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Best 6 Western Saddle Pads for Horse And Rider

Saddle pads are the cushions that you lay between a horse’s back and the saddle. The padding helps to guard the horse against aggressive friction from the seat and similarly shields the saddle from the horse’s excessive perspiration. Western saddle pads are all about comfort, support, and the prevention of the slippage due to the sweat on the horse’s back. The following is a summary of the best western saddle pads including the materials, features, and design needed to foster the best protection for your horse and saddle.

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How to Choose a Western Saddle Pad?

Don’t mistake a saddle pad for a mere piece of cloth that shields the saddle from the sweaty animal. For a long time, I ignored the benefits of having a quality saddle pad for my filly, not knowing that this cushioning also impact saddle fit and comfort. That was a long time of pressure and pain for my animal and lackluster performance for me. With time I realized the error in my ways. Acquiring the right saddle pads made me a happy horse owner.

From my experience, finding the right saddle pad involves:

  • Choosing the pad right size. Consider a size that fits well on your saddle
  • Choosing the right material keeping in mind breathability, durability, and ease of cleaning
  • Finding the right shape saddle pad taking into consideration the contours of your horses back
  • Evaluating other factors including price, comfort, and aesthetics

What Size Saddle Pad Do I Need?

As a horse owner buying a saddle pad for the first time or as a replacement, the first thing to always consider is size. Unlike English saddle pads, which are one-size-fits-all, Western saddle pads vary in skirt size.

The median size for a western saddle pad is 30 inches by 30 inches when stretched out. The distance from the center to the bottom edge is about 15 inches, while the spine area is 30 inches. Sizing the right saddle takes some trial and error. Smaller riders should generally try the 30 sq. inch pads while a larger rider should consider 32 sq. inch saddle pads.

For smaller ponies, get a saddle that fits first, then use the saddle size as your guide for deciding the pad size. Typically, smaller horse saddle pads measure 20 x 20 inches.

What Shape Saddle Pad Should I choose?

Apart from square saddle cushions, which are the most common, there are also round, cut-out, and contoured pads that you might want to consider.

In terms of price, though, square and rectangular pads are the most affordable. They are also ideal for horses with low average withers. Horse withers are the long vertebrae between the shoulder blades of the animal that support his neck and head and is the saddle bearing area.

Round pads are the same size as square pads, except that they have rounded corners. These pads are ideal for horses with short backs and low average withers. The edges of a square pad often tend to rub short backed horses on their hindquarters and may lead to irritation and soreness over time. Similarly, to attain the right fit, you might want to match round skirted saddles with round pads.

For a horse with high withers, go for cut-outs. Even though high withers improve a horse’s performance because they make them better able to lengthen their strides, they are a saddling nightmare. Traditional saddles and pads put a lot of pressure on the animal’s back, leading to an uncomfortable ride. In that case, consider a cut-out padding. These pads have an opening so that your horse’s withers come out through the notch.

High withers are a problem for thoroughbred owners mostly but can also be a problem in warmbloods and saddlebreds.

What Materials are best in a Western Saddle Pad?

The saddle pad material determines how effective it will be in wicking away moisture and helping to achieve support and balance. Most western saddle pads are made of fleece. The latter is a material that’s more effective at aeration. Consider a fleece pad with leather edging to prevent wear.

Neoprene is another favorite material. It is rubber-like and has an excellent shock-absorbing design. It’s weaving promotes aeration to keep the horse cooler. Compared to other saddle pad materials, neoprene pads are the easiest to clean—you can just hose it down.

If you go for a foam pad, find one that’s breathable to save your animal from the excessive heat. Foam saddle pads may be ideal if you work the horse very hard in sports. Open-cell foam is better for the saddle padding function. Other materials with average performance include wool and cotton.

How Thick Should a Western Saddle Pad Be?

Western saddle pads are thicker than English pads. Research shows that thicker pads function better to shield your horse’s back from the pressure coming from the saddle. As mentioned before, for riders that work the horse quite hard beneath the seat, a thicker pad is a no brainer.

Now to specifics, 1 1/8″ thick pads are ideal for calf roping, team roping, and other performance activities. Heavier riders that saddle for long periods should use 1″ thick pads. Activities include ranch work, roping, and colt starting.

On the lower side of the thickness spectrum, 7/8″ pads would be preferable for regular activities, including trail riding and barrel racing, provided the gear and rider weight don’t exceed 200 pounds. Smaller pads are for daily training sessions and can be used in combination with a thin saddle blanket.

