Some styles of dressage pad offer swallowtail detailing, such as on the Warendorf Swallowtail Dressage Pad, or contrasting piping, as can be seen on the Rider's International Velvet Dressage Pad. A contoured shape in the wither area can be more comfortable for horses with high withers, and also may help the pad stay in place on any horse.

For competition, event riders in the cross county phase have free range of color choices in square pads. In fact, the saddle pad is an opportunity to display stable, team or club colors. Jumpers in competition who choose to use a square pad usually select one in white, although colored pads are allowed.

Dressage riders in competition are required to compete using a white or conservatively-colored saddle pad such as cream or black. White is the safest and most traditional color choice, and judges who've been interviewed on the subject tend to prefer to see white pads. Monograms and breed logos are permitted to appear on both sides of the saddle pad as long as they do not exceed 200 centimeter square. When sponsorship is permitted, the name or logo of a sponsor may appear instead of a monogram but with the same size restraint.

Note: If you use a short girth with your dressage saddle, be sure that you have at least three to four fingers' width between the top of the girth and the bottom of the saddle pad and saddle flap on both sides. If the girth comes to close to the edge of the saddle pad or flap, your horse's skin can be pinched. Some people will use longer dressage girths to stretch up so that the top rests on the saddle pad to avoid pinching, but this may defeat the purpose of using a short girth to reduce bulk under the leg.

Pillow pads are similar to square pads for schooling, but they're filled with polyester batting and quilted for cushiony comfort. If you choose to use a pillow saddle pad, be sure that your saddle fit can accommodate the extra thickness. If your saddle fits perfectly to your horse, you may not have room to use this thicker type of pad without changing the way the saddle sits on your horse.

Baby pads are ultra-thin sheets typically used under heavier saddle pads to keep them clean. The purpose of baby saddle pads is to cut down on having to launder the larger, more cumbersome pads.

Specialty pads are designed to solve many problems ranging from saddle fitting issues to reducing equine back pain, heat, trauma and friction. Depending on the function, they may be intended for use under, over or in place of conventional saddle pads.

  • Wither back pads have open slots over the withers. The opening relieves pressure on the spine and can improve the fit of a saddle on some horses.

  • Gel pads are intended to help or prevent sore backs. They absorb the impact of rider activity and help to distribute weight more evenly along your horse's back to relieve pressure points. They can be made of a variety of materials. Gel pads are typically very dense and thin. Though they can initially seem a bit pricey, gel pads maintain resiliency and continue to provide benefits for many years of use-making them a solid investment. Foam pads are thicker than gel, and are less expensive. The foam may eventually compress over time and for maximum benefit to your horse, should at that time be replaced.

  • Lift back or riser pads raise the cantle of a saddle and are used when the seat is tilting backward. If you use this type of pad, be sure to check the fit in the front of the saddle, and check your horse's wither area for signs of pain or injury regularly. By raising the back of the saddle with a riser pad, you may create pinching or pressure points at the wither area. (Typically, if a saddle is tilting backward, it means the tree is too narrow for the horse.)

  • Lift front pads raise the pommel of the saddle to level the seat if it is tilting forward. If you use this type of pad, you should check your horse's back regularly for signs of pressure where the saddle may push into his back and create sore spots. (Typically, if a saddle is tilting forward, it means the tree is too wide for the horse.)

  • Correction pads have thin removable shims that can help you adjust the way the saddle sits on your horse. Shims may be used to help alleviate crooked saddle fitting due to a horse's natural asymmetry.

  • No-slip pads are used against a horse's skin and under the saddle pad to prevent the pad from slipping.

  • Sheepskin pads and half pads are popular for the way the sheepskin fibers mold directly to horse's back, naturally wick away moisture and increase air circulation, and help distribute pressure and impact.

Some specialty pads offer a combination of benefits. For example, sheepskin pads are available in correction models with shims. Some gel pads are available with cutback withers, and several types of foam pads offer a lift back feature.

For more assistance or to request a catalog call 1-800-989-1500. Or, stop by any of our retail stores to speak with a Dover Saddlery product adviser. Visit for a complete store listing and the full product offering.

Related Topics:
Saddle Fitting Guidelines
Caring for Genuine Fleece