There’s nothing better than getting out on the trail with your trusty steed, meandering through the backcountry while basking in nature’s glow. However, you need to always make sure you have the right equipment.
Probably the most important element of your horse-riding tack is your saddle, but the second most important is your saddle pad. This buying guide will help you understand the purpose of a saddle pad and help you choose the right one for both you and your horse.
What Is a Saddle Pad?
A saddle pad is a protective layer that fits between your horse’s back and the saddle. It serves two major purposes:
First, it protects and improves performance for horses. Even though your horse is strong, having a saddle and rider on his back all day can potentially cause irritation, especially if you’re riding aggressively. The saddle pad is a buffer between your tough leather saddle and your horse’s sensitive skin.
As you ride, dirt and grime are constantly being kicked up. You want to make sure this dirt doesn’t get caught beneath the saddle where it will grind into your horse’s skin, causing sores and possibly infection.
Plus, you must account for the possibility of a poor saddle fit. Not all riders and horses will have custom saddles to work with. The saddle pad helps to fill in the gaps in situations where the saddle doesn’t fit as well as it should.
The second purpose of a saddle pad is to protect your saddle from your horse’s sweat. During long days of riding, your horse will sweat a lot. Over time, this sweat can damage your saddle, which is generally going to be the most expensive piece of riding tack you own.
Using a saddle pad makes life easier and more comfortable for your horse, and helps reduce wear and tear on your expensive equipment. Listed below are our recommendations for the best saddle pad you can find on the market.
The first best saddle pad in our review, the Kavallerie All-Purpose Saddle pad is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a multi-purpose saddle pad for a variety of different riding activities. It’s suitable for both Western riding or English Equestrian, and will support you a.nd your horse for trotting, jogging, cantering, or loping.
This means you can use the saddle pad effectively with dressage saddles, English saddles, Western saddles, and others. Whatever type of saddle you ride in, this pad is up to the challenge.
The first thing you’ll notice about this pad is the beautiful black quilted diamond design with gold cord accents on the edges. Though it may seem plain at a glance, Amazon customers reported they were pleasantly surprised by the look and design of this product when they finally saw it up close.
The pad is composed of breathable mesh fabric so your horse stays cool during long rides and training sessions. This is important for maintaining your horse’s body temperature.
This Kavallerie saddle pad is also cushioned for long-term comfort, which provides a comfortable experience for your horse, preventing the chaffing and rubbing common to inferior saddle pads.
This saddle pad is also specially designed with extra lining to fit the contour of your horse’s back, which prevents hot spots and allows for long periods of comfortable riding.
The quality and durability are also excellent. This piece of tack is tough enough for regular training, but attractive enough for shows and events. It’s the perfect all-around saddle pad.
Finally, the pad includes an anti-slip underside, which helps ensure it stays in place on your horse’s back while still providing maximum comfort, functionality, and durability.
- Our best choice for: All-purpose riding
- Dimensions: 25.5 x 22.5 inches
- Multipurpose saddle pad
- Breathable mesh fabric
- Designed to prevent overheating
- Beautiful quilted diamond design
- Extra lining for a contoured fit
- Budget option
- Some customers complain about the material
- Some customer say the pad is too ornate and fancy
The Tough 1 Hand Painted Cactus Saddle Pad is a great choice if you’re looking for a stylish saddle pad to make sure you and your horse stand out while trail riding. Normally, we tend to just focus on performance when it comes to our horse tack, but sometimes, you just want to look fabulous.
The standout feature of this saddle pad is the visual design, which customers describe as “absolutely gorgeous.” The main portion of the saddle pad is coated in stunning pink felt, which already gives it a standout look compared to other saddle pads.
However, this product also includes hand-painted leather edging depicting cactuses in fun colors, a classic image of Western American culture, on all four corners of the pad and along the wither. This is a great traditional look for western saddle pads.
The design is rounded out with a faux crocodile skin bottom edge (no real crocodiles were harmed in the making of this saddle pad!).
But remember, this is a functional piece of tack so it can’t just be for show. This product is also made from high-quality saddle pad materials. This product still delivers in terms of comfort and protection for your four-legged trail partner.
Plus, the design elements help to hold the entire saddle pad together, which improves durability and helps it retain its original shape.
- Our best choice for: Style and aesthetics
- Weight: 5.8 pounds
- Dimensions: 32 x 14 inches
- Stunning hand-painted design
- Looks great for show riding, rodeos, and other events
- Excellent quality
- Contoured for a perfect fit
- Wool base pad
- Some customers complain it is not thick enough
The next best saddle pad in our review, the Southwestern Equine OrthoRide Elite Saddle Pad is the right choice for a horse with a high wither. The wither is the highest point of horses’ backs. As some horses have particularly prominent withers, they need a saddle set that accommodates without causing injury.
