best impact saddle pads

Best Impact Gel Saddle Pads Guide

Latest posts by Tanya Taylor (see all)

I’ve been riding horses for over 20 years, so I know a thing or two about tack and riding gear. I find that one of the most essential pieces of equipment for riding horses is a good saddle pad.

However, for some horses, a standard pad doesn’t offer enough support, and that’s where Impact Gel pads come in. They’re highly shock-absorbing and help alleviate pressure from a horse’s back. If you want to know all about the best ones on the market, take a look at my best impact gel saddle pad guide below.  

In this guide, you can learn:

  • The function of Impact Gel saddle pads
  • How to choose the best impact gel saddle pads
  • The best impact gel saddle pads on the market

Bottom Line Up Front

If you’re looking for the best Impact Gel Saddle pad, I highly recommend the Wild West Annie O. This beautiful, unique woven pad offers all the comfort and support you expect from an Impact Gel pad. The Annie O is a fantastic all-around pad for Western riding, and it will certainly make you stand out at the barn.  

My Top Choices At A Glance

Before we dive deep into the world of Impact Gel saddle pads, I’ll give you a quick look at my top choices below. 

  1. The English Contour: This is the best Impact Gel for English saddles and riding disciplines. It’s a top choice among professional English riders because it enhances performance and keeps horses comfortable and balanced.
  2. Wild West Annie O: I love this saddle because it has all the incredible features of the Impact Gel Classic Contoured pad but comes in a beautiful woven design. 
  3. Wither Relief: This is the best pad for horses with back problems or conformation issues. It’s adjustable and prevents the saddle from rubbing on the withers.

What Are Impact Gel Saddle Pads?

A saddle pad sits between the saddle and the horse’s back to provide extra comfort and shock absorption. Saddle pads come in many different materials, such as sheepskin, neoprene, and memory foam, but since 2002 Impact Gel pads have dominated the equestrian riding pad world. 

Impact Gel is the creation of two extensively experienced horsemen, and each pad is lovingly handmade in Wisconsin USA. They have a unique gel formula made from soya beans and are environmentally friendly. Impact Gel produces high-quality saddle pads which equalize pressure points and create balance under the saddle. 

The creators of Impact Gel believe that a comfortable horse performs better, so they continually research and use vigorous product testing to produce saddle pads that are unmatched performance.

What Are The Benefits Of Impact Gel Saddle Pads?

Horse Pads

Impact Gel saddle pads are the most shock-absorbing pads on the market. Traditional gel pads are heavy and not very breathable, which is bad because a sweaty, hot saddle pad can irritate your horse and cause sores and discomfort.

Impact Gel is specifically designed to dissipate heat from your horse’s body and minimize the force and impact of the saddle and rider. Impact Gel molecules are tightly connected, so impacts and heat ripple through them and dissipate effectively. 

Gel saddle pads also conform to your horse’s back and saddle, so they ease pressure points, prevent pinching, and help horses with conformation issues or back problems. Riders can also feel a difference in their seat because gel pads make the saddle more stable and are highly shock absorbing. The result – your horse’s muscles move more freely and with less pressure. 

Overall, Impact Gel pads alleviate pressure and allow your horses to move more freely under the saddle – other benefits include:

  1. They can help horses with back problems such as a kissing spine, lordosis, old injuries, roach back, and cold back, and Impact Gel can make a custom pad for your horse.
  2. They prevent white marks caused by rubs.  
  3. They prevent sores and friction.
  4. They’re fantastic for older horses – to give them extra comfort under the saddle.  
  5. They’re lightweight. 
  6. They can help to correct a slightly unbalanced saddle.
  7. They’re ideal for beginner riders who tend to bounce around more. 

How I Choose The Best Impact Gel Saddle Pads

Impact Gel Saddle Pads

Impact Gel pads don’t come cheap – they’re a high-quality product that will last for many years, so you must ensure you put your money in the right place. The main things I look for when I choose an Impact Gel Pad are the thickness, the materials, what I want to use it for, and whether it has any extra features.

