Archive for the ‘Saddle Pads’ Category

by Erica Larson |

“Why does he do that?” “What is she so scared of … there’s nothing there!” Most—if not all—horse owners have been there and asked those questions. Even though we don’t always understand equine behavior, there’s got to be a reason behind it, right? Absolutely. Horses’ behaviors date back to equine evolution, and horse owners greatly benefit from an understanding what goes on in a horse’s brain, according to one veterinarian. At the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 19-23 in Las Vegas, Nev., Robert Miller, DVM, a former equine practitioner from Thousand Oaks, Calif., relayed the top 10 things horse owners, caretakers, and riders should understand about how the equine mind functions.

“There are 10 genetically predetermined behavioral qualities unique to the horse that have been established by natural selection over the 50 million-year period during which the horse evolved,” Miller began. “Failure to understand these qualities makes it impossible to have optimum communication with horses.”

1. Flight—”We tend to attribute the flightiness of a horse as stupidity,” Miller said, but when horses spook and run from things, it’s simply their innate instincts kicking in. He explained that unlike the majority of prey animals that depend on horns, tusks, or antlers for defense, the only mechanism horses are armed with—their “life-saving” behavior—is the ability to run. The following nine qualities, Miller said, stem from the horse’s flight response.

2. Perception—”The horse is the most perceptive of all domestic animals,” Miller said, adding that this quality allowed for the quick detection and escape from predators in the wild. He gave examples using the five senses:

  • Smell—Miller said horses have an “excellent” sense of smell.
  • Hearing—”The horse’s range of hearing is far beyond that of a human ear,” he said. Additionally, he noted, the ears swivel, giving the horse the ability to pinpoint where sounds originate. This was critical for survival in the wild.
  • Touch—”A horse’s sense of touch is extremely delicate,” Miller said, which is why ill-placed saddle pads or a single fly can cause extreme irritation. “The sense we have in our fingertips is what the horse has all over his body.”
  • Taste—Ever tried to sneak Bute or a new supplement into a horse’s feed, only to have him turn up his nose? Horses have a very tactful sense of taste. When grazing in the wild, it’s important for horses to differentiate between good grass and moldy forage.
  • Sight—The sense that varies most from ours is the horse’s eyesight. While horses’ depth perception isn’t particularly strong, other factors enable them to “see things we’re not even aware of,” Miller said. The horse’s laterally placed eyes allow for nearly 360⁰ vision, a crucial survival mechanism for the wild equid. Additionally, Miller noted the horse has superb night vision and sees in muted, pastel colors during the day. The equine focusing system is also different from humans, he said. When a human eye transitions from focusing on close-up objects to far away objects, it takes one and a half to two seconds to adjust (Miller encouraged attendees to try it—look at something close up and then look at something far away, and try to focus on how long it takes the eyes to focus). Horses, on the other hand, make the transition seamlessly. This is because different parts of the eye have different focusing capabilities. Horses use the top portion of their eyes to see up close, which is why they often lower their heads when investigating something. The lower portion of the eye sees far away, which is why the animal will raise his head when looking at something in the distance; when the horse holds his head up high, he’s considered to be in the flight position.

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3. Reaction time—Miller said horses might have the fastest reaction time of any domestic animal, which likely results from evolving with flight as their main defense mechanism. To illustrate the concept, Miller showed video clips of Portuguese bull fighting and cutting horses working cattle, in which attendees could clearly visualize that although the bovines made the first move, the horse always countered and arrived at the destination first. While a fast reaction time is quite useful for escaping predators, it can also be dangerous for humans working around horses. “It’s important that we, who make our living with horses, expect their reaction time,” Miller stressed. “If (a horse) really wants to strike or kick you, you can’t get out of the way fast enough.”

4. Desensitization—Although it’s equine nature to be flighty and sometimes timid, Miller said that horses appear to be desensitized faster than any other domestic animal. “If an animal depends on flight to stay alive, and if they couldn’t rapidly desensitize to things that aren’t really frightening or dangerous, they’d never stop running,” he explained. As long as the horse learns the frightening stimulus doesn’t actually hurt them, the majority will become desensitized, he said.

