How do you know which saddle pads to buy? There are so many on the market! They all make great claims to do great things, but which should you be considering? Pad fit is vital, as the wrong pad can cause the right saddle to fit poorly, or not at all.

Not recommended:

  • straight pads. The horses back has curves, therefore so should the pad.
  • cut back pads, as they tend to place a far greater pressure further back under the saddle where you can’t see or feel it.
  • neoprene pads, as there is research to show that neoprene should not be used on a horse for more than 30 minutes at a time, due to heat-related issues.

If you are unsure about which pad to buy, it is better to arrange a consultation to check your saddle fit and find out which pad is best suited to your horse and saddle. TWS stocks pads from a number of manufacturers and has numerous different types of pad in stock. TWS only stocks pads which are anatomically correctly shaped and are truly comfortable to the horse.

The first step is to isolate how your saddle is fitting:

Is it too low in the front? Is the horse crooked and needs balancing for the saddle to sit straight? Does the saddle fit perfectly balanced from front to back? What back shape does your horse have, and is your saddle the same shape? How long (or short) is your horses ribcage and loins in relation to the saddle? Does your horse have high withers? How heavy is the rider? What job do you need the horse to perform? All of these (and more) dictate what pad your horse needs.

Does your saddle slip when you mount from the ground, or in lope. does it slide about? Many riders are told they need a grippy pad. The actual problem is that the saddle is the wrong shape for the horses back. When the bar angles mirror the horses shape the saddle will not slip, no matter how round your horse!

Please note, that if the saddle is too narrow over the shoulders, too long over the ribcage, the wrong bar angle, or badly bridging, then no pad can help.

Makes of saddlepad stocked by TWS:

The Mattes Sheepskin Saddle Pad is a fantastic pad. It tends to be mainly used for where shimming is necessary (arguably as horses change muscular shape throughout the year, shimming is always necessary). It can be shimmed like a Pro Correction pad, and it can also be shimmed more subtly, for example, if a horse has one shoulder bigger than the other, or if the horse has wastage of the back muscles then you can build the pad up accordingly. It is also for horses that have very sensitive backs. This is a brilliant pad and is the most versatile out of all the pads. We have had a lot of success with this pad and as a result this pad is our biggest seller. You can use up to 6 shims per pocket. Please note that the saddle has to basically fit, this pad cannot perform miracles. If you are over approximately 15 stone it may not provide enough shock absorbency, and therefore may want to look at this pad

Cons: the cost.

Christ Lammfelle Pads are a good, cheaper alternative to the Mattes pads. They are made from sheepskin and have pockets for shimming and customisation.

Cons: No 8-pocket option available, so only suitable for well muscled or more rotund horses. Very few colour choices available. The pad itself is thinner overall than the Mattes pads, therefore will not be so good for heavier riders.

The Pro-Correction Pad is very useful as a solution for a saddle that is too wide at the shoulder. For example, when fitting a saddle to a young horse that you expect to grow you may use this pad so you can fit a saddle that is a little too wide allowing for growing room over the shoulder. This pad is not so good for crooked horses as it does not have the capability for fine adjustment that the Mattes pad has.

Cons: Only has one long pocket with 3 shims in, therefore not very adjustable.

Diamond Wool Pads are a top quality 100% wool felt pad. They come in many different shapes and designs including a number of different contoured pads, shimmable pad (which is excellent for the heavier rider whose horse needs a basic shimmable pad). They are made in the USA.

Diamond Wool Pads have a dedicated commitment to providing saddle pads manufactured using domestic materials and craftsmanship, Diamond Wool saddle pads have become a well respected and trusted choice of horse enthusiasts around the world. Please note that although TWS can order in the whole range, we only stock the pads that are contoured and therefore follow the horses’ natural back shape.

Cons: Felt is not as shock absorbing for lighter adult riders. It is harder to pull up in the gullet off the withers. It has a very basic shim system with only one shim per pocket.

The Western Saddler does NOT recommend the following:

Equi-Pads and Classic Equine ESP Pads contain a high-density, slow recovery foam. They are of a uniform thickness all the way through the pad so are best suited to saddles that fit really well. The Equi-Pad was pressure tested alongside a large number of other types of pad, and came out very well for distributing shock and pressure, as long as the saddle fitted well. The Classic Equine pad also tested well. The Classic Equine pad is also good for the heavier rider.

Cons: All this sounds great except the pad is too thick to be able to pull up inside the gullet to give wither clearance, and they are not anatomically shaped for the spine.  It also does not have pockets for shimming and customisation.

Acavallo Saddle Pads are a non-toxic, anti-allergenic saddle pad made from medical soft gel. The pad is elastic and washable. It does not absorb sweat (but can cause the horse to sweat quite a lot). The pad can be used directly on the horses back and works to eliminate slipping and is a shock absorber. This is reputed to be one of the best anti-slip pads on the market (in general, a saddle should not slip if it fits well).

Cons: this is a very thin pad which does not allow the horse's back to breathe properly or give enough protection from the weight and movement of the rider and saddle.  It also does not have pockets for shimming and customisation.

Professionals Choice Pads are probably the one of the most famous brands. Most have a Navajo blanket top, and a merino wool underside. They are breathable, pressure-distributing and absorb shock reasonably well. The pads with the shaped topline are the most comfortable for the horse as the straight pads tend to pull down over the horses withers and cause a high amount of pressure there.

Cons: Does not offer the degree of comfort and shock absorption that the sheepskin pads offer. It also does not have pockets for shimming and customisation.