clean. The chemical characteristics of this material help neoprenesaddlepads stay put under the saddle rather than sliding around and causing the horse discomfort.

Where to Find Saddle Pads for Sale

Equestrian supply stores, commonly known as tack shops, are likely to carry many different saddle pads in all shapes and sizes. Retailers dealing in farming supplies may also carry equine goods, and buyers can check their local feed stores as well. Equestrian events often showcase several vendors, so equine enthusiasts often pick up new items at horse shows and competitions. County and state fairs are another place where equestrian products are marketed and sold. Many brick-and-mortar tack shops also run online stores, so a quick Internet search should produce many available saddle pads and blankets. Buyers looking to compare options from many different sellers can check out online auction sites like eBay.

Buying Saddle Pads on eBay

By getting to know the seller, you can feel confident about purchases made on eBay. If you aren’t interested in bidding on a saddle pad, you can always look for other items available for bidding or immediate purchase. Instant purchases can be made through auctions that bear the "Buy it Now" logo, and by visiting eBay Stores.

Research the Seller

Always check a seller’s Feedback page to see their detailedratings and read customer reviews. Reputable sellers will be quick with an answer when you askaquestion about an item. To find high ranking sellers who are known for their excellent service, look for listings from top-ratedsellers.

How to Buy Without Bidding

If you aren’t interested in participating in an auction, you can still search for saddle pads on eBay. Many listings have an option to BuyItNow, which means you can bypass the biddingprocess and purchase the item right away. If you can’t find a suitable saddle pad in the regular listings, check the eBayStores for additional options.

Conclusion

It’s often said that if a saddle fits properly, only a thin pad is needed. While this is sometimes true, some horses prefer more padding than others, so it’s best to take cues from them. Sometimes a change in saddle pad can make all the difference in a horse’s attitude and willingness to cooperate. Saddle pads shouldn’t be used as a long term fix for a fitting problem, but they are a good option to ensure the comfort of the horse while girthed. Buyers will need to look for a pad that was designed for their style of saddle, and riders who participate in competitive equine activities will want a pad that cushions a horse’s withers and spine while keeping it cool and dry. By comparing various sizes, materials, and thicknesses; riders can find the appropriate saddle pad to keep their horse happy, healthy, and comfortable. Buyers who search for saddle pads on eBay will find a wide selection of equestrian products to suit varying needs and budgets.

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