Your Guide to Different Kinds of Saddle Pads

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Your Guide to Different Kinds of Saddle Pads

There are many different terms for saddle pad, including saddle blanket, numnah and saddle cloth. But all describe the blanketing that sits beneath a saddle protecting the horse’s back. Saddle pads help to evenly distribute the rider’s weight over a wide area of the horse’s back.

eBay offers a range of saddle pads in many different styles. The level of choice that exists in terms of sizes, materials and shapes can make buying a saddle pad a difficult decision. Great care should be taken in choosing a saddle pad since they change the fit of a saddle, which can result in problems of discomfort and injury to the horse. This guide will help the reader to understand the suitability of different types of saddle pad to different horses, saddles and styles of riding.

Types of Saddle Pad

There are a variety of different pads available to suit different styles of saddle, different shapes of horse, as well as different performance requirements. Here is a list of the main types, first for Western Style riding and then for English Style.

Western Style Saddle Pads

These pads are usually rectangular or blanket-shaped, with an average measurement of about 35 inches square. They are usually made from wool, cotton or synthetic fabrics.

At a glance:

Contour saddle pad

High withered and sway-backed horse

Cutout saddle pad

High withered horse

Swayback saddle pad

Sway-backed horse

Straight saddle pad

Wide-backed flat-backed and mutton-withered horse

Round saddle pad

Short-backed horse

Here is a more in-depth look at the qualities of each saddle-pad.

Contour Saddle Pads

Designed for horses with a slight dip in their backs, or alternatively for those with high withers, these pads follow the line of the back and mean that pressure is distributed evenly over the horse’s back rather than creating points of greater pressure, which could lead to injury over time.

  • Straight Saddle Pads

Suiting wide-backed, round-withered horses, these pads are cut straight with no contours.

  • Round Skirt Saddle Pads

These pads are discernible visually as instead of being cut as a rectangle, they have a rounded back edge. They are usually bought to use with saddles that have round skirts and they also tend to suit horses with shorter backs due to their abbreviated nature.

  • Cutout Saddle Pads

To reduce pressure on the horse’s withers and spine, some saddle pads have pieces cut out of them. They may also have areas cut out where the rider’s legs sit, allowing closer contact between the rider and horse to improve communication and signalling.

  • Swayback Saddle Pads

For horses with very high withers, swayback saddle pads can help to even up the horse’s back since they increase in thickness towards the middle of the pad. For horses with very dipped backs, regular saddle pads will tend to only make contact with the horse at their four corners. Swayback saddle pads avoid such a problem by keeping contact with the horse’s entire back and spreading the weight of the saddle and rider evenly.

Saddle cloth

It is useful to note that saddle cloth has two meanings. In Australia, it refers to a standard saddle pad but in the USA it means a thin and lightweight blanket that is placed over a heavier pad. It is usually only used for decorative purposes, particularly under the saddles of race horses.

English Style Saddle Pads

English saddle pads or ‘numnahs ’ are usually thicker than Western pads, and made from layers of felt or foam that are sandwiched between tougher outer covers. They are cut to the shape of the saddle and as such are usually sized to the saddle rather than the horse. Sheepskin numnahs are particularly popular for some disciplines such as eventing and show-jumping because of their luxurious appearance, wicking and cushioning qualities.


A pad that follows the shape of the saddle, including the flaps, providing protection from moisture and a neat outline that makes numnahs popular with endurance riders and show-riders alike.

Half-numnah or half-pad

These sit in the gullet of the saddle and extend some way beneath the saddles’ skirt, leaving the flaps free from padding and enabling the rider to stay in close contact with the horse’s sides.

Front Riser Pad

This type of saddle pad is an economical way to lift the front of a saddle over the horse’s withers. They fit into the saddle’s gullet to clear the spine and can improve the fit of a saddle, if carefully chosen.

Rear Riser Pad

This pad has a section that raises the back of the saddle to help achieve a better fit.


Both English and Western saddle pads can be found on eBay in a variety of traditional and more modern, high-tech materials.

