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If you think choosing a saddle is complicated, you may despair walking into your local tack shop’s section devoted entirely to saddle pads, numnahs, and saddle cloths. There are so many designs, styles, brands, and more that choosing the best saddle pads simply becomes impossible, so this “best equine saddle pads brand guide” is your new best friend.
When in doubt, turn to a reliable name in the horse world. The brand of saddle pad you choose need not reflect the life expectancy of the saddle pad. You can choose from a few super expensive brands, only to find that these don’t work for your horse’s back and withers. Or you may also find the best discovery when you buy a budget-friendly saddle pad from a lesser-known brand.
It can be a complicated system, but your horse relies on a saddle pad to help them perform their best and remain comfortable and friction-free.
My Bottom Line Up Front
The brand of saddle pad you choose will depend on many different factors. I will discuss these factors in detail, but life is short, so you can skip to the end right here:
- Best all-purpose (or general purpose) saddle pad: TuffRider Basic All Purpose Saddle Pad
- Best English saddle pad: Derby Originals Shaped Wither Relief Dressage English Saddle Pad
- Best Western saddle pad: ECP All Purpose Diamond Quilted Therapeutic Correction Support Western Pad
- Best dressage saddle pad: TuffRider Basic Dressage Saddle Pad
- Best half saddle pad: ECP Equine Comfort Products Correction Half Saddle Pad
- Best saddle pad blanket: Tough 1 Sierra Navajo Acrylic Blanket
- Best for equine back health and support: Kavallerie Gel Saddle Pad
All about Equine Saddle Pads
New to horse riding and want to get the best saddle pad for your horse? Or maybe you are an experienced rider but looking for a better saddle pad for your equine? This guide has all the information you need to make the best decision.
What’s an Equine Saddle Pad?
An equine saddle pad is a pad you place on the horse’s back before you saddle up your horse.
Some equestrians call a saddle pad a numnah, while a saddle cloth isn’t the same. A saddlecloth is square, like a Navajo blanket, that’s typically used under a Western saddle. Some riders use a Navajo blanket as a liner and then add a saddle pad under their Western saddle. The liner protects the saddle pad from sweat and dirt.
Why Do You Need a Saddle Pad?
There are various reasons why you need a saddle pad for your horse.
You need a saddle pad underneath the saddle to:
- Protect the horse’s skin. Just placing the saddle on the horse’s back can rub their hair and skin off, leading to wounds such as saddle sores and possibly infection.
- Absorb sweat. When you ride your horse, they are working or exercising, which causes them to sweat. The saddle pad helps absorb moisture to keep your horse cool.
- Protect your saddle. The saddle pad flicks dirt from your horse’s skin so it doesn’t get on your expensive saddle, ensuring it lasts longer.
- Distribute pressure. If your saddle doesn’t fit as well as it could, a saddle pad can help evenly distribute the pressure between saddle and horse.
- Absorb shock. Saddle pads ensure a horse is comfortable by absorbing any additional shock from the rider’s weight in the saddle.
- Prevents back disorders. If you don’t use a saddle pad or the right saddle pad, the pressure and shock from riding can cause various equine back disorders.
- Improve saddle balance. Special saddle pads can raise or lower the front or back section of the saddle to ensure the saddle fits comfortably and remains in balance.
Types of Saddle Pads
The type of saddle pad you choose depends on your riding discipline, saddle, and your horse’s back and withers.
Here’s your quick reference guide to the types of saddle pads and when they are used:
English Saddle Pads
An English saddle pad is thicker and more padded than a Western saddle pad. English saddle pads can be square, rectangular, or contoured.
Western Saddle Pads
A Western saddle pad is generally a square or rectangular saddlecloth or blanket made from an acrylic and cotton blend, wool, neoprene, or felt. Use a Western saddle pad for Western saddles, stock saddles, military saddles, trail saddles, and endurance saddles.
Dressage Saddle Pads
A dressage saddle pad is made specifically for a dressage saddle. This type of saddle pad is contoured to fit the dressage saddle. A dressage saddle pad is available in traditional colors – white, black, and brown – and trendy styles in coral, sky blue, forest green, and orange.
