Sometimes called a saddle blanket, there are so many different styles, shapes, and sizes of saddle pads all for different horses and disciplines. But what are they anyway? Why do horses need them? And what pad is the best for my discipline?
What Is A Saddle Pad?
A saddle pad is a padded piece of material that is placed under the saddle to cushion the horse’s back from the saddle and protect it from the weight of the rider. Saddle pads come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and there are even different saddle pads that are used for different styles of riding.
The Different Types Of Saddle Pads Found In English Riding
Dressage pads are distinguishable from other pads by their noticeable length and their big size. Because dressage saddles have long saddle flaps and a large seat, dressage saddle pads need to be bigger and longer to accommodate for the saddle’s size.
Most dressage pads are thickly padded and are quilted as well. In dressage competitions, a horse’s saddle pad must be white, though these pads come in many different colors.
These pads are of the most commonly found in the English horse world. All purpose pads are great for riding lessons, pleasure riding, and working on the flat. All purpose pads are usually long enough to fit most dressage saddles, but are small enough to be used under a jumping or all purpose saddle without looking too large.
These pads can be found nearly anywhere selling English tack. They can come in nearly any color or pattern as well.
Jumping pads are very similar in appearance to all purpose pads. Like the all purpose pad, the jumping pad can come in nearly any color and pattern. These pads are usually quilted and padded and are typically paired with a half pad or a riser pad to offer extra support to the horse’s back when jumping.
This pad is shorter than a dressage or all purpose pad as a jumping saddle is shorter and has shorter flaps than a dressage saddle.
Half pads are exactly what they sound like. They are about the size of half of a saddle pad. These are typically used over another saddle pad to offer the horse’s back more support. In some classes, like flat saddle or hunter English pleasure, riders don’t use saddle pads on their horses, so sometimes a half pad will be used to offer the horse at least some kind of support and padding.
These pads are commonly seen in jumping to lessen the blow to a horse’s back that a rider might inflict.
Half pads come in nearly any color, but the most common colors seen are white and black.
Grip pads are saddle pads that have rubber-like material on the inside of the pad to prevent the pad from slipping. These pads can come in nearly any color like most pads.
Grip pads are a great option for horses who have very low withers. The reason for this is because the saddle is more likely to slip if the horse has no withers for the saddle to hold onto. A grip pad makes a really good option for these horses as the pad helps hold onto the horse.
The horse that I ride, Olivia, has really low withers, so I started using a grip pad to keep my saddle from slipping. As soon as I started using it I noticed that the slipping pretty much stopped.
Silhouette pads are often used in horse shows. The reason they are called silhouette pads is because they are the same shape as the English saddle.
These pads are usually white, but I have seen them in other colors as well. Most of the time, silhouette pads have a fleece-like material on the side that is facing the horse and a quilted fabric material on the side facing the saddle.
Bounce Or Riser Pad
Bounce pads and riser pads are comparable to the half pad when looking at their shape and size. Bounce or riser pads are typically made of foam and are placed underneath the saddle over another pad. These pads serve the same purpose as a half pad and just offer additional cushion and support to a horse’s back.
Bounce or riser pads aren’t usually seen when you are riding so they will usually come in white black and yellow.
Pony pads are just smaller pads to fit a child’s saddle on a pony. There are pony versions of all the pads mentioned including all purpose pads, dressage pads, jumping pads, half pads, bounce or riser pads, and bareback pads.
Like the pads mentioned above, pony pads can come in nearly every color and pattern imaginable.
Bareback pads are often in the same shape as a silhouette pad but have an attached girth. Bareback pads are used to pad the horse’s back and keep the rider’s pants clean.
These pads can be found in any color or pattern.
Swayback pads are pads meant for use on older horses who have a swayed or bony back. These pads usually have built in pads that rest on either side of the spine to better cushion and support the horse’s aging back.
Swayback pads are found in any color and can be seen as dressage, jumping, and all purpose pads.
I have a swayback pad just so I didn’t need to get a half pad, but because I was riding older horses, it was really nice to have so I could ride the horse while giving its back the proper cushion and support it needs.
The Different Types Of Saddle Pads Found In Western Riding
In western riding, nearly all pads are the same. Western pads are long and rectangular to carry and cushion a large heavy western saddle, and are usually pretty thick and heavy duty.
Western saddle pads can come in all colors and patterns.
Some of the pads that are used in western riding are actually blankets that are just folded. These blankets are often thick heavy blankets that when folded make a pad that can comfortably carry a saddle on a horse’s back.
Western bareback pads are different than English bareback pads just because of their size. Western bareback pads are bigger and some are rectangular shaped like their typical saddle pad.
Swayback saddle pads in western riding have large thick pads that are often built in to the pad that rest on either side of the horse’s spine.
I have a saddle pad for western horses that is intended for swayback horses. I like the pad a lot for use on my older horses like Cross Fiire (my Arabian) because it offers more cushion and support than a normal pad would offer.