101 - Saddle Pads
Further to our previous blog about some of the different types of western saddle available, we would now like to move on to the saddle pad.
A western saddle spreads the weight over a larger area of the horses back compared to an ‘English’ saddle but where we would use a numnah under an English saddle we use a saddle pad under a western one.
A good saddle pad, with use, will mould to the shape of your horses back, increase the comfort of weight borne and ensure that the spread of weight is maintained correctly. It will not make an ill fitting saddle fit although it could help with very minor fitting issues. Some pads are especially designed so that you can add shims that also allow you to make minor adjustments to the fit of your saddle. A shim is a smaller extra pad, often made from foam, which could be either placed in a specific pocket or attached to the pad with Velcro®. A possible reason that you would need to add shims to your pad would be a lack of muscle behind the shoulder blade. The expectation would be that the shims would be placed to imitate the desired extra muscle and raise the front of your saddle to improve comfort and fit for your horse. Great care should be taken when making a judgement as to what is a minor fitting issue and expert advice should always be sought to ensure the comfort and welfare of your horse.
A saddle pad will also protect the underneath of your saddle from dirt and sweat and will aid the longevity of your saddle. You should always ensure that your saddle pad is correctly placed on your horses back and once you have placed your saddle on top be sure to pull up the front to make sure that there is no possibility of undue pressure being loaded onto the wither area of your horse. Contoured pads are also available which, in theory, help to reduce the risk of pressure on the withers but again correct placement is important.
Saddle pads are manufactured in several materials, the most common of which are felt, neoprene, wool and fleece. In some cases a combination is used. A decorative blanket sometimes referred to as a Navajo blanket, can be placed over the top of a plain saddle pad and colours are most often chosen to compliment both the horse and your chosen show outfit if competing. In many cases saddle pads combine the decorative top layer, with a fleece or wool under layer encasing a shock absorbing filling. The best of these will be made of natural and breathable materials promoting maximum comfort for your horse.
Author: Sandra Mitchell