There's a couple of things to take into account when selecting a saddle pad, type of padding and shape of the pad. A third item would be the top of the pad. It's appearance can be especially important when the saddle pad is given as a gift.
-They Can Be Good Looking
-But Don't Forget Shape and Material
There are several types of padding common to most saddle pads on the market - fleece (natural or synthetic), felt, and a relatively new entry, neoprene waffle.
Fleece is the least expensive and my choice is synthetic fleece since it wears better and is easier to clean. The wool felt pad bottom generally has better shock absorbing capability and improved wicker effect which means a cooler ride for your horse.
When I first saw the waffle bottom on a pad I though the neoprene would probably trap heat under the pad and saddle but it actually does the opposite, helping cool the horse on a long trail ride. Neoprene of course does not wick moisture away but this type of pad is probably worth looking into. An additional benefit for some is that the neoprene pad does not tend to slide or roll as easily as other pads can do.
ShapeProper fit to the horse is very important when selecting a saddle. The issue of fit may not be quite as important as far as the saddle pad is concerned but still should be given some thought. A saddle pad is much stiffer than a saddle blanket and consequently the conformation of the horse should be taken into account when selecting the pad.
- A Straight Saddle Pad is probably OK for most horses, certainly for the horse that has a rather flat back and/or rounded or mutton withers. The straight pad is generally all right for horses with normal wither definition as well.
- If the horse has a slight dip in its back or more pronounced withers, a Contour Pad will be the better choice, relieving pressure on the withers.
- In some cases a Cutout Saddle Pad would be the proper choice to relieve pressure on the withers. The pad is cut out at the front where the withers would be.
- The Round Skirt Saddle Pad is generally used with a rounded skirt saddle. While seemingly for sake of appearance hte round skirt pad is sometimes selected for horses with a shorter back, and may be necessary if one or more corners of a square pad tends to dig into the horse.
Whatever you do don't select a pad style designed to correct the effects of an ill-fitting saddle. Some folks have been known to do this and it's generally not a good idea. Start with a properly fitting saddle and your choice of saddle pad type becomes of secondary importance.
Top of the Pad
There's much to select from here and appearance is likely to play a big role, especially for a gift. Most used materials are natural wool, mohair, or a blend of the two. Also microfiber has made an appearance. Microfiber is tough and easy to clean while wool is often the choice for show pads.
My own pads are of synthetic fleece, both top and underside and I'm very happy with them, The brand name has long since disappeared so I can't share that with you. I recently looked at a number of Reinsmann pads in a local tack shop and was very impressed with the selection. I especially liked one with a neoprene pad with a southwestern design thinking it would look good on my buckskin mare. The black fleece pads I have now look fine too, especially on the duns and white horses.
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