Fleece Saddle Pad

Fleece is a common saddle pad material. They can be made from synthetic fleece, real wool or sheepskin. The wool fleece tends to be more breathable than synthetic fleeces, keeping the horse dry, as well as having a greater cushioning effect. However, it can lack the longevity of synthetic fleece since it becomes matted and compacted more rapidly. Synthetic pads also have the advantage of generally being more affordable than real wool or sheepskin pads.

Felt Saddle Pad

Felt is compressed wool, which leaves it with most of the advantages of real wool with fewer of the disadvantages of matting and compacting. Being woollen, felt is able to draw sweat away from the horse, keeping its back dry and comfortable. Because of its density, felt is also good for absorbing shock. Most felt pads should be between ¾ and 1 inch thick to offer good protection.

Neoprene Saddle Pad

The major benefit of this material is that it is waterproof. This keeps the horse’s back protected from rain, but also means the pad is easy to maintain. The disadvantage of any synthetic material is that is not as breathable as its natural counterparts, but neoprene saddle pads overcome this with a ‘waffle’ like construction that helps to keep the horse cool during long rides, as well as cushioning the horse from the saddle. Another advantage of neoprene is its ‘stickiness’, which helps to keep saddles from slipping.

Closed Cell Memory Foam Saddle Pad

This consists of foam that is moulded and then wrapped in a nylon cover. Memory foam is particularly good at moulding to a horse’s back and unique contours, while the nylon mesh that enwraps the foam provides air flow to cool and dry the horse’s back.

Gel Saddle Pad

A relatively high tech material when compared with felt or fleece, gel disperses the shock from impacts and rapidly returns to its original shape. Gel inserts in pads are usually placed between the layers of the pad, whether that pad be made of felt, foam, neoprene or any other material.

Finding the Right Size of Saddle Pad

The sizes of both the horse and the saddle should be taken into account when looking for saddle pads on online auction sites or in bricks and mortar stores.

Western Style Saddle Pads

  • Sizing to the horse

Unlike when buying saddles, this is largely an aesthetic decision. A short-backed horse with a long saddle pad will look inelegant.

Short back  

30 inches

Medium-length back

32 – 36 inches

Long back  

38 inches

  • Sizing to the saddle

It is important that the pad is longer than the saddle since otherwise it will get caught underneath it and become uncomfortable for the horse as well as being unsightly.

Smaller saddles, e.g. Barrel saddles  

30 - 34 inches

Larger saddles, e.g Roping saddle or Cutting saddle  

36 - 38 inches

If a shorter saddle, such as a barrel saddle, is being used on a long-backed horse, many people opt for a long saddle blanket of about 36 inches, for aesthetic reasons.

English Style Saddle Pads

When fitting a numnah is important to fit the numnah to the saddle rather than using the height of the horse as a guide. If you are buying both a saddle and a numnah online but from different suppliers it is a good idea to buy the saddle first. Numnahs come in several sizes, usually:

15 inches


15.5 – 16.5 inches


17 inches and over

Full size or Horse

Numnahs are cut to suit different shapes of English saddle, some of which have more forward-oriented flaps than others. When buying online be sure to look carefully at the images to ensure that the numnah is the right shape for the saddle.

How to Buy Saddle Pads on eBay

When purchasing a saddle pad eBay, it is helpful to request as many measurements as possible in order to help you to judge whether a saddle pad or numnah is the right size for the saddle and the horse, To search for saddle pads, type into the search box ‘saddle pads. If you have a good idea of the type of product that you want to buy, such as a ‘neoprene numnah’, then you can be more specific with your search terms. Using the search feature will help you find exactly what you want.

When searching through listings, carefully review all the data. Make sure the item matches what you had in mind. Look over the photographs a couple times. Feel free to Ask the Seller a question if you want additional details. Visit the Buying Tips page for more information.

Once you’re ready to buy, either place a Bid, Buy it Now, or put down your Best Offer. Buying with PayPal will ensure the transaction will go smoothly. eBay users are protected by the Buyer Protection Program.


Whether you are looking for a brightly coloured, synthetic saddle pad to add to a collection or a specialised high-performance product that uses gels and other advanced materials in order to improve the performance of the horse, rider and saddle, eBay has a wide range of saddle pads to choose from.

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