5. Learning—Miller believes “the horse is the fastest learner of all domestic animals—including children. If you stay alive by running away, you better learn fast.”

6. Memory—The horse’s memory is infallible, Miller said. One of the best memories in the animal kingdom, he noted, horses are second only to the elephant in this department.

7. Dominance—Equine dominance is not based on brute strength, Miller explained, which is why humans can become dominant figures in a horse’s mind. He related an example of a horse herd in which an older mare is typically the boss. While these mares generally aren’t in poor physical condition, they’re certainly not the strongest herd member physically.

8. Movement control—What horses do look for in a dominant figure is movement control. Matriarch mares, for instance, assert their dominance by either forcing or inhibiting movement, Miller said, which allows a human to step in as a dominant figure. Miller suggested a quick way for a veterinarian to assert dominance over a horse for safer examinations and treatments: Before treatment, walk the horse in a few small circles. This forces movement and asserts dominance.

9. Body language—Unlike humans, who can express their feelings through words, horses rely on body language, Miller said. “If we are to be competent horse handlers we must be able to understand and mimic the body language of the horse,” he explained.

10. Precocial birth—Horses are born in a precocial state, meaning that shortly after birth they possess the ability to move, eat, flee, and follow, and all of their senses and neurologic functions are mature, Miller said. What does this mean for a human? Aside from providing enjoyment in watching a young foal gallop and buck excitedly around a pasture, it tells us that the horse’s critical learning period takes place shortly after parturition. Thus, Miller recommends socializing and imprinting foals in the very early stages of life.

Of course, every horse is different and should be treated as an individual. That said, having a basic understanding of why a horse functions the way he does provides equestrians with the knowledge needed to forge a strong relationship with the animal and also stay safe when working around him.


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by Nancy Zacks |

If you’ve ever been in the market for a new saddle pad, you know there are a myriad of types to choose from. Many horse owners search for a product that reduces the pressure on their horse’s back when working under saddle, and a team of Austrian researchers recently set out to determine what material might be best suited for the task.

Of four saddle pad materials (gel, leather, foam, and reindeer fur) tested by the Movement Science Group of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, reindeer fur provided the best shock absorption at the walk and sitting trot, according to a study.

“Saddle fit involves individual adaptation,” said Christian Peham, head of the Movement Science Group, “It is difficult to make a general recommendation about the best material, but reindeer fur showed the best results.”

The research team tested the four commonly used saddle pad materials by placing a pressure-sensing mat under the pad used beneath a well-fitting saddle. They recorded the forces on the backs of 16 sound horses of different breeds and ages ridden on a treadmill at a walk and a sitting trot. For comparison, the same horses were tested without a saddle pad at the same gaits.

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None of the materials adversely affected saddle fit compared to no pad, the researchers noted, but the reindeer fur pad decreased forces on the back significantly when compared to forces recorded without a pad.

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Movement dynamics are crucial when evaluating materials, according to Peham. “We saw that soft materials can sometimes harden with higher impact (as in trot). “Faster motion can also affect the ability for the material to relax.”

The current study emphasizes that a well-chosen saddle pad can reduce the pressure on a horse’s back when used with a well-fit saddle. Regardless of the material, “riders should check saddle fit regularly,” said Peham.

The study, “The effects of different saddle pads on forces and pressure distribution beneath a fitting saddle,” was published in the Equine Veterinary Journal. The abstract is available online.


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by Mike G. Easton |

Marketing of saddle pads has become big business. All one has to do is make a web search and you will find over 15 pages of manufacturers. Each pad company puts various marketing emphasis on their products. Emphasis ranges from comfort, fit, durability, ease of cleaning, cooling, compression protection, performance, close contact, blood flow to animal’s back and the list goes on.

Pad manufacturers “bias” their marketing labels to sell pads—bottom line! For instance, one manufacturer uses the term “wool like” on their label; another very expensive blanket/pad combination has the symbol used by the American Wool Council on the wear leather and yet close examination of the item shows it has a synthetic backed fleece, open cell foamed backed inner core and wool blend weave on top; another uses technical flattery – …two layers of air cells and ultra shock foam core producing lock down effect that eliminates slippage… Therapeutic is another big leader such as open cell medical memory foam, medical felt and … increase oxygen, energy, and muscle recovery. And all of the claims of being 100% wool only cloud the marketing hype.

