A Saddle Pad For All Occasions


No such animal! Since I manufacture the equalizer saddle pad, I naturally consider it the best pad on the market. But will the equalizer pad solve all the problems? No!  What are the problems?  What are we trying to accomplish with a saddle pad or blanket?  Why am I using a saddle pad at all?  You be the judge. I will argue for the horse.  As a horse I would want a pad on my back that: skito


“absorbs sweat which helps keep me cool”            

“keeps the saddle from pinching”
“keeps the saddle from chafing”                         

“keeps the saddle in place”

“evenly distributes the riders weight”                  

“absorbs shock”

“lets the rider feel my movement”                        

“and I want to look good!”

Aren’t you glad you are not a horse?  Seriously, let’s look at saddle pads from an analytical perspective  starting with sweat absorption.


Fabric or fleece against the back  must wick the moisture and do more than just hold the warm sweat  in suspension as is the case with dense felts and all wool fleece.  Look for breathable fabrics or fleeces that  do not mat nor are so thick they make you unstable. Remember that thick piles can aggravate heat retention. Multiple layers of pads or blankets have the same effect on heat retention as winter layering for the human body.


Pinching cannot be lessened by padding. Get a saddle that fits. Saddles are like shoes. Thick socks  in tight shoes don’t help one whit. Imagine a narrow tree with a thick pad. The rider will end up perching on  the pad and concentrating pressure where the tree pinches.


Movement of the saddle relative to the animal  is conducive to chafing. Fishtailing of the hindquarters  under the saddle  appears to be most the common problem with additional padding placed under the cantle as  a solution. Treat the problem, not the symptom. The symptom is off-contact at the back of the saddle. The  problem, probably, is the front of the saddle has slipped down into the pocket at the base of the withers and  behind the scapula, a position problem not apparent when the horse is standing still. Lift the front and center  of the saddle but not by padding at the withers.


Saddle shift can be a result of any number of problems. I most often encounter saddle movement when  there is a bridging condition, multiple pads in use, or general poor fit of saddle to animal. Some pads can help,  but again are a treatment of the symptom. Saddle fit is the key which takes us to weight distribution.


Treeless saddles and flexible trees have certainly  complicated the problem of weight distribution as 
normally addressed in tree design. This is too complex of a discussion to address here, so lets just look at  your animals back and see where its  able to accept the load of the rider and saddle. If the saddle is riding on  the ribcage, spine,  withers or loin, you probably have an unhappy animal. Look at your existing pad or blanket  for a telltale sweat pattern and uniform compaction of fleece or fabric. Look for the point dirt accumulates as  a probable area of minimal contact.  Full contact of the tree or bars is the essence of good weight distribution.


Weight distribution means shock distribution. More surface area to absorb shock means a more  comfortable ride for animal and rider. When looking for a shock absorbing pad use the drop test of a weight  on the pad and check for rebound. The weight should hit like a sack of potatoes, not a tennis ball. Be careful  with thick pads that do absorb shock but might put you a mile from the horse.


The sense of oneness with your horse is not accomplished with thick or multiple pads. The least 
padding that accomplishes the job is the best,  much like government.


Style is last because it should be. There are a multitude of pads in all colors but the consideration  for aesthetics should be only after form fit and function.


There is no one formula to decide the best saddle pad. There are to many variables, not the least of  which are baseless opinion. The analysis of saddle pads, saddles or any  item for that matter, is essentially  the same process, an exercise in deductive reasoning. Ask yourself what you expect from the item you will  purchase. Will the design of the item meet your needs?  Will the materials  perform as advertised? Do you  know what the materials are? Imagine a content label on everything you buy. (I am not advocating  universal content labeling, only  the obligation of the consumer to educate themselves and free society  from the victim syndrome.)  Are you relying on testimony, advertisement and hype, or do you actually understand the product including design and materials?  When in doubt, don’t  kid yourself. 


It only costs you money and a cranky horse.


Happy trails!



< back to saddle pad info


© 2009 Savvy Sport Saddle | Design by Static-Free