To help you make the right choice, let’s take a closer look at the essential things to consider when you buy an Impact Gel pad. 


The first thing I think about when I choose an Impact Gel pad is its thickness. If I want one for general riding, I choose a ¾-inch pad. If I want to use it for trail or heavy-duty riding, such as roping, I choose a thick 1-inch pad for extra comfort.

If I intend to use the pad for sporting equestrian events, such as polo, I go for a thin one because it’s lighter and gives me more contact with my horse. I’ll also opt for a thin pad for custom-made saddles because these generally fit a horse well, and a thick pad can put it out of balance.  

Horse’s Conformation

Impact Gel pads are designed to help horses with back injuries or conformation problems, and they have several remedial ones to choose from. If your horse has back or conformation problems, you can find a pad to suit their exact needs.  

Here are the pads to look out for if you have a special needs horse:

  1. The Adjustable Wither Pad: Ideal for high withered, narrow horses.
  2. The Flatback Pad: Perfect for horses with a flat back or mutton withers
  3. The Set Back Pad: This pad is perfect for athletic horses with large round shoulders and also for round horses with flat withers
  4. The Classic Contour: This pad is ideal for all horses and Western riding disciplines, but it also relieves the pressure from horses with back problems or old injuries. 

Extra Features

Impact gel saddles come with extra features such as Tacky Tack covering or X Lite material:

  1. Tacky Tack: This is an ideal feature to look out for if you like fast-paced equine sports such as barrel or flat racing. The grippy texture of tacky tack stops the saddle from slipping and becoming unbalanced.
  2. X Lite: If you want an extra lightweight pad, X lite saddle pads have more perforations in the gel bladder, which makes the pads lighter and more breathable.

The Best Impact Gel Pads on The Market

Impact Gel has a whole range of saddle pads for you to choose from, and it’s hard to know where to start looking. You must choose the right one for your horse to enjoy the many benefits. So, to save you time, I’ve listed the best Impact gel saddle pads for you below. 

The Best English Impact Gel Pads

1. English Contour Saddle Pad

English Contour Saddle Pad

The English contour saddle pad is Ideal for all English saddles and riding disciplines such as dressage, eventing, and showjumping. It has a wool and felt blend outer, so it is moisture-wicking, breathable, and durable enough for regular, everyday use.  

I love this saddle because it’s streamlined and looks elegant, and the gel bladder is stitched in place so it won’t roll or move around under the saddle. The pad is half an inch thick, so it’s not too bulky for English saddles, and is 25 inches long. The width at the widest point is 11 inches which taper off to 4 and ⅕ inches at the back. 


  • It’s versatile – you can use it for all English riding disciplines.
  • It’s durable and breathable.


  • It’s only available in gray or black.
  • You can only use it on English saddles.

2. Gallop Pad

Gallop Pad

The gallop pad is fantastic for fast-paced equine sports such as flat racing, polo, and eventing. I love the sleek design and a “tacky tack” cover which keeps the saddle firmly in place at high speeds. This professional pad is ideal for young fresh horses and experienced athletes alike.

The great thing about this pad is it weighs just 4.6 lb. It’s ¾ inch thick, 22 inches long, and 13 inches at the widest point, but it tapers off to 4.5 inches at the rear. 


  • It’s lightweight.
  • It has a “Tacky tack” non-slip cover.


  • It’s only available in black.

3. Sterling Heller UltraSuede English Half Pad

Sterling Heller UltraSuede English Half Pad

The Stirling Heller is favored among professional English riders in disciplines such as dressage and show jumping. It has a high-quality Ultrasuede outer shell and provides optimal saddle fit and weight distribution to minimize pinching and ease pressure points. 