Another glaring example of manufacturers of foam pads contradicting themselves is when they were interviewed for an article for Equestrian Retailer, July 2004, Vol. 7, No. 2. They give their bias on the benefits of neoprene products and then later state, “Manufacturers advise riders and trainers not to leave neoprene pads on horses for long periods of time because they build heat and moisture.” And this makes no difference whether the pad is perforated or waffled. It is impossible to channel air as they like to make one believe.
You can see that with catchy terms a saddle pad purchaser can easily be misled when trying to find the best compression protection, wicking and durability possible for their horse. Hopefully we can help you to understand some of the physical properties of pad materials simply by looking and feeling the pads surface and knowing where to find correct information.

Saddle Fit

Before addressing the aspects of saddle pad materials one cannot over emphasize the importance of good saddle fit. If the saddle does not fit correctly soring will take place. Additional padding is only a temporary fix and will not solve the problem. In most instances if you are having problems with a pad staying in place you have to take a hard look at how the tree in your saddle fits the conformation of your horse. Because of expense, it is not practical to be changing saddles all the time so it is then necessary to find correct pad material that will stay in place, provide maximized compression protection and cooling.

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Saddle Pad History

Historically, saddle pads ranged from animal hides, to woven animal hair, to crude felts, to exotic linens, to woven blankets and today’s modern industrial materials. Old timers remember the hair, felts and blankets. Not much thought was given to saddle fit and if a horse became sore many riders added another layer and cinched a little tighter. It is important to remember that when ranchers used horses on a regular basis the horses were changed often, so soring was never a major concern.

It appears that the 1960’s began the era of synthetics. Dr. Robert Miller, DVM and noted author commented that early in his California practice in the 60’s, some of his clients started complaining about white spots and wither soring which had not occurred previously. Then one day he happened to spot an advertisement in a magazine for foam pads. Further investigation revealed his clients had switched to the new pads. Most of the early foams were closed cell mattress or seating type materials never intended for compression protection with severe impact.

It has not been until the last 20 years and the desire for perfection in saddle fit to enhance performance, that much thought was given to saddle pads. But as popularity of recreational riding and showing gained momentum more effort was put into the study of saddle fit and related accessories. Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, an equine specialist, has spent the last fifteen years studying saddle fit. Dr. Harman wanted to know how saddle fit affected performance and what constituted good fit. However, as she studied saddle fit she realized the need to also assess what impact pad material had on saddle fit results. Her new book discusses findings with English style saddle fit and what to look for with pad materials. At some future date her findings on Western saddles will be available.


The primary materials used in saddle pads today are open and closed cell foams, synthetic felts, needled felts, pressed industrial felts, woven blankets, gel packs, synthetic cloth, and air bladders. What is interesting about all of these materials is NOT ONE of them was ever originally designed to be used as a saddle pad.

Foams are petroleum and rubber based materials designed for sound proofing and impact resistance for automotive and aerospace industry. Felts were used for bedding, bearing cushions, lubrication wicks, sound proofing and cushioning in the same industries. Gel packs and air-bladder materials were designed for severe impact blows and mild weight distributions for auto racing, mattress industry and football helmets. Within the last 15 years another material, known as Tacky Tack was developed as shelving material for the food industry. Memory foam is another product that has just recently cropped up and is nothing more than a tight-grained open cell foam with low compression rating used in the mattress industry where impact applications are limited.

Now one would think that these would provide exactly what would be needed for saddle pad materials. Maybe and maybe not, but first a more detailed description of each.

Foam pads consist of two types of materials: 1. Closed cell – cellular rubber [neoprene] and 2. Open cell – polyurethane. There is also a closed cell, cross-linked polyethylene foam, but it is seldom used in pads.