When deciding a western saddle pad thickness, consider:

  • The duration of your riding sessions; longer rides need thicker pads
  • Load and weight(rider plus gear); if the total weight exceeds 200 lbs, consider a thicker pad
  • The riding terrain; it’s hard work for the animal going uphill and carrying you, choose a thicker pad

How to Clean a Saddle Pad?

Durability is enhanced substantially when you take better care of your saddle pad. Proper cleaning will help keep that pad in shape for the weary load it carries every day. Do you want your saddle pad to provide the best comfort and protection for you and the horse?

Brush With A Curry Comb:
Just as you groom your horse using a curry, you can use the same circular motions to remove dirt and hair from the saddle pad.

Vacuum:
Shaking off your saddle pad to remove the dirt is not enough. After a good deal of use dust and microbes seep deep into the fabric. Therefore, you should give the pad a thorough vacuuming to suck out all the things lodged in the fibers. If left in there, these nasty things will degrade your saddle pad.

Hose It Down:
Water shouldn’t be a problem for your saddle pad provided the material can handle it and you let it dry thoroughly after the cleaning. You can use spray or pressure wash for this. This spraying should not be straight down on the material. This will force dirt further into the fabric. When spraying, hold the pad at an angle that allows dirt to be pushed out towards the edges.

For wool saddle pads soak in cold water. Don’t use soaps because wool can retain the soap inside the fibers. Best to soak in cold water for at least an hour and then let dry completely. Never put a wool saddle pad in a washing machine.

Machine Wash:
Most saddle pads, other than wool, are machine washable on a gentle cycle. Use cold water and tumble dry at low heat. To much heat can cause the material to shrink and curl up. Don’t hang your pad using clips to dry as the weight of the wet pad will distort the shape.

The best Western saddle pads we reviewed

ECP Western Saddle Pad

The ECP Western Saddle Pad could be a decent choice for those seeking
a solid pad with some contour correction features.

Size
This is a 31″x16″ saddle pad size. These dimensions make it a good choice for smaller horses with a smaller rider. Unfortunately, this excludes larger animals and riders.

Cushioning
According to the manufacturer, this saddle pad model uses shock-absorbing memory material that helps protect the animals back. A little research shows that memory foam is indeed a solid material when it comes to impact absorption in cushioning. Using this pad on your horse can go a long way in keeping your horse safe and comfy on trail rides and in barrel racing.

Breathability
The foam material used in this pad is very soft and breathable. This means you’ll get good moisture-wicking ability.

This pad may not be ideal for high withered horses. It does not feature the qualifying notch or opening for the higher withers to pass through. What it might be ideal for are short backed horses. The rounded edges are smooth so your horse may not have the irritation of rubbing of its hindquarters.

The manufacturer has layered the pad with memory foam lining. Memory foam, just like the foam in our mattresses and pillows helps to contour the whole saddle pad to the shape of the horses back. Seeing that withers do change (when muscles become bigger and stronger) this is a rather thoughtful inclusion.

Pros:

  • Rounded Pad for short backed horses
  • An excellent shock-absorbing cushioning material
  • Memory foam to conform to the horse’s shape

Cons:

  • Don’t expect this pad to work well for high withered horses
  • The stitching between the pad’s layering can be suspect
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Diamond Wool Contour Felt Ranch Pad

Next up our review is the Diamond Wool Contour Felt Ranch Pad. It’s a simple saddle pad for those working on a smaller budget that like a breathable pad at a nice price.

Size:
The Diamond Wool Pad is a 32″x32″ 1-inch thick pad suitable for average exertion including roping and colt training.

Material:
The pad uses thick wool felt for cushioning. Wool pads provide a very good degree of shock absorption. I love the materials’ ability to reduce and neutralize pressure when pushing the physical limits of the horse.

Breathability:
Compared to other saddle pad materials, wool scores highly on breathability. Note however that wool tends to trap air between the fibers. This may lead to trapping heat and may not be the best choice in hot conditions.

Shape:
This pad has a contoured spine that has a wither relief notch and is reinforced with distressed leather. This is a good pad for trail riding in rough terrain and is long-lasting during heaver work.

Pros:

  • Wither Relief Features
  • Full-size pad of 32×32 and 1 inch thick
  • Wool minimizes the risk of slippage
  • Attractive price

Cons:

  • Wool has it’s limitations in ease of cleaning
  • Wool can gather more dirt and dust and can hold a smell
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Weaver Leather Contoured Wool Blend Felt Saddle Pad

Another budget option for a western saddle pad is the Weaver Leather Contoured Pad. It costs just a few dollars more than the Montana model. The biggest highlight is it’s contoured for improved fit.

