Everyone always worries whether they have the right bit, the right saddle, the right horse but what about your saddle pad? While, there are many different pads to choose from on the market today, what’s central to all of them is proper fit and care of that pad.

    Every time I ride, I am constantly checking my horse’s back before and after I finish riding for signs of rubbing. The first sign of rubbing is dull or wrinkled looking hair. The two of the main places where rubbing occurs, are over the withers and above the kidneys.  If your pad (and saddle) fit properly, there won’t be any evidence of rubbing. Many folks are quick to jump to the conclusion that if rubbing occurs, that their saddle is at fault. But we’ve discovered that many times it’s the pad.

What’s Under Your Saddle?      

    If you use too short of a pad/blanket, it can rub a horse right over his kidneys. A worn, rough, unclean pad can also cause rubbing on any part of the horse’s back. How many of us take the time to brush our pad out after every ride? This simple, one minute exercise will save not only your horse from potential problems but absolutely extend the life of your pad! I check my pad before throwing it on the horse and after riding to ensure that it was properly brushed out and that it won’t cause rubbing or soreness. It is also very important  that your pad not be stored under your saddle. It needs to be placed somewhere to dry out after every ride preferably wet side up. This is especially important in an area where there is high humidity.

    Your pad should extend a couple of inches in front of and behind the saddle. If you have more than one saddle, don’t assume the same pad will work for all of them. The same is also true if you have more than one horse.  Each horse has its own unique conformation build and you want to be sure the right pad goes on him. Be sure the pad is laid correctly on the horse especially after you place the saddle on it, as sometimes the pad will shift. Check how it lays from both sides on both the front and back of the saddle.

    There are many great pads out there to use. The most important thing is that your pad fits both your horse’s conformation and the saddle it is sitting under. Many times the rider has the correct size saddle for the horse. But because of the horse’s conformation such as a drop off behind the shoulders, he  needs a particular pad to allow the saddle  to sit correctly on the horse. Many times we have students who think they need a different saddle, when in fact they just needed the correct fitting pad for their horse.

I’ve always been a big believer in Wool/Fleece pads. There are lots of new hi-tech blends on the market today. Because wool is all natural, designed to serve well in heat or cold, it’s always been my choice for competing with my horses throughout my successful career. Just remember that no matter what material you choose in a pad, it must fit your horse, your saddle and be properly cared for to ensure your horse’s comfort and the life of the pad.