Close inspection will reveal that the closed cell foam has a very tight fine grain. Whereas, the open cell foam has small holes and a grainy look generally. The closed cell foam normally has a more elastic and smoother feel. There are of course exceptions to these descriptions, but we are generally referring to what is used in saddle pad construction.

Color is normally black, white or gray.

With either of these foams it really does not matter if you know the difference because the compression ratings are about the same. Neither has wicking ability and both trap heat. If it is open cell foam used as filler just remember that compression protection is extremely poor. Closed cell foams tend to send pressure points through to the horse’s back, but can be supportive if under a heavy saddle. Open cell foams will bottom out but do not interfere with saddle fit by being too thick.

Gel Pak Pads are simply heavy mill vinyl/plastic bladders that are filled with a non-hardening gel material. The intent behind development of this product system was to find a material base that would lessen severe impact from a sharp force. In other words it would gradually give with the impact. Evaluation of this material when used in saddle pads works fine when used for only a short time period (30 minutes). But with any movement after that period of time they will bottom out. This leaves no compression protection below any pressure points that might exist in a saddle. This happens because the gel is pushed aside.

The other major down-side to pads with gel paks is the plastic bladder as it traps heat and has zero wicking ability. These Gel Paks are normally bonded between other synthetic products. And even if they were bonded with a better grade of felt no real benefit is gained because compression protection is no better than the felt by itself and it adds unnecessary weight.

Air bladders or air cell pad material simply are different forms of creating an air mattress. They will conform to conformation of animal and saddle bars, but they are harder to keep in place because of constant ripple effect, like in an air mattress or waterbed. They will work with limited riding (30-45 minutes) but for a hard days work they trap heat. Air can have very limited compression protection because of the bottoming out effect similar to Gel Pak pads. Air also becomes quite hard under the pressure of the saddle, and though it gives an even surface the pressures are higher than most other materials. Most of these types of pads have to be bonded with some other synthetic material and those that are not are very tacky when sweaty. Manufacturers try and convince you that airflow keeps them cool under the saddle. Again this is not possible with a saddle that fits correctly.

In the felting world there are two types of felt: 1. Needled felt and 2. Pressed industrial felt. Generally most synthetic felts are needled. “Needled” simply means it is made with heat, stem and vibrating pressure from needles that lock the fibers over the top of each other. “Pressed industrial” felt is made by heat, steam and oscillating pressure that locks the wool fibers together by sticking fibers to each other. In this case fibers are able to lock to each other because of the outer surface structure of each individual fiber. It requires a separate technical article to show why this process works.

Needled felts are easy to spot. They have horizontal and vertical holes evenly spaced on both sides of the felt. Because of high concentrations of synthetic material in them they are generally shiny, slippery and not soft feeling. Their color ranges varies from black, to dark grays, to motile grays with lots of color thread showing, to white, such as medical hospital felt. Most neoprene pads with colored felt on them are 100% synthetic or needled felt with high concentrations of synthetic material and a cloth cover. Another clue is that when you see felt pads sewn around the edges or another material sewn on top, you can bet it is a synthetic or needled felt, because they will not hold together with much use without this sewing effort.

Manufacturing costs of these pads are substantially less due to cheaper costs in synthetic materials. But from the retail point of view when you compare the cost of synthetic pads there is not much price difference.

Pressed industrial felts (PIF) do not have the holes. They are softer to touch, much more supple and depending on grade have no shiny synthetic material. Color ranges are dark gray to off white in the natural state, but with the better grades of PIF one can find all other dyed color spectrums. Color normally gives you clues as to the actual virgin wool content and grade of felt. The more virgin wool in the felt, the lighter the color is. The same is true for touch. The more virgin wool content, the softer the feel will be when touching.

There are about 15 grade specification numbers utilized by the felting industry. Most saddle pad makers use an F15 grade. This F15 felt has a dark gray, almost a charcoal look. It contains 55% maximum virgin wool and 45% reworked wool content. This felt is used solely as a pad and/or bonded with one of the foams.