Material:
Fleece wool is used for this saddle pad. Please note that fleece is not the same as wool. Fleece is synthetic and although wool-like, it offers better performance and aeration. Fleece saddle pads are generally lighter.

Cushioning:
Although fleece doesn’t perform like foam in this department, it offers some degree of shock absorption. This might not be the pad for you if you are into aggressive riding.

Breathability:
The fleece on this product may perform better at moisture-wicking than the Montana saddle pad.

Size:
This Weaver pad is 32″x16″ and 1-inch thick. This makes it suitable for average riding and working activities. It’s a rectangular-shaped pad.

Pros:

  • Easy to clean
  • Mold and mildew resistant
  • Contoured design for horses with swayback

Cons:

  • Not ideal for high withered horses
  • Not as much shock absorption as wool
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The Montana 100% Extra Fine Wool Saddle Pad

The Montana Extra Fine Wool Saddle Pad is the costliest model of the reviews so far. This product may be the right option for those willing to spend more for a feature-packed saddle pad

Material:
The lining of the Montana Pad is pure wool. Non-blended wool has many merits including durability, soft texture, and shock absorption.

You can expect some nice cushioning with this pad given its material makeup. Pure wool fibers are sturdy and compact and can stand up to the weight of a rider and gear.

Breathability:
The aeration ability of pure wool is extremely good. Also, this pad uses a patented cooling technology that they say should help with improved breathability and heat disbursement.

This is a 32″x32″ pad and ranges from 3/4 to 1 inch thick. This pad is suitable for mature horses with large riders. The pad is also slightly contoured and can be used for horses with a swayback.

Pros:

  • Improved cooling technology
  • High Withered design
  • Wool Material is soft and breathable
  • Contoured to horse
  • Very good shock absorption

Cons:

  • Not ideal for extra long drops
  • Not geared for high withered horses
  • Cleaning of this pad will not be easy
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Classic Equine BioFit Wool Felt Saddle Pad

The Classic Biofit Fleece Pad is a fleece saddle pad that can be ideal for routine activities like trail riding. The highlights of this pad include a contoured design and cut out for high withers.

Material:
Just like the Weaver Leather Contoured Pad, the Classic pad uses a wool and fleece blend. Specifically, the manufacturer speaks of pure virgin wool that performs better at moisture wicking.

This quality of wool is stronger and more naturally breathable. So, in terms of performance, you should expect this pad to outshine the Weaver and similar models.

Shock Absorption:
Like you would expect in any wool saddle pad, the cushioning of this pad is very good. The manufacturer calls this ann orthopedic grade saddle pad. The design of this pad offers comfort and pressure dissipation.

The thickness of this pad ranges from 3/4 to 1 inch and measure 32″x31 and weighs around 9lbs.

Pros:

  • Contoured pad
  • High withered design
  • Virgin wool for excellent texture and moisture dispersion

Cons:

  • The extra buildup can shift the saddle too far back
  • A little bit pricey for those on a budget
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Tough 1 Square Saddle Pad/Fleece Bottom

The Tough 1 Square Saddle Pad carries the title of being the most affordable of all the pads in our review. This would be a great choice for those with smaller horses on a tighter budget.

Material:
Fleece is the material used by the Tough 1 Pad. Fleece is primarily blended wool and has sturdier fibers. This means the Tough 1 can offer your horse the right kind of comfort during hard rides making you and the horse quite happy.

Breathability:
Fleece is breathable and soft on the inside. This is a good low-cost way to keep your horse comfortable and safe.

Size:
The Tough 1 measures 20″x12″ at about 1 inch thick. This pad is ideal for smaller horses.

Pros:

  • Fleece lining for good padding
  • Breathable
  • Sized for smaller horses
  • Thicker for hard riding
  • Low cost

Cons:

  • Not good for larger horses
  • No contouring or cutouts for high wither horses or swaybacks
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Our Best Pick

The Montana 100% Extra Fine Wool Saddle Pad by Southwestern stands out from the other pads in our review. The wool material is soft textured and effective at shock absorption. Pure wool happens to be more robust than synthetics and offers improved protection for your horse.

The moisture-wicking ability of this product is also excellent. The pads 32″x32″ size makes it suitable for mature horses with larger riders. The other compelling features include a contoured design for swaybacks and a cut-out feature for high withered horses making this the best choice in our opinion.

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