There are so many options in the horse world, it can get quite overwhelming. There are variations within everything, but the same thing doesn't work for every horse. Saddle pads are a great example of this. There are so many brands, thicknesses, materials, and purposes. A lot of factors come into play when choosing the proper saddle pad for your horse. You have to think about their body type, the length of your saddle, your discipline, and how much you ride.
The most common saddle pad sizes are 30x30 and 32x32. When considering length, you should take a look at your saddle skirt and how your horse is built. If you have a longer skirted saddle or one with square skirts, you may need to look at a longer pad. If you have a shorter skirted saddle or one with a rounded skirt, you can go with a shorter pad. This can be affected if your horse is shorter backed versus long backed. It is just important to make sure the saddle pad doesn't rub on their hips. A good rule to go off of is you should have 1 to 2 inches of pad sticking out in the front and in the back. If you have too much pad exposed, it can curl up or again, rub your horse. If you have too little of pad exposed, this can cause your saddle to shift or your pad to slip backwards.
Some brands do offer a wide range of thicknesses to choose from. A lot of it does come down to preference, but it also has a lot to do with your riding style/discipline. This is what we typically recommend for each thickness:
1/2" thick: This is a great under pad option for people wanting to put a show blanket on top of their pad. It can work great for reining, showing, cutting, or other showing disciplines. This can be tricky to use by itself just because it is so thin. We typically say if you are doing light trail riding or super light rides at home, a 1/2" pad could work great for you! However, if you are doing heavy riding or performance, we suggest going with a thicker option.
3/4" thick: This is a great option for training colts or light trail riding. This thickness is usually suitable for people who ride for around 1 hour or less.
7/8" thick: This is the best all around thickness and is very popular at our shop. It works great for multiple disciplines and a variety of horses. This option is suitable for people who ride for around 4 hours at a time. Many barrel racers, trail riders, or other performance riders choose this option.
1" thick: This thickness is made for heavier rides or long/hard use. It is targeted towards extreme trail riders, ranch work, ropers, performance riders, and rough terrain riders.
1 1/8" thick: This is not a thickness we commonly recommend, just because it is really thick, but it does serve a great purpose for some riders. It is geared towards extremely hard use, roping disciplines, and hardcore performance riders.
One thing to keep in mind is if you have a proper fitting saddle, you can use just about any pad you desire. The only time a pad will change how your saddle fits is if it has some sort of build up or shim inside of it. These shim pads can be a great tool if needed, but it can do more harm than good if your horse wouldn't benefit from them.
Material is something to checkout as well. The most common pad is usually wool or a wool/felt blend. However, we have seen a lot of horses who are allergic to certain materials so just keep an eye out for reactions!
The horse world has an abundance of saddle pads and the perfect combo for you and your horse is out there! Never be afraid to try different ones and research is always a helpful tool in these situations. I mean you can never have too many saddle pads, right?
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