The Complete Guide to Buying a Saddlecloth

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The Complete Guide to Buying a Saddlecloth

A saddlecloth or pad is an important piece of equipment for the horse owner as they offer extra cushioning between the horse and the saddle that can provide extra comfort to the horse and absorb shock, prevent soreness and even out pressure on the horse’s back while being ridden. They can also, in some cases, help to keep the horse cool by improving the air flow through the pad to the horse’s back.  eBay has an extensive collection of high quality saddle cloths, which are very easy to buy.

Types of Saddle Pads, Numnahs, Saddle Blankets and Saddlecloths

The terms saddle blanket, saddle pad, numnah and saddlecloth refer to a blanket, pad or any fabric which is placed under a saddle. These are used to protect the horse’s back, cushion the saddle and also to absorb sweat. For many centuries saddle blankets have been used with all types of saddles.  Some are single thickness whilst others are made to be folded and used at double thickness.  Even when using a saddle pad, it is still important that a horse wears a properly fitted saddle.

Terminology and Uses

The terms are quite specific in that a numnah is shaped around the saddle, a saddle cloth is simply a square piece of material, and a pad is similar to a saddle cloth, but padded.  The United States define the term saddle cloth as a very thin, lightweight blanket placed over a pad or heavier blanket for purely decorative or identification purposes, rather like those used under the saddles of racehorses all over the world.

The Americans tend to use the blanket style, which are commonly seen in Western films and they are usually made of wool or cotton or, more recently, synthetic fabrics.

A saddle pad and numnah is thicker, usually with layers of felt, foam or other modern material put between a tough outer cover on top and a soft cover underneath, which is the side in contact with the horse. The best designs absorb shock and minimise fatigue for the horse's back muscles. Saddle pads of various styles or shapes are used with any type of saddle.  Numnahs, made of sheepskin, shaped to fit around a saddle are very popular. Originally saddle cloths and pads were used  simply to protect the saddle from dirt and sweat, while the saddle itself provided the necessary padding and protection for the horse

English style pads can also be used to change the balance of a saddle and they can compensate for problems with fitting.  Square pads called saddlecloths in the UK and Australia have become very popular for show jumping, dressage, eventing and pony clubs, in part because it is possible to add initials or insignia to the corners to show to whom the horse belongs or is representing. These are also popular with children and casual riders because they can be bought in a wide range of bright colours.

Choosing the Right Saddle Cloth

Saddle pads are used for all types of equestrian activities, for example for dressage, show jumping, hunting, polo, hacking, and racing. The pad helps to keep the horse’s muscles loosened up whilst waiting to take part in whatever activity in which they are involved.

To feel what the horse is experiencing when a saddle is put on, with no padding underneath, before the girth is tightened, place the hand under the saddle, with the palm facing upwards and the back of the hand against the horse. The palm will feel the bottom of the saddle and this will give the best indication of what the horse is experiencing with the saddle.  As long as the hand slides in easily, then it is possible to feel any problems. For example, the saddle might fit tightly in some areas, but more loosely in others. It may be tighter on one side than the other.  It may even be that screws, rivets or conches can be felt.

This is an excellent way of determining precisely how the saddle feels on the horse’s back, and whether it is smooth, rough or uneven.  That knowledge will make it easier to choose the right saddle pad for a particular horse. 

The two most important considerations are shape and fabric.

Saddle Cloth Shapes

Contour

Contour saddle pads are made for horses with a slight dip in their back, or for horses with particularly prominent withers. The front part of the contour will relieve pressure from the withers.

Straight

Straight saddle pads are especially good for horses with a flat back, and normal, round or “mutton” withers.

Round Skirt

This is also known as a contest saddle pad, and it particularly useful on horses with short backs, or for saddles with a round skirt.

Cut Out

Used for horses with high withers, a cut out saddle pad is a pad that is cut out at the top where the horse’s withers would be, and possibly even over the spine of the horse. These are very helpful in relieving the pressure that would otherwise be caused when resting on the withers and spine.

Swayback

Used for horses that are swayback, or who have such prominent withers that they create a dip in the back.  The swayback saddle pad is thicker towards the centre of the pad, which reduces problems of the saddle tree putting pressure on the horse.

Built Up

This is useful for a horse with high or prominent withers.  The saddle pad is built up along the centre which raises the saddle up off the horse’s withers.