All-Purpose Saddle Pad
All general-purpose saddle pads can be used in any riding discipline, from dressage to jumping.
Gel Saddle Pads
Use a gel saddle pad when the saddle doesn’t fit the horse as well as it should. These saddle pads feature gel inserts you can move and adjust to compensate for any areas where the saddle doesn’t conform to your horse’s back.
Orthopedic Saddle Pads
An orthopedic saddle pad helps distribute the weight of the saddle and the rider in the saddle more evenly on the horse’s back. This type of saddle pad offers more protection for your horse (especially if your horse has high withers, a sensitive back, or poorly developed muscles in their back) and excellent shock absorption because of 2-3 layers of padding.
Half Saddle Pads
Half saddle pads are produced from sheepskin that lines the inside of the saddle pads. Half saddle pads only cover the treed part of the horse’s back, but they are shaped to fit the curve of your equine’s back and the saddle tree’s shape. These pads absorb shock well and are comfortable for horses and owners.
Use a half saddle pad on its own or pair it with a thin saddle pad to keep it clean.
Corrective Saddle Pads
Corrective saddle pads are cushioned to be shock-absorbing because of the corrective inserts. A corrective saddle pad can also help balance the saddle by making it more symmetrical or lifting your saddle. Some corrective saddle pads are made from memory foam which conforms to your horse’s back’s shape, cushioning it.
A Guide to Buying the Best Equine Saddle Pad (+ Tips)
When buying the best equine saddle pad, considering your horse and the saddle you ride is equally important.
Get one of these Equi-Logic Saddle Pad Carriers to protect your saddle pad and carry it to the yard or barn.
Equine Saddle Pad Brands
There are many equine saddle pad brands. While there’s nothing wrong with opting for a new and upcoming brand, choosing a saddle pad from a trusted brand gives you peace of mind. After all, buying from a brand other horse riders and owners rave about means you will get a quality saddle pad and know what you are getting.
Some of the best and trusted saddle pad brands (in no particular order) are:
- Tough 1
- Dover Saddlery
- Southwestern Equine
- Classic Equine
- Derby Originals
- Classic Equine
- Back on Track
- Roma Circle
- Equine Couture
- Intrepid International
- Weaver Leather
- Professional’s Choice
- Equestrian Stockholm
- Premier Equine
Saddle Pad Shapes
In addition to the type of saddle pad, you can also choose from a variety of saddle pad shapes:
Square or Rectangular Saddle Pad
A square or rectangular saddle pad is one of the most popular saddle pad shapes. These pads are available in a range of colors and materials, so you can pick one that suits your personality and needs. These saddle pads are typically lined with an inner layer filled with foam, which increases the saddle pad’s moisture-wicking ability.
Use a square or rectangular saddle pad with an English saddle, dressage saddle, or a horse with a straight back and low to average withers.
Round Saddle Pad
A round saddle pad, also called a contest saddle pad, has rounded corners. Like the rectangular or square saddle pads, round saddle pads are also available in a wide range of materials. Use a rounded saddle pad if your saddle has a round skirt or with short-backed horses.
Shaped Saddle Pad
The shaped saddle pad works well with curved saddles used for hunting or jumping.
Contour Saddle Pad
A contour or contoured saddle pad can be round or square, and this pad doesn’t have a notch cut from it. Use a contoured saddle pad for horses that have high withers or swaybacks.
Straight Saddle Pad
A straight saddle pad is also called a normal saddle pad. This kind of pad is perfect for a mutton-withered horse with a flat or rounded back.
Cutout Saddle Pad
A cutout saddle pad is perfect for a high-withered horse since a regular pad puts too much pressure on the horse’s withers, making the horse uncomfortable. As such, a cutout saddle pad has a part cut out to ensure there’s no pressure on the withers.
These pads can be round, contoured, or square, and they come in various materials.
Cutback Saddle Pad
A cutback saddle pad is ideal for a high-withered horse like a cutout pad. Instead of a section being cut out from the pad, an area has been cut back, so no saddle pad rests on the withers.
