The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Western Saddle Pad For Your Horse
In order to protect both your horse and saddle, a proper saddle pad is a must. Besides looking good, the best saddle pad can protect your horse's back and help preserve your saddle for years to come. However, there are some things to keep in mind when choosing your new saddle pad. This guide will share tips and considerations for selecting the best Western saddle pad.
Styles of Saddle Pads
There are three main types of saddle pads: woven Navajo style blanket, felt, and neoprene pads. Besides aesthetics, they offer different levels of comfort and protection. Material and shape primarily distinguish them.
Saddle Pad Basics
There is no best saddle pad material — instead, you should make your choice based on the type of riding you will be doing and the conformation of your horse. Neoprene offers impressive shock absorption but poor breathability, so while it's excellent for roping, it's not a good choice for long rides. Felt is usually thick, so it offers a lot of cushion. Felt saddle pads are an excellent all-around choice for moisture absorption and breathability, so they are preferred by many riders.
Saddle pads can be shaped or square. A Western saddle blanket is a square, woven, blanket-style pad that comes in many colors and is highly durable. However, wool saddle blankets can also bunch up and don't offer as much protection as other styles. Contoured pads follow the contours of the animal's body and can have additional structure built-in.
How To Measure A Saddle Pad
To get the best saddle pad fit, take two measurements:
- Length: Measure from front to back at the longest points.
- Drop: Measure from one side, across the withers, and down the other side.
There should be at least two inches of pad visible around the perimeter of the saddle. This allows for the shifting of the saddle when riding.
See our saddle pad fitting guide for more information, including how to accommodate your horse's conformation when fitting a saddle pad.
Choose the Best Western Saddle Pad for Your Riding Style
Just like a saddle, your saddle pad choice should be based on the type of riding you'll be doing. The thickness you need depends on the amount of time spent in the saddle and the rider's weight. Let's take a look at the best saddle pad recommendations based on different types of riding.
Best Saddle Pad For Trail Riding
Best Saddle Pad For Barrel Racing
Best Saddle Pad For Endurance Riding
Endurance riders spend A LOT of time in the saddle, so their comfort, and that of their animal, is critical. The best saddle pad for endurance riding has superior wicking to disperse heat and moisture, and it protects pressure points. Plus, it must be easy to keep clean.
Best Saddle Pad For Roping
Best Saddle Pad For a Treeless Saddle
Pads are absolutely essential when using a treeless saddle because the saddle doesn't provide the structure needed to protect the horse's spine. The best saddle pad for treeless saddles combines powerful shock-absorption and support. Many include foam inserts in the panels to create lift.
Choosing the Best Western Saddle Pad for Special Requirements
Some horses need special attention when fitting them for a saddle pad due to their breed, physical condition or age. Always take these factors into consideration when choosing a saddle pad for the best fit and most comfortable ride.
Best Saddle Pad For an Older Horse
Older horses get aches and pains and lose muscle as they age, just as we do, and require additional support around their back and withers when riding. Orthopedic saddle pads or those with built-in wedges to fill the voids are the best saddle pads for older horses.
Best Saddle Pad For a Gaited Horse
With a gaited horse, it's important not to restrict their movement. Some saddle pads are explicitly marketed for gaited horses, but the best saddle pad for gaited horses is one that fits well and accommodates their unique stride. Make sure your saddle pad is flexible at the withers, or look for pads with cutouts to give them the room they need.