The Essential Western Saddle Pad Fitting Guide
So, you're wondering how to fit a saddle pad? In our ultimate saddle pad size guide, we'll explain the importance of properly fitting a saddle pad and how to ensure a comfortable fit. We'll include Western saddle pad fitting tips, as well as some great saddle pad options available from NRS.
What is a Saddle Pad?
A saddle pad is a blanket or piece of cloth placed under the saddle to absorb moisture, provide cushioning and protect the back of the horse from excessive fatigue. It helps to keep your mount cool, distribute the weight of the saddle and prevent sores. Saddle pad fit is critical in ensuring an enjoyable ride. Taking the time to select a saddle pad that fits properly and placing it correctly will help keep your horse comfortable.
What Size Saddle Pad Do I Need?
Western saddle pad fitting is not complicated if you know what to look for. To determine the correct size, you need to obtain two saddle pad measurements:
- Length: Measure your saddle length from front to back at the longest points.
- Drop: Turn the saddle over to measure from the underside of the saddle. Measure from the center of the saddle to the outermost part of your rigging and, under the seat to the edge of the skirt at the leg. Multiply this measurement by two.
You'll want to make sure that you have at least two inches of pad visible around the perimeter of the saddle to allow for shifting. Following this saddle pad size guide will help you get the proper fit.
How to Fit a Saddlepad
Once you have the correct size saddle pad, it's time to place it on your horse. The Western saddle pad fitting properly is critical for correct saddle placement. Take a few extra minutes to do it right, and your horse will thank you. Before placing the saddle, make sure that your saddle pad is clean because dirt is abrasive and can be painful. The saddle pad fit should leave enough space between the horse's withers and the top of the pad so your fingers can fit underneath.
The saddle pad should be centered on the horse's back and placed over the withers to protect them from the saddle. Make sure the excess material is even all around the saddle. After riding, be on the lookout for uneven sweat patterns as they can indicate that the saddle and pad aren't fitting properly.
Types of Saddle Pads
Now that you know how to fit a saddle pad, it's time to choose one. Generally, there are two key considerations when shopping for a saddle pad: material and shape. The thickness of the material depends on the saddle, the conformation of the horse and your personal preference.
Just like a saddle, the type of pad you choose should be based on the horse's conformation.
Best Saddle Pad For a Low-Withered Horse
A mutton-withered horse has very low withers and a rounder shape. The best saddle pad for a mutton-withered horse is a straight pad. One made out of a non-slip material will also help keep your saddle in place.
Best Western Saddle Pad For High Withers
There are a lot of different choices when searching for the best Western saddle pad for high withers. Contoured, cutout, cut back, orthosport or built-up pads are all specially designed to accommodate the withers.
Best Saddle Pad For a Swayback Horse
A contoured or specially-formed swayback saddle pad is your best bet for a pad that properly fits a horse with a swayback.
Best Saddle Pad For Kissing Spine
Several brands of specialty orthopedic saddle pads, such as ThinLine, are built to increase movement and range of motion to address kissing spine.
Regardless of the type of pad you choose, you'll want to avoid over-padding your horse because it can cause saddle rolling and sliding. Pads made of neoprene shouldn't be used on long rides because they don't breathe. Stick with natural materials such as wool and felt when you are riding hard and the horse is working up a sweat.