(Note: Reworked wool comes from yarn previously processed for some other application, normally in the garment industry, and has been blended with synthetics. Felters use it to control density, consistency in thickness and cost. The synthetics can then end up being as high as 20% in any given pad. So color is only clue a buyer has to tell whether or not the felt is really 100% wool as labeled. )
(EXCEPTION) There is a company that uses F11 and F10 grade wool felt. The F11 felt has 92% minimum virgin wool and 8% reworked content. The F11 is very light gray, very soft, smooth finish and very supple. The F10 felt which has 98% virgin wool content, and 2% reworked wool. The F10 is a crème white and very soft with a smooth finish. These felts are dyed with a vegetable based dye to come in a variety of colors red, blue, hunter green, brown, black, etc. The exceptional features of these felts make it very easy to visually tell them apart.

So what difference does it make when someone wants a wool felt pad and why would they look for a F10 or F11 felt as opposed to a F15 felt. International Felting Standards shows that the F11 felt has a compression rating of 6 psi and 200 psi tensile strength as opposed to compression rating of 2 psi and 75 psi tensile strength for the F15. Additionally, based on research from Felt Manufacturers Council of America, the higher the virgin wool content of the felt, the better the wicking ability is. So if you really want a pad with superior rating find the company with the F11 and F10 felt.

What to Look for in a Pad!

The most important of all the pad attributes to look for is compression protection and cooling. How does the purchaser know whether the manufacturers label and claims are true? Answer: They don’t without careful investigation and lots of costly trial and error in purchasing pads.


When we look at all the research done over the years with exercise physiology and anatomy for humans and equine we know that the mechanism for cooling during activity are sweating and breathing. To prevent over heating during exertion the body must receive airflow or some means of water internally or externally for cooling to take place.

So let us apply this knowledge to saddle fit and cooling.

When a saddle is fitting correctly, the bars of the saddle tree should conform evenly to the natural conformation of the back. And there should be a flair or rocker at the front and back of the bars to allow the shoulders and loins freedom from pressure. The saddle maker then adds leather skirting to the top and a wool sheepskin or synthetic fleece material to the bottom. Very few saddles today have natural sheepskin on the underside unless it is specifically requested. Assuming this material has been fitted and placed correctly the saddle should conform to the horse’s back for a nice fit. The logical question to ask then is how can cooling take place under a saddle if it fits closely to the back?

Answer: It cannot without the support of material that will wick the sweat, which is the primary heat-carrying agent.

Common Sense Time

Closed cell foams and synthetic based materials will not wick. Try mopping up five gallons of water with a neoprene or synthetic pad. So a good question to ask oneself is, “If my saddle is fitting correctly and no air flow or water can penetrate between back and saddle, how can I cool the saddle back area with a neoprene or synthetic pad?” Answer: Not Possible! Another good question to ask is “Would I wear plastic or foam underwear or socks?” Answer: Not on your life! The argument that a sweaty back lubricates and is good for the animal is shear ignorance.

There are quite a number of manufacturers that contend their air-channels and waffle type foams cool. This is simply not true because the animal hair, skin and fat layers push into holes in the material. This can easily be seen through close examination of the back after using one of these types of pads. Again, always remember the tight fit saddle concept.

Other points to consider are that when any foam-based pad becomes wet from sweat they also become sticky or slick. When this happens the animal hair and skin is constantly being pulled or stretched creating the frictional heat which can create gall points and sores.

The only true method of cooling is by using a pad material that will wick. In today’s equine market the only two materials are wool or cotton. Wool is the winner here. It will absorb up to 3 times its weight in water, cotton will only absorb its initial weight, and wool has compression protection six times that of comparable thickness of cotton.

No official data really exists on the attributes of various materials on its abilities to cool.

Recently we took a trip to the Hell Roaring Wilderness area in Montana. As a part of the trip we wanted to obtain actual data about cooling with various types of pad materials. We purposely used a saddle that was extremely much too narrow in the front, knowing it would pinch and rock on the huge, flat backed draft, Quarter Horse cross horses and mules.

The trip into camp was 21 miles. Once at camp we did numerous day rides that amounted to 3-6 hours at a stretch.

In order to secure a range of data we took rest temperatures of each animal before starting each ride, while riding, cinched at rest (lunch break and fishing – one hour) after exertion and at end of day just before unsaddling.

