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Guide to Saddle Pad Materials
Western saddle pads are made out of a range of different materials. From experience, each type of material is suitable for different purposes and events. This is a guide to some common textiles and their characteristics, aimed at helping beginner riders become aware of the differences.
Gel Saddle Pads
This is the one of the best materials for saddle pads as it is very comfortable for both you and your horse. One of the main reasons for this is because it disperses force and especially focuses on adding padding to pressure points of your horse. I’m currently using a western saddle pad by Impact Gel and it is a bit thicker than other materials. Just note that gel saddle pads can start off being quite tough. They need a couple of rides to break into.
Neoprene Saddle Pads
Neoprene is a waterproof material and quite thick. It has a rubbery back that acts as a non - slip surface on your horse. These western saddle pads are easy to look after and easy to clean. It offers good protection for your horse especially if it is an older horse and becoming swaybacked. This is a very comfortable material and can last you a long time.
Sheepskin Saddle Pads
The original material for all saddle pads, sheepskin has a few advantages, but also disadvantages. Sheepskin saddle pads look great with your horse and compliment them classically. It is also very durable and soaks up sweat. From experience, it makes riding very comfortable. However, the biggest downside to sheepskin saddle pads is that they are very hard to clean. I only recommend sheepskin if you are competing in events that span a few days.
Saddle pads made out of felt are great for cooler seasons, as it’s very efficient at keeping your horse warm. As well as this, it is still breathable - giving you a good balance. These are thick saddle pads and are great at absorbing shock. This was one of the first types of saddle pads I tried and noticed that you didn’t need to add an extra saddle blanket underneath before use, making it easy to use.
No matter which saddle pad you choose, it should always be based on whether it is suitable for your horse. It’s especially important to take note of your horse’ back shape.eg. swayback, flat. Other factors to consider are whether it is non - slip, or if the saddle pad is easy to clean. My last piece of advice is to invest in something of good quality that will last you a long time.
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