Close Contact

Some of these saddle pads are also cut out or are thinner in the area where the rider’s legs are. These pads allow a close contact between the rider’s legs and the horse, a benefit of particular importance for dressage and performance horses as they allow the horse to feel the rider’s leg pressure and position so are able to follow the instructions

Saddle Cloth and Pad Sizing

All purpose saddle cloths and pads can be used for all sizes of horse.  As a rule of thumb, the following measures are a useful indication of size of pad and size of horse.

Size of Horse

Size of Pad

Pony

11hh - 13.1hh

Cob

13.2hh - 15.1hh

Full

15.2hh - 17hh

Extra Full

>17h

Saddle Pad Fabrics

Fleece

Saddle pads with a fleece bottom are very common and are generally the lowest cost saddle pads.  The fleece is very soft and may either be a natural fabric such as wool, or synthetic. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types.

Type of Fleece

Advantages

Disadvantages

Wool

More cushioning than synthetic fleece

Less durable as becomes matted and compacted more quickly

Chemicals in horse’s sweat break natural fleece down

Need careful maintenance

Synthetic

Longer lasting

Easier maintenance

Less cushioning

Felt

Felt pads are compressed wool and are among the best materials for saddle pads. They are generally more beneficial than a fleece pad, for the following reasons:

  • Keeping the horse cool and dry.  Felt draws sweat from the horse, and transfers the heat into the felt.  Most notably, felt can draw sweat
  •  Better shock absorption, and though a saddle should always be fitted properly, a felt pad can help reduce the saddle’s pressure points

Neoprene

Neoprene is a form of waterproof rubber, so neoprene saddle pads are water resistant, and are relatively easy to maintain and keep looking new.  The waffle bottom helps air flow, which in turn helps the horse remain cool.  The cushioning is effective too, and the pads tend to be “sticky” and reduce the sliding and rolling of some saddles.

Closed Cell Foam

As technology advances, so does the ability to bring new materials into saddle pads. In closed cell foam pads, the foam is moulded and wrapped in nylon. The foam ensures that weight is evenly distributed, and reduces impact and pressure. It also moulds well to the back of the horse and provides good air flow to help keep the horse cool, though arguably not as strongly as felt pads.

Gel Inserts

Gel inserts provide excellent shock resistance and a comfortable fit for the horse. The gel inserts are placed at contact points between saddle and horse, often between layers of the pad.  The downside is that the gel inserts are both heavy and expensive.

Buying Saddle Cloths on eBay

The advantage to buying saddle cloths and pads on eBay is the wide variety of brands, styles, prices and choices, and some excellent prices from trustworthy sellers.

Having identified the saddlecloth that meets the requirements, it’s time to consider how to buy.

Saddle Cloths Payment and Search Options

To search for saddle pads, visit the Equestrian portal. Alternatively you can use the search box provided to type in specific information for a more refined selection. For example felt saddle pads, or contour saddle pads, or felt contour saddle pads. The search box will enable you to accurately find the specific type of saddle pads you are considering. Visit eBay’s search tips for more advice.

Buying on eBay

  • Once a selection has been made, there are three choices when buying on eBay:

  • Place a bid in order to buy at auction by the date that the seller has advised if you are the highest bidder
  • Buy It Now allows immediate purchase of the saddle cloths and pads
  • Best Offer means the seller is prepared to accept Best Offers from buyers, possibly at a lower price than the Buy It Now price

    Delivery and shipping information is provided by the seller and needs to be considered at point of bid or purchase, along with delivery insurance information.

    Bundles are sometimes offered where the listing on eBay may include the specific main core product such as the saddle pads with cleaning kit to be included and built-in to the purchase price.

    It is recommended that you only purchase from sellers who are authorised through eBay. For greater comfort, research the seller’s Feedback rating and buyer comments, the number of completed transactions, and the percentage of positive responses.

    It is always good to buy through PayPal who will ensure the transaction proceeds directly between the seller and buyer. eBay users are protected by the Buyer Protection Programme.

  • The eBay Shopping Experience

    A good item listing should include full specifications, size, materials, design and manufacturer information. To obtain any missing information that you need, email the seller by clicking “Ask the seller a question” under the seller’s profile.

    You can also shop in eBay Shops or post your requirements on Want it Now. There is also the option to “Save Search”, in which case eBay will send an email when a match becomes available.

    More information on buying from eBay is available on the Buying Basics pages.

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