Trip Data: Digital read out temperatures were taken at the tightest point of the shoulder and saddle. At rest the readings consistently ranged from 98.5-99 degrees. During exertion the felt pads stayed consistently at these same temperatures, but the F15 felt generally ran a degree higher than the F11. During exertion the neoprene, neoprene-felt pads, synthetic fleece and Tacky Tac used with a blanket were always 3 degrees hotter, and after one hour during lunch breaks these pads never cooled down. Finally, at the end of a day ride the temperatures initially established had not changed.

The pads represented materials from some of the major known manufactures that the outfitter had been experimenting with in an attempt to find pad material that would cool to prevent galling, have superior compression protection and longevity. Some of the pads he had been trying were Cowboy Choice-Closed Cell Foam/Felt, Wrangler 20x- Closed Cell Foam/Synthetic Top, Justin-Closed Cell Foam, Equibrand-Closed Cell Foam/Felt Top, Reinsman- Tacky Tac Bottom, Synthetic Top, Toklok-Needled Felt, Slone-F15, 5 Star- F11, Tacky Tac – Tacky Tac w/ Blanket Cover, and Coolback-Synthetic Fleece. This seems like a lot of brands, but one has to realize that on any given trip as many as 45 head of mules and horses can be saddled or packed. Plus this outfitter had been searching for years to find a pad that would assist in compression protection and cooling.

The findings were exactly as we suspected. Open and closed cell foams, layered felt foams; synthetic felts and fleeces did NOT cool and trapped heat. Temperatures were significantly higher. The felt pads were the only materials that kept consistently lower temperatures. In one case with one of the solid neoprene pads one horse’s back was so tender after use that it could not be used for two days.

The data speaks for itself and we only mention the name brands because out of these, Slone and 5 Star were his only wool felts. The rest of the pads were all neoprene or neoprene/felt combination pads (synthetic or F15 felt tops) and synthetic fleece.

Compression Protection

Compression protection with pad materials is easily measurable and is a direct function of tensile strength and rebound resistance in terms of pounds per square inch. The chart below represents data taken directly from the American Materials and Testing Institute, International Felting Standards, Automobile Testing Institute and material manufacturers.


Felt /Foam Grades Compression Rating (PSI) Tensile Strength (PSI)

F10 Felt 8.0 psi 225
F11 Felt 6.0 psi 200
F15 Felt 2.0 psi 75
Open Cell Foam 2.0 psi 75
Closed Cell Foam 2.0 psi 40
Synthetic Fleece 1.0 psi N/A

(Note: These are the foams and felts typically used for saddle pad materials.)

Gel Paks and Air Bladders measurements at “bottom out points” are generally 1.5-2.00 or less and because of the material flexibility it is hard to get accurate ratings. Tensile strength is not an issue because it is normally bonded or sandwiched with some other material(s).


Good ole common sense really needs to prevail with saddle padding. Remember – First if the “shoe don’t fit, the shoe still won’t fit with lots of socks.” If the saddle doesn’t fit, no padding in the world will solve the problem. In fact additional padding can in many cases shift the problem elsewhere or create additional cinching and soring. It also must be pointed out that with a good custom saddle, thinner padding can be the answer.

Over the long haul with or without good saddle fit, high quality wool felt materials are the best bet. If your intent is to only ride for 30-45 minutes and activity will be minimal; likely no harm will be done using foam, tacky or neoprene material, but can be very uncomfortable to the animal.

Bottom line is if you spend $5000 for a horse, $3000 for saddle and $60 for a pad something is not computing. If you wouldn’t wear the material on a hot or cold day WHY in the world do you think it would be good for them?