Swayback Saddle Pad
If your horse has a swayback, there’s a noticeable dip in the middle of their back. If this is the case with your horse, opt for a swayback saddle pad with a thicker middle area to improve the saddle’s fit.
Built-up Saddle Pad
A built-up saddle pad is typically used if your horse has prominent withers. The middle of the built-up saddle pad is “built up” so the saddle doesn’t rest on the horse’s withers.
Orthosport Saddle Pad
Use an orthosport pad for a high-withered horse. The additional padding in the second layer improves your saddle fit.
Baby Saddle Pads
Baby pads are common in the United States since riders want to keep their more expensive saddle pads clean and avoid laundering them.
A baby pad is a very thin sheet – like a saddle blanket – that protects your saddle from dirt and sweat. However, these thin sheets don’t offer much cushioning or padding.
Comfort Saddle Pads
Comfort saddle pads are also called pillow saddle pads. These pads offer more comfort for the horse because the comfort saddle pads are filled with quilted polyester batting. A comfort saddle pad is almost the same as a square pad in shape. However, with the extra padding, your saddle needs to be able to accommodate the thickness of such a pad.
Saddle Pad Materials
Another consideration when you buy a saddle pad is the material the saddle pad is made from:
A saddle pad made from wool, synthetic fleece, or sheepskin is known for its breathability and ability to wick moisture, thus keeping your horse dry and cool.
Neoprene or Waffle Bottom
Saddle pads made from neoprene have a waffle-weave bottom for better airflow and breathability. A neoprene pad is perfect if your saddle slips; however, opt for this kind of saddle pad if you ride short distances because the rubber-like material builds up heat and moisture during long rides.
A saddle pad made from felt is used in Western riding disciplines because they are great for shock absorption and reducing pressure points. The felt, a dense fiber, also helps dissipate heat and sweat.
Felt, however, isn’t as good as fleece when it comes to breathability.
A saddle pad made from cotton is usually a general-purpose pad. These pads don’t offer much protection because they are thin.
Closed Cell or Open Cell Foam
Both a closed cell and open cell foam saddle pad conforms to your horse’s spine. An open-cell foam pad has better shock absorption and breathability. In contrast, a closed-cell foam saddle pad has better antibacterial qualities because of the Nylon lining.
Foam is comfortable and ideal if you work your horse hard during training, endurance riding, and eventing.
If the saddle pad has gel inserts, the pad will be heavier, but you’ll have greater shock resistance.
Saddle Pad Size
The size of the saddle pad relates directly to the size of your saddle. A pad that fits properly should extend 1 inch around the saddle to prevent pressure points and rubbing under the saddle. So the saddle pad should be 2-3 inches bigger than your horse’s saddle.
Before buying a saddle pad, measure your saddle and check the measurements of the saddle pad brand you are considering. Not every saddle pad will have the exact measurements across brands, so double-check that the pad will be big enough.
Tips on How to Choose the Best Saddle Pad
Armed with all the information on types of saddle pads and the shapes, sizes, and materials these pads are made from, I’m sure your head may feel like it’s spinning.
Here are some tips on choosing the best saddle pad:
- Choose the right size: the saddle pad should be 2-3 inches bigger than your saddle
- Opt for a saddle cloth or Navajo blanket and/or a felt or fleece saddle pad for a Western saddle
- Go for a square or rectangular, fleece or foam saddle pad if you have an English saddle
- Consider the contours of your horse’s back and that of the saddle when choosing a saddle pad
- If your saddle needs an improved fit, ensure the type of saddle pad you buy helps better the fit of the saddle
- If your saddle already conforms well to your horse’s back, choose a saddle pad that complements your horse’s back and saddle tree
- Decide if the saddle pad should have more shock absorbing and pressure reduction qualities or have better airflow and be moisture-wicking
- Regularly check the saddle pad’s fit since your horse’s shape may change as you train them, and they build muscle
How I Chose the Best Equine Saddle Pad Brands
Choosing the best saddle pads requires:
- Testing products
- Checking out reviews
- Asking other riders at the stable yard what saddle pad they like and why
- Considering budget, versatility, brand, comfort, and the protection the saddle pad offers
The Best Equine Saddle Pads
Ready to shop for the best saddle pad for your horse, saddle, and you?
