The use of saddle pads is indeed a science in itself. In many cases, saddle pads are used to adjust the saddle position and make it fit better. In other cases, the goal may be to provide shock absorption or prevent the saddle from slipping.Read more
Something that can be good to keep in mind is to seek the help of someone knowledgeable in the field if you are not familiar with it, as the horse's back is sensitive, and it is extremely important that the saddle fits well. Here we go through some different types of saddle pads that can be good to know:
- Gel Pad/Shock Absorbing: Shock-absorbing pads of various kinds are used as the name suggests, to absorb shocks and are widely used by many different types of riders and horses. A gel pad often combines the benefits of an anti-slip pad as it keeps the saddle and saddlecloth in place, while also having very good shock-absorbing properties.
- Memory Foam: Pads with a memory foam interior have greatly increased in popularity and have many good properties. They seem to be pressure equalizing, but also shock-absorbing in a good way. The advantage is also that the pad conforms to every horse's smallest bump or irregularity, while also adapting in the same way to the saddle and can therefore have an equalizing effect that many appreciate.
- Sheepskin Pads: Can seem both adjusting and shock-absorbing, here it is the need that determines together with how the saddle fits. Today, sheepskin pads are available in both classic sheepskin and synthetic varieties. Synthetic ones have a number of advantages when it comes to longevity and preserving color and shape, where the price tag is often an indication of quality, with the best ones now able to compete directly with real sheepskin.
- Anti-Slip Pad: In some cases, the saddle may slip even if it fits well on the horse, this can, for example, be due to the horse's anatomy over the back. An anti-slip pad is used to keep the saddle and/or saddlecloth in place and prevent slipping. These are often very thin and very similar to a gel pad, with the latter often being thicker and more shock-absorbing than a pure anti-slip pad, which should have minimal impact on the saddle position.
- Raising Front/Back: There are also different pads that can be placed to raise the front or back arch. These should be used by more experienced riders or someone knowledgeable about saddle fitting. You can either look at a whole pad that is built up in the front or back, or alternatively, there are variations that come as half pads, i.e., only the back or front part. These are often made of gel and can be placed over another gel pad.
- Pads with Inserts: Pads with inserts are used by many saddle fitters as you can easily adjust the height at the back and front with simple inserts and thus adjust how the saddle fits. Useful for, for example, young horses that change and develop their muscles.