Points to Ponder

  • If the saddles don’t fit they can push pads out the back.
  • A saddle tree may be warped if it pushes pad out the back and to the side.
  • If you wouldn’t wear that stuff for underpants or socks why put it on the animal!
  • Synthetic pads have the highest profit margin for makers.
  • Sweat pouring off a back is like you standing on ice with tennis shoes on a hill!
  • Do you like having bandages pulled off your hairy arms? So how do you think tacky material feels to an animal?
  • Wool felt pads are easily cleaned!
  • Synthetic fleeced saddle skirting is slick and will present problems with most pads.
  • Don’t be fooled by Patent Pending in advertising.
  • Synthetic foams are not UV light resistant and break down,
  • Synthetic foams break down from heat and salts of the animal.
  • Fire or strong acids are the only thing that will harm wool.
  • All pads will contract and spread disease when not cleaned if infection exists.
  • Pinch pads with thumb and fingers. If you can feel the other digit it likely has bad compression protection.
  • Buy for function first, then looks.
  • Don’t be fooled by gimmick terms and pictures.
  • Ask construction specifications of retailer and manufacturer.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

Remember, you should never tack up a horse unless you are ready to ride. Brush off any stable or sweat marks, as well as dried mud, especially where the saddle and girth will be. Put the saddle on first; some horses tend to expand their chest when the saddle is first put on, but will relax later, leaving the girth loose. By the time you have put on the bridle, the horse will have relaxed and you can then tighten the girth before you mount. Don’t leave a horse standing with its saddle on when you have finished riding. If it wants to roll, it will do so even with the saddle in place; this will not only damage the saddle, but can also hurt the horse’s back. Practice the following steps when putting the saddle on.

1) Approach the horse slowly, talking to it all the time. Smooth down the hair on the back, then lay the saddle pads over the withers and saddle area. Put the pad further forward than the final position of the saddle to allow you to move it and the saddle back together later, in the direction of the lie of the coat.

2) Check that the stirrups are run up, and that the girth is fastened on one side and folded over the saddle. Place the saddle on the pad, lowering it vertically so that you do not move the pad. Do not pull the saddle or pad forward because this will rub the horse’s hair the wrong way.

3) Hold the saddle pad well up in the arch and gullet of the saddle, then move the saddle and saddle pad backward together until the saddle sits in its correct position behind the withers. Attach the saddle pad to the saddle by threading the middle girth strap through the loop provided on the pad.

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4) Walk around the front of the horse to the other side, going under the neck if necessary. Hang the girth down, and then check that everything is lying flat. Bring the girth down gently; do not throw it over from the other side.

5) Walk back around the horse and fasten the girth. Attach one buckle to the front strap. This strap is attached to the saddle separately so that if it breaks, the other one will hold the girth, and vice versa. Pull the girth tight without wrinkling the skin. You must use the same two straps on both sides of the saddle.

6) Pull the buckle guards down over the buckles of the girth. This stops the buckles from moving around or digging into your legs while you are riding, and prevents them from rubbing and damaging the saddle.

7) After you have checked and tightened the girth, pull each foreleg forward to make sure that no skin is wrinkled under the girth. If the horse reacts as you tighten the girth, it may be a bad habit but could also be because of a back problem or a painful saddle. The girth should lie in front of an imaginary vertical line drawn through the center of the saddle.

When you’re done riding, undo the girth on one side and cross it over the saddle to remove it. Take hold of both the saddle and the saddle pad and lift them off together, moving them slightly backward as you go.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.


Both the horse and the rider benefit from a saddle. A saddle prevents the horse’s spine from digging into the rider, and spreads the rider’s weight evenly across the horse’s back, avoiding the spine. Saddles are built around a frame called a tree. The tree should be protected by being stored on a rack; if the tree breaks, the saddle is useless and hurts the horse. It is important to purchase the best saddle you can afford. The best ones are made of leather or a high-quality synthetic; cheaper saddles will not last as long. If you purchase a saddle secondhand, make sure that the tree, stitching, and leather are in good repair.

There are different types of saddles for different purposes, such as jumping and dressage, or general-purpose saddles for non-specialist riders. Western saddles are ornate and decorative because they served as a cowboy’s status symbol. They are heavy because they were originally designed to withstand the stresses imposed when a lariat was attached to the horn in front of the rider.