Here are the best equine saddle pads and brands, and I’ve indicated what it’s best for too!
TuffRider Basic All Purpose Saddle Pad
Best for: All disciplines
The TuffRider Basic All Purpose Saddle Pad is a top-rated GP saddle pad with more than 1,000 reviews and 4.5 stars. The measurements of this pad are 20″ for C.B length, 21″ for the drop, 8″ for bottom strap length, and 25″ for the length (4″ up from the center of the saddle pad to the bottom).
The saddle pad has a channel diamond quilting look and a cotton flannel underside. It’s made from 84% micro-polyester and 16% cotton, so your horse will not overheat while you are out training, schooling, or riding. Use the GP saddle pad with a well-fitting all-purpose saddle or close contact saddle for the best fit.
- Available in 17 colors, including classy colors like black and white
- Pretty with the quilted look
- Ideal for training, eventing, and competition
- Use the saddle pad in all riding disciplines if you don’t specialize in one discipline
- Washes well
- Won’t fit an Aussie saddle
Derby Originals Shaped Wither Relief Dressage English Saddle Pad
Best for: English saddle
Opt for the Derby Originals Shaped Wither Relief Dressage English Saddle Pad if you ride in English disciplines. The English saddle pad is a cutout type of saddle pad, so your high-withered horse will be comfortable since there will be no pinching.
The saddle pad is fleece-lined, ensuring your horse doesn’t overheat. The multi-layer micro-diamond quilted design of the saddle pad is shock-absorbing, so your horse will have a comfortable ride.
The drop of the pad is 23 inches, while the spine measures 23 inches.
- Available in black and white, so it’s perfect for competitions
- Use the pad with most dressage saddles
- Good shock absorption
- Great for high-withered horses as the saddle pad provides wither pressure relief
- Reinforced double-stitching for durability
- The saddle flaps are short
ECP All Purpose Diamond Quilted Therapeutic Correction Support Western Pad
Best for: Western saddle
The ECP All Purpose Diamond Quilted Therapeutic Correction Support Western Pad is ideal for Western riding disciplines. The rectangular saddle pad is gentle on your horse’s skin, breathable, moisture-wicking, and temperature regulating.
You can adjust the memory foam shims to where your horse needs the most padding – this all depends on how your saddle fits your horse.
I really like the rose (pink) saddle pad to add color to my riding gear.
- Ergonomic fit with removable and adjustable memory foam shims to provide padding where you need it most
- Easy to wash – remove the shim before washing; use cold water when hand or machine washing
- Available in 4 colors
- 2 saddle billet straps to secure the saddle pad to the saddle
- Use the saddle pad if your horse has sore points or saddle fitment issues
- Pricey but a good investment to protect and support your horse’s back when saddling up
TuffRider Basic Dressage Saddle Pad
Best for: Dressage
The TuffRider Basic Dressage Saddle Pad is a close contact saddle pad ideal for the dressage component of eventing or training. It’s made from 84% polyester and 16% cotton, and the diamond quilting outer provides good shock absorption.
The flannel underside ensures your horse doesn’t get too hot while riding or participating in competitions.
The saddle pad measures 23.5″ for the C.B length, 23.25″ for the drop, 8″ for the bottom strap length, and 25″ for the length (4″ up from the center to the bottom).
- Available in 6 colors, but opt for the black or white saddle pad for dressage shows
- Good for shock absorption
- Washes well
- Can be used with a sheepskin half saddle pad if you need extra support
- May be too big for your horse so check the measurements before you click “buy”
ECP Equine Comfort Products Correction Half Saddle Pad
Best for: Shock absorption
The ECP Equine Comfort Products Correction Half Saddle Pad is an Amazon’s Choice product with a 4.7-star rating out of 5. The half saddle pad looks elegant with the diamond-quilted cotton top. In contrast, the brushed cotton underside ensures great contact with the horse.