Typically, a high-withered horse will get sores, chafing, and other injuries due to the saddle pressure applied between its shoulder blades. This isn’t a problem for horses with average withers. This pad helps reduce damage in that area by providing extra padding and support.
The design also includes a wither relief notch, also known as a wither relief cutout, which provides extra comfort and pressure relief.
Along these same lines, this saddle pad is great for horses with other asymmetrical body types such as narrow shoulders or unmatched leg lengths. Even small differences can have a compounding effect over time, so it’s important to make accommodations for your trail buddy.
This felt saddle pad also includes a Poron XRD shock absorber just beneath the saddle bar area, a material that has been tested to absorb up to 90% of shock forces. With less shock and pounding from the saddle tree, your horse will be far more comfortable during long rides and training sessions.
However, this saddle pad is not all about functionality. The attractive two-toned design includes a base material of desert rose wool over a yellow fleece lining. The edges are accented by stylized leather stamped with a sharp western design.
This pad is among our higher-end options and has the price to match.
- Our best choice for: High-withered horses
- Dimensions: 31 x 30 inches
- Specially designed for high-wither horses
- Special Poron XRD shock-absorbing material
- Contoured pad shape
- Durable design
- Layered design
- Fleece lining
- Highest price on our list
The Weaver Leather Synergy Performance Saddle Pad is the perfect choice for those interested in more intense sporting activities with performance horses. Maybe you and your horse just love to get out there and go fast. If so, this is the right saddle pad for you. Several design and technology features help support aggressive riding.
As far wool pads go, this one is a great choice. It’s made from top-quality materials to provide high-level shock absorption for your horse, as well as for yourself. Plus, these high-quality materials are made to stand the test of time.
There’s no point in finding the right high-quality saddle pad fit if the product is just going to come apart in a year. You won’t have that problem with this pad. Weaver Leather is known for using premium wear leathers in their construction process.
If you’re looking for extra shock absorption, this is the right saddle pad for you. The padded interior is made from special EVA sport foam, which resists compression, provides exceptional comfort, and even delivers orthopedic benefits. These features will be important for long training sessions.
This Weaver Leather contoured pad is 1-inch thick, which means it provides a good balance between comfort and mobility. If the pad is too thick, it’s just going to cause excessive sweating and force you to cut your training sessions short.
For hard training, it’s also important to have a pad that effectively wicks moisture to reduce chafing and to ensure your horse stays cool. The design also provides excellent airflow to further cool your horse.
Finally, this saddle pad has a classic, simple design so that it remains attractive while still sending off the message that you’re all business. The base of the design is white genuine wool and the accents are made of premium, hand-oiled leather.
- Our best choice for: High-intensity sport training
- Dimensions: 33 x 32 inches
- Shock-absorbing sport foam
- Extra ventilation for maximum airflow
- Genuine wool liner provides moisture-wicking ability
- Specially designed to fit the contour of your horse’s back
- Lightweight to provide extra mobility
- Excellent air flow
- Second highest price on our list
The final best saddle pad option on our list, the Challenge Horsewear Thick Horse Saddle Pad is the best choice for those most interested in a therapeutic solution for their horse. If your trusty friend is getting up there in years and you need a saddle pad that is extra cushioned and contoured to keep your horse comfortable, this pad is for you.
With its extra cushioning and light weight, this saddle pad should provide the gentle comfort your older horse requires. If you’re planning to take your horse out for high-intensity training sessions, this might not be the right choice. This pad is designed to provide a comfortable cushion for some gentle average riding.
This pad is made from heavy wool on the top side and soft felt underneath, which is a great combination for both comfort and durability. Plus, the pad has a contoured shape to conform to your horse’s back to maximize comfort and minimize wear and tear both on your horse and your saddle.
This means you won’t have any fit issues, which is probably the most important factor in choosing a saddle pad for an older horse. Superior comfort is a must. The wool fibers help wick moisture away from your horse’s body, keeping your old friend cool when experiencing hotter temperatures. Plus, this pad is available at an affordable price.
Finally, as with most wool saddle pads, this Challenger product looks great. It has a base blue design with distressed leather accents on the corners and above the wither.
- Our best choice for: Older horses
- Dimensions: 32 x 15 inches
- Weight: 1 pound
- Helpful for older horses
- Made from heavy wool for comfort and breathability
- Conforms well to a horse’s back
- Additional padding provides excellent shock absorption
- Stylish leatherwork design
- New product so minimal customer review information
As you can see, there are several features that differentiate between saddle pads, but they mostly serve the same function. Saddle pads are a cushioned, durable pad designed to protect your horse and your saddle from wear and tear. We think you and your horse will be happy with any pad on this list.
We hope you found this buying guide useful, and that it will help you as you try to decide which is the best saddle pad for your horse. We introduced you to a few saddle pad brands and products which should be enough to get you started. Good luck out there, and happy trails!