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Choosing a Saddle Pad
A saddle pad protects a horse's back from friction that could be caused by a saddle rubbing directly on your horse's hair and skin. It also helps to protect the saddle by absorbing some of your horse's sweat.

If your saddle fits well, you'll require only a simple saddle pad. In fact, if you add too much bulk with saddle padding you can cause the saddle not to fit and create pressure points.

If you have challenges with your horse's back-such as high withers or sore spots-or if the fit of your saddle is not perfect, you may need to use specially designed saddle pads to alleviate or at least lessen the severity of the problem.

The type of saddle pad you choose depends in part on function and in part on your riding discipline.

Shaped saddle pads are curved to mimic the shape of the saddle. They are available for jumping, all-purpose and dressage saddles, and they can be made of either genuine sheepskin or synthetic fleece. Pads are available with both sides made of fleece, with cotton quilting on the interior, and with grippy panels to help prevent slipping. Examples of each of these styles of pads include Dover's Double-Faced Luxo-Fleece Pad, Wilker's Cling-On Fleece Pad and the Medallion Super Quilt High Profile Pad.

Size is usually determined by matching the pad to both the type of saddle and the seat size. (To measure the seat size, run a tape measure from one of the screw heads on the side of the pommel to the middle of the cantle.) You want an even border of about two inches of saddle pad showing around the circumference of your saddle. To achieve the perfect look for your particular saddle, you may want to try pads from different manufacturers.

For the show ring, most hunter riders use shaped pads in crisp white. Both synthetic fleece and genuine sheepskin pads are acceptable; consult your trainer for any preference. The advantages of synthetic fleece pads include an economical price point and the ability to be machine washed with laundry detergent. The advantages of genuine sheepskin pads include the ability for the sheepskin fibers to mold to your horse's back and to naturally wick away moisture and increase air circulation.

Square saddle pads come in a variety of stock color choices and stitching patterns that can add some color to your schooling sessions. They can also be ordered in custom color combinations.

Square pads may have a thin layer of batting or foam on the interior to provide a bit of cushioning for your horse, and some are lined with fabrics that offer moisture-wicking properties. Many are slightly shaped in front to accommodate the knee rolls of jumping and all-purpose saddles.

"Square" dressage saddle pads are essentially rectangular in appearance with straight sides to accommodate the longer saddle flaps of dressage saddles. Dressage pads are available in various widths and lengths, with average sizes ranging from 22 inches wide to 46 inches long.

The width of the pad corresponds to the length of the saddle seat; it should cover your horse's back under the saddle with a bit of pad visible in front of the pommel and behind the cantle. The amount of pad you see is up to your personal preference and the needs of your horse.
This photograph illustrates how the width of a dressage pad is measured.

The length of the dressage pad corresponds to the length of the saddle flap. The saddle pad should be long enough to cover the side of your horse under the saddle flap; you should see a bit of pad below the tip of the saddle flap. The amount of pad you see is up to your personal preference and the needs of your horse.

This photograph illustrates how the length of a dressage pad is measured.
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