The top line of the half saddle pad is 22″, and you can use the saddle pad with saddles up to 18.5″.
- Available in 10 colors
- Great for shock absorption
- Adjustable memory foam inserts so you can move the inserts where your horse needs more support and padding
- Prevent injuries since the foam inserts provide relief from pressure points
- Easy to wash – just remove the inserts before placing the saddle pad in the washer
- Shims come in 3 different thicknesses
- The horse may not be symmetrical, in which case, the pad won’t fit well
Tough 1 Sierra Navajo Acrylic Blanket
Price: minimum of $7.98 for a square pad or a maximum $20.71 for a rectangular pad
Best for: Saddle pad liner (Western saddles)
Choose between a square or rectangular Tough 1 Sierra Navajo Acrylic Blanket. The saddle blanket measures 30″ x 30″ or 30″ x 60″. The Navajo-style horse blanket or saddle cloth is ideal for Western riding as a liner or saddle pad for a pop of color.
The saddle blanket is made from a handwoven, loomed blend of 20% polyester and 80% acrylic and weighs around 2 pounds.
- Available in 10 colors so you and your horse can look fashionable
- Tightly woven blanket
- Easy to wash and dry – throw in the washing machine and then tumble dryer
- Lightweight so your horse won’t get super hot while riding
- May be too thin to provide the padding you need under the saddle
Kavallerie Gel Saddle Pad
Best for: Equine back health
The Kavallerie Gel Saddle Pad comes in four options:
- Seat saver – protects the horse’s back by bridging the saddle; keeps the saddle in place
- Front riser – ideal for high-withered horses or those with an arching back
- Back or rear riser – also perfect for arching back or high withers; keeps the saddle from moving
- Middle riser – use if you see early signs of a swayback developing
- Helps prevent skin abrasions and sores
- Easy to wash – just use water
- Adds stability to the saddle and is comfortable for your horse
- Improves shock absorption so you can jump with this gel saddle pad
- Prevents your horse’s back from sweating too much with the 100+ air breathable air channels
- Will wear through if you don’t use the saddle with another saddle pad or liner
Answer: You need a saddle pad to wick sweat away from the horse and protect their skin/hair (since a saddle will rub against them). You can also use a saddle pad to help with shock absorption, saddle balance, friction reduction, and pressure distribution.
Answer: The size of the saddle pad you need correlates directly to the size of your saddle. Ideally, the saddle pad should be 2-3 inches bigger in length so you can see about 1-1.5 inches of the saddle pad sticking out from underneath the saddle when your horse is all tacked up.
Answer: The saddle pad thickness depends on your saddle fit. If your saddle fits snuggly, using a thinner saddle pad is better because a thick saddle pad will produce pressure points. Should your saddle have any gaps or be too loose, you can take a sheepskin saddle pad and, if necessary, riser pads to equalize the saddle for an ideal fit.
Answer: A GP saddle pad is a general-purpose or all-purpose saddle pad that is traditionally the most popular among equestrians. The name of the general-purpose saddle pad gives away its purpose: the saddle pad can be used for everything – from schooling and dressage to hacking and jumping.
Answer: A fleece saddle pad is made from synthetic fleece, sheepskin, or wool. The advantages of using a fleece saddle pad are that the pad is moisture-wicking and breathable. Choose a synthetic fleece saddle pad for durability.
My Final Thoughts on the Best Equine Saddle Pad Brand
Your saddle is an expensive piece of tack, but there’s no purpose to riding if it hurts your horse, makes the ride uncomfortable for you and your steed, and dirties your saddle. A saddle pad is a must-have – but you need to consider what support your horse needs, what saddle pad works best for your saddle and riding discipline, and the size and color of the pad.
Looking for a saddle pad for your Australian saddle? Check out our guide on the best Australian saddle pads. And if you are new to riding and need a detailed guide on saddle pads, we’ve got that too with this guide on how to find the best saddle pads!