Any one that has spent time talking to me about saddle and harness fit knows that I am not a fan of saddle or harness pads. My theory is clear and concise and is definitive to the way we make and fit harness and saddles. As far as I am concerned, a saddle pad is just a Band-aid for a poor fitting saddle nothing more. If a saddle fits your horse correctly and the horse performs at his highest level then why would a pad ever be used? Taking all of this into account, I am going to speak generally about horses that have good conformation and do not have any special needs in respects to a normal body type. This article should not be confused with any saddle or harness fit to horses that are outside of what is termed “average shape”.
Softening the Blow
There is a lot of thinking around using a saddle pad to soften the impact of a rider and there may be some truth to that thinking. What is lost usually outweighs what is gained in softness. When a soft pad is used a few things automatically happen to the fit of your saddle. You will always feel that you have lost some of your “Close Contact” feel when riding, as you are now away from you horse due to the thickness of the pad.
Decreasing Volume of Fit and Creating a Pinch
People tend to think that if they pad up the saddle it may pinch less or create less pressure points. Have you ever thought that a pad could make things worse? In fact, by padding most saddles on good backs we decrease the fit volume. We make the panels unstable and actually create a rocking effect as the saddle tries to realign or re-balance onto the horses back every step. We also decrease the fit volume by making the saddle fit smaller. This can be compared to putting an insole in your shoe! Yes it’s softer but your shoe is tighter!
Most pads are not non-slip. It is a moving target of where your saddle pad will be and what position it will be in after you ride. So many aspects have to be taken into account regarding time and type of work performed to define the slippage problem. Some of these aspects are tightness of girth, weight loss, temperature or horse, amount of sweat and quality of pad. All of the above can add to your saddle fit problems. This will be very evident if your saddle pad is in a different location on the horses back after it has been used.
If You Must!
Use a pad that is stable and consistent in feel and quality. Pads that are firm actually can distribute weight, something as soft as a pillow will never do more than highlight a sore spot or pressure point. Try and get a pad that has technical properties that have positive features. Some pads are specific to “filling in extra space at the shoulder” or “having a little extra thickness at the cantle”. Breathable, technical non-slip products work best as they are designed to do more than just keep your saddle clean from sweat.
Have fun, be safe,
Featured Freedman Products
The Standard Acavallo Massage Pad offers combination of exceptional shock absorbency & non slip. Can be used directly onto the back or between a numnah and saddle as an extra layer.
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Anatomically moulded gel helps support the saddle in front with low profile ideal for use under close-contact saddles and where the fit is too low over the withers.
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Low profile ideal for use under close-contact saddles and where lift is required at the back of the saddle. Unique structure of gel allows natural compression conforming to saddle shape and allowing air to move. Very flexible and can be used on top of any numnah and saddle pad.
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