The Stirling Heller is fantastic for young, developing horses or horses with discomfort in their back. It’s close contact, weighs 3.4 lb, and is 20.5 inches long, and the width measures 11 inches at its widest point and 8 inches at the rear. What I like most about this pad is that it has a velcro closure over the spine and removable inserts, which you can clean in your washing machine.


  • It comes in 6 colors.
  • It has a removable gel bladder for easy cleaning.


  • You have to use it in conjunction with another pad.
  • You can only use it with an English saddle.

The Best Western Impact Gel Saddle Pads

1. Trail Endurance Saddle Pad

The Trail Endurance pad is sleek and versatile with a contoured cut and durable and comfortable wool blend outer shell. It has outstanding reviews from trail and endurance riders all over the USA. 

The pad is 29 inches long and has a sloping design, so the width is 32 inches at the front and 20 inches at the back. I love this pad because it reduces fatigue and keeps myself and my horse comfortable all day long. 


  • It’s perfect for trail riding.
  • It’s durable.


  • It’s only available in black or gray.

2. Barrel Saddle Pad

Barrel Saddle Pad

The Impact Gel Barrel Saddle Pad is heavy-duty and made from a durable wool blend outer and is a redesign of the classic contoured pad specifically for barrel saddles. It drops down to protect against rigging and stops the saddle from shifting during tight turns. 

The Barrel Pad is 28 inches long and is the shortest saddle in the Impact Gel range. It comes in black or gray and is 1/2, 3/4, and 1-inch thick. It is 16 inches wide, tapering off to 13 inches at the back, and has a contoured spine for a perfect fit and durable wear leathers. This is the best pad to choose if you want to excel in barrel events. 


  • It’s easy to clean.
  • It’s perfect for barrel racing and games.


  • It’s only suitable for barrel saddles.

3. Wild West Annie O

Wild West: Annie O.

I love the Annie O pad because of its beautiful woven design and unique colors. It doesn’t just look good, it’s also a heavy-duty, high-performance working pad made from New Zealand wool and comes with durable wear leathers. 

The great thing about the Annie O is that it is available in three different sizes, and you can choose between the straight-backed design with fleece or the contoured cut with felt. The contoured cut pad is 3/5 inch thick, the straight back is 9/10 inches, and both are available in sizes 30 – 34 inches long. 


  • It has a unique, attractive design.
  • It’s available in straight-backed and contour fit.


  • It’s only for Western saddles.

4. Classic Contoured Saddle Pad

impact gel stores

The Classic Contour is the most popular and versatile saddle pad from Impact Gel. It has a breathable wool blend outer and is cut out at the withers and billets. It’s a heavy-duty pad with wear leathers for extra durability and fits round and square saddles. The great thing about the Classic contour is that it’s also available with a tacky tack cover and in XT Lite material.

I love this pad because it provides ultimate comfort and balance in the saddle. It’s perfect for horses with back problems but suitable for all horses and Western riding styles. The Classic Contour is available in 1/2, 3/4, and 1-inch thickness, 30 or 32 inches long, and in gray, tan, and black.


  • It’s perfect for all horses.
  • This is the original Impact Gel pad, a brand leader for 15 years.


  • You can only use it with Western saddles.
  • There are not many colors to choose from.

The Best Impact Pads For Horses With Special Conformation

1. Impact Gel Wither Relief Saddle Pad 

impact gel contoured saddle pad

The Wither Relief is the best saddle pad for high-withered horses. It has an adjustable strap over the wither area, a contoured cut along the spine, and strategically placed gel bladders to help ease the pressure from the saddle bars. It has a durable wool blend outer for extra comfort, heavy-duty wear leather, and is cut out at the billet for rigging.

The fantastic thing about the Wither Relief is it really frees up a horse’s shoulder movement and has helped many high-withered horses enjoy riding again, backed up by endless happy customer reviews online. The pad is 3/4 inches thick and is available in 30 and 32 inches long.


