Are you looking to purchase a western saddle pad but not quite sure where to start, or what to even consider when choosing one? There’s not a huge amount of information about western saddle pads in the UK, but this blog post will talk you through the four key steps that you should consider before buying a western saddle pad.
1. Saddle pad thickness
The most important aspect, when choosing a western saddle pad, is the thickness of the pad. This is because the pad thickness will affect the overall saddle fit. Western saddle pads normally vary from ½” thick to 1” thickness, although you do get pads that are thicker than that too. If the pad is less than ½” thick, it’s unlikely to provide adequate cushioning for your horse.
Your saddle fitter will advise you about what thickness pad you should use with the particular saddle and horse, but when purchasing a pad pay attention to the materials the pad is made of, and how much it will squash down. A pad with soft, flurry sheepskin lining can squish down quite a lot, whereas a wool felt pad tends to have much less give.
2. Length of your western saddle pad
The next question to answer is: How long should your western saddle pad be? This depends on the length of your saddle and your horse’s back length. The pad must be long enough to reach at least 1” past the saddle at the front and back – ideally a bit more. But it should not be too long, so that it will sit on the horse’s neck at the front or create pressure at the loins or croup area. This is especially important if the pad doesn’t have any contouring at the spine. Luckily all our pads are contoured, so you’ll never have that issue with Equinen pads!
If you purchase a pad that has a top and lining, such as our woven top pads, it’s worth also keeping in mind that the lining is slightly shorter than the top, and you still need the saddle to fit inside the lining measurements. So it’s advisable to select a pad that is about 3-4 inches longer than your saddle. This way the lining is still 2 inches longer than your saddle, and the pad will provide even support between the horse and the saddle.
3. Pad shape
Traditionally western saddle pads are rectangle-shaped, but nowadays you do have options regarding the pad shape too. Although the shape of the saddle pad doesn’t affect saddle fit as such, you may want to consider what shape pad you would prefer to have. Some riders feel that a square pad interferes with their horse’s flanks, so they prefer to have a rounded saddle pad. These rounded pads should only be used with saddles that have round skirts (such as Allegany Mountain Saddlery saddles, Wade saddles, etc), so that the saddle skirts won’t reach below the pad. If your saddle has a square skirt, you will need a square/rectangle pad.
Lastly, when choosing a western saddle pad, consider the materials the pad is made with. Natural materials, although slightly more expensive, are always better for the horse and also tend to last longer.
The lining material – the material against the horse’s skin – is the most important factor when talking about materials. Natural sheepskin is lovely and soft, but if your horse is flat-backed or on the rounder side, then it can make the saddle slip sideways. All Equinen pads have 100% genuine wool felt lining on them, because this material is super kind to the horse, offers the ideal amount of support and shock absorption, and it’s easy to clean.
Western saddle pads come with a variety of top material options: plain felt, fabric or woven top are the most common ones. The top has more to do with your personal preference rather than fit or usability, so this is your chance to be unique and choose something that sparks joy in you personally! You’ll find lots of different options in our online store, and we can also make custom western pads to suit your exact colour and design preferences!
Choosing a western saddle pad for your horse or pony can seem like a daunting task, but if you follow these four key steps, and seek advice from a western saddle fitting professional, you will be able to find a saddle pad that suits your horse, your saddle and you!