Your Guide to the Perfect Horse Saddle Pad

Your Guide to the Perfect Horse Saddle Pad
Michele Karwoski

We all love saddle pads - be it a pristine white one for competitions or a fun, vibrant color for everyday rides. Like a comfy mattress for your equine friend, a saddle pad sits between the horse's back and the saddle. It's a multitasking marvel, providing much-needed cushioning to evenly distribute the rider's weight evenly, preventing pressure points and soreness. Think of it as a shock absorber, protecting the horse's back from bumps and friction during rides. Plus, it wicks away sweat, keeping your trusty steed cool and comfy throughout the journey.


The Foundation of Comfort for Equestrian Saddle Pads

First, let’s talk about fit. If you use a “square” pad, be sure it goes at least an inch past the front and back of the saddle along the spine. A shaped or fitted pad should follow the lines of the saddle and be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches bigger all the way around. It is crucial to ensure that the saddle is properly placed on the pad during tacking up. If your pad doesn’t fit the saddle correctly, this can cause discomfort for your horse. Compare it to having a wrinkled sock in your shoe - it’s hard to stop thinking about it, and you may compensate by walking funny. The last thing you want is to place that discomfort on your horse. At best, your horse may feel uncomfortable, but at worst, your horse’s hair could get damaged and rub off. In extreme cases, your horse may try to evade the discomfort and hollow their back, which can cause other problems. Saddle pads that contour up over the withers rather than pads that are straight across the spine help keep the pad from pulling down and putting pressure on your horse’s withers.

 Keeping Your Pad in Prime Condition

Be sure to keep your pads clean - especially in warmer months when the pad is more likely to get dirty and sweaty. This dried dirt and sweat can be uncomfortable, causing the same issues as an improperly fitted pad.

Inspect the underside of your pads regularly. Your pad may look good on the top. However, the underside that sits on your horse’s back could be pilled, worn, or even have holes. If this describes your saddle pads, it’s time for a replacement.

Exploring Saddle Pad Options

Close Contact/Jumping Saddle Pads vs. Dressage Saddle Pads

Close contact and jumping saddle pads are sleek and small, mirroring the close-contact nature of close contact and jumping saddles. Close contact and jumping pads can be either square in shape, or shaped in the design of the saddle.  Shaped pads are usually constructed of synthetic or natural fleece and are usually used for showing. Dressage saddle pads are square and are typically thiner and larger to provide proper coverage under the saddle.  No matter your discipline, we’ve got you covered!

 Close Contact/Jumping Saddle Pads

You might find that shock absorption and grip are your best friends for high-impact disciplines such as jumping. Close contact and jumping pads are designed to be minimalistic, providing a close and direct connection between the rider and the horse. Jumping saddle pads, with a shorter and more forward construction, often feature additional padding at the withers and along the spine to offer extra comfort and shock absorption. Look for pads with extra cushioning and grippy fabrics that keep your pad where it belongs, even over those tricky fences.

Dressage Saddle Pads

Dressage pads offer total protection with breathable fabrics and moisture-wicking magic. Characterized by their larger and square-shaped design, these pads are tailored to accommodate the long, straight flaps of dressage saddles. Designed to provide optimal support and comfort along the horse's back, Dressage saddle pads promote closer contact between the rider’s leg and the horse's sides, allowing more effective communication.

Special Features for Extra TLC 

  • Half Pads: Half pads can be used alone or with a shaped pad and cover the area of your horse's back that is underneather the saddle tree. Half pads are often made from materials such as memory foam, gel, or high-density foam, offering shock absorption and improve saddle fit.
  • Riser Pads: Usually constructed of synthetic foam material, riser pad are used to level your saddle if it tilting forward or backwards. Riser pads can provide a temporary solution to minor saddle fit issues.
  • Shims: Need temporary adjustments to improve saddle fit? Shim pads with removable inserts let you tweak your saddle fit while still providing comfort to your horse. Shimmable pads can be beneficial when dealing with a developing young horse, or a horse just returning to work.
  • Therapeutic Saddle Pads: Certain pads have unique design features to provide back support and comfort for horses with specific needs. Therapeutic pads constructed with open-cell technology, heat reflective ceramic material, and featherlight thermoplastic material promote evenly dispersed pressure and encourage better circulation, contributing to the overall health and performance of the horse.

Beyond the Pad: Essential Tips for a Happy Horse

  • Saddle Fit Matters: Remember that even the best pad can’t compensate for a poorly fitted saddle. Regular professional saddle fittings by certified saddle fitters are essential to prevent pressure points and ensure your horse’s health and performance.
  • Horse’s Back Health: Proper pad placement minimizes harmful pressure points and keeps your horse cool and comfortable. Quality pads also wick away sweat, creating a happier riding experience for everyone. Pads may also aid in horses that may have accessibility issues, allowing them to be ridden comfortably.
  • For Every Budget: We believe every horse deserves the perfect pad. That’s why we offer a variety of options, from budget-friendly to premium choices, to ensure you find the ideal solution for your needs.

Shop our collection of both dressage and all purpose/close contact saddle pads.

If you have questions on what saddle pads may meet your horse’s needs, our expertly trained staff will be happy to help. From eventing to dressage, we have the right horse care products to keep your horse comfortable in any condition. Our friendly staff can help you find the perfect pad and accessories for your horse’s needs.

 Please call 919.851.0102 or email us at

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