  • It’s an exclusive design.
  • It’s perfect for high-withered horses.


  • It only comes in one color.
  • You can only use it with Western saddles.

2. Straightback Saddle Pad

straightback saddle pad

The Straigtback is a durable, heavy-duty saddle pad, ideal for round horses with no withers, also known as mutton withered or flat-backed. Its unique design prevents the saddle from slipping, and it can also help swayback horses. The pad comes with heavy-duty wear leathers, is cut out for rigging, and will fit round and square saddles. 

What I like most about this saddle pad is that it has vent holes on the top to stop heat building up, which is a common problem with flat-backed horses. The straight-back pad is available in 1/2, 3/4, or one inch thick and 29 or 32 inches long.


  • It’s fantastic for round horses with a flat back or low withers.


  • It’s only available in black or gray.

3. Set Back Saddle Pad

Set Back Saddle Pad

The Set Back pad is fantastic for round horses or those with large, athletic shoulders. It helps lift the saddle bars away from the shoulders, so it fits better and improves your horse’s mobility and range.

I love this pad because it really frees up my horse’s legs and has a contoured cut along the spine to enhance performance. You can use it on all horses and Western riding disciplines, and it’s 3/4 inches thick and comes in 30 or 32 inches long.


  • It’s perfect for flat-backed horses.
  • It improves shoulder mobility.


  • It’s only available in black or gray.


Question: What is the best thickness for a saddle pad?

Answer: Saddle pads come between 1/2 and 1-inch thick, and you should choose a thickness according to your riding needs. If you spend hours in the saddle, perform demanding tasks such as roping, or your horse has back problems, you should choose a thicker pad. Choose a thinner one if you don’t ride for long periods or in equine sporting activities. 

Question: What is an AP Saddle pad?

Answer: An all-purpose or AP saddle pad is designed for English riding. It’s larger and more contoured than a standard English pad to fit all-purpose saddles. English saddle pads are much thinner than Western ones to give the rider more contact. Many English riders use AP saddles and saddle pads for jumping, dressage, and eventing. 

Question: What color saddle pad looks good on bays?

Answer: When it comes to choosing a color for their saddle pad, bay horses are pretty versatile. Dark red, burgundy, royal blue, hunter green, brown, and copper pads look great on bright bay horses. Dark bay horses suit soft pastel shades, white and purple. Bay horses also look good in black because it matches their mane, tail, and legs. 

Question: What’s the difference between a saddle pad and a numnah?

Answer: A saddle pad and a numnah both serve the same function. They create a protective barrier and provide cushioning between the rider, saddle, and the horse’s back. In the USA, we use large, padded, rectangular saddle pads to fit hefty Western saddles, but numnahs are smaller, thinner, and more square-shaped to fit the shape of an English saddle. 

Best Impact Saddle Pads: Conclusion

If you’re looking for the best Impact Gel saddle pad on the market, I highly recommend the Wild West Annie O woven saddle pad. This beautiful pad will make the saddle more comfortable for any horse. It provides ultimate comfort, heat dissipation, and shock absorption and effectively equalizes the saddle pressure when you ride. 

Impact Gel has revolutionized the world of equine saddle pads. Their products are unmatched in quality and effectiveness. An Impact Gel pad is a worthwhile investment for any owner because they last for many years and improve you and your horse’s comfort and performance when you ride. Impact Gel is also a game changer for equines with back problems, and they have pads to suit all of your horse’s special conformational needs.


  • “Conformation of the Horse.” University of Minnesota Extension, Accessed 27 July 2022.
  • Km2022. “What Is the Difference between a Saddle Pad and a Numnah?” The Horse Forum, 23 Nov. 2013,
  • Sassy_Mare. “What Color Looks Good on a Bay ???” The Horse Forum, 21 Jan. 2021,
  • “What Is a Low Withered Horse? Explained by FAQ Blog.” FAQ Blog, Accessed 27 July 2022.

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