Abetta Ostrich Classic Saddle. (Picture courtesy of

Saddle pads are intended as a protective measure and for comfort. Rectangular saddle pads keep the underside of the saddle clean and absorb sweat, which would otherwise cause the saddle to slip, slide, and rub the horse. It can be made from a variety of materials, although some synthetic materials do not absorb moisture as well as others. Fitted pads are designed to protect the horse’s back as well as absorb sweat. It is usually cut in the shape of a saddle. They should not be used as a permanent padding for a poorly fitting or badly stuffed saddle; these ill-equipped saddles should be replaced or restuffed. Gel pads are made of thermoplastic elastomer gel that ensures an even contact between the horse and the saddle; they are ideal for a horse with a sore back. The gel distributes pressure so that it is applied evenly all over.


Leather girths are strong, durable, and do not stretch much; they do, however, collect sweat and dirt. This makes the girth hard and uncomfortable for the horse if not kept clean. There are several types and styles available. A nylon string girth lets air through, and grips better than leather, making it less likely to rub and cause sores.


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A single glance into any equine catalog will reveal a myriad of saddle pad choices. With different materials, different shapes and different claims to fame, it can be difficult to decide what one will best suit your saddle.

English self contouring workout pad, available at

Each material has its benefits and drawbacks. Here is a short list of the attributes of the most popular saddle pads:


One of the most common materials used today, fleece pads can be either double backed, or fleece bottomed, and may be synthetic or wool. Natural fleece provides more cushioning, but synthetic fleece is longer lasting and easier to care for.


The hallmark property of the felt equine saddle pad is the material’s ability to draw sweat from the horse, which allows heat to dissipate. It is also a great shock absorber, and helps to relieve minor pressure points.


Waterproof and easy to clean, Neoprene pads usually feature a waffle-weave bottom which promotes airflow and breathability. They also provide good cushioning and reduce saddle slippage.


Foam distributes weight and absorbs shock. Additionally, it also molds to the horse’s back, creating customized comfort. They do not have any wicking abilities.


With features of both a solid and a liquid, gel will disburse impacts and will always return to its original shape. Heavier in weight and more expensive than foam, they are a good choice for riders who work multiple horses, since they do not conform to the back.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

Although horses do not speak English, they are certainly able to communicate with us, especially regarding poor saddle pad fitment. If a horse is experiencing pain caused by a poor fitting or defective saddle pads, there can be physical signs that may occur, such as:

o Sores under the saddle area

o White hairs under the saddle area (which can also indicate past damage done by a saddle)

o Friction rubs in the hair

o Scars or hard spots

o Dry patches on the back or saddle pad while the rest is dampened by sweat

o Dropping of the back when it is palpated

o Muscle atrophy on either side of the withers

Even if there are no physical signs, if your horse is behaving differently, it is wise to evaluate the horse saddle pad fitment as part of any exam. Behavioral signs of poor saddle fit can include:

o Hypersensitivity while being brushed

o Objecting to being saddled or cinched

o Fidgeting while mounting

o Uncooperative while being ridden

o Pinning ears, swishing tail and/or tossing head under saddle

o Reluctance to go forward and use the hind end

So, before you write your horse off as stubborn, uncooperative or ill tempered, first take a good look at his equipment.


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Horsemen and women invest millions of dollars around the world every year to ensure safety for themselves and their horses. State of the art products, expensive saddles and other innovative tack are commonly found in stables everywhere. Safety is the most important issue when riding so we want to have peace of mind that we are using the right protection, whether it is for ourselves or for our horse.

The Nexgen Acugel saddle pad uses Latex inserts to prevent any damage to the horse’s back. It has a thick layer to cushion the saddle and rider’s weight. The surface touching the horse has bumps to create air flow and ‘provides great orthopaedic spine support by dynamically confirming to every contour of Horse back and offering a perfect balance of comfort and support to the horse spine’ according to the manufacturer’s website. This product seems to be the perfect invention for your horse and you but my experience with this product has changed my mind dramatically.

While doing Endurance training with my mare, I used the Nexgen Acugel saddle pad along with a Wintec Isabelle Worth dressage saddle with ‘Cair Panels’. We were doing strenuous work which could have caused catastrophic damage to my horse if she wasn’t protected correctly. After reading about all the benefits of this new product, I borrowed it from a friend, thinking that this was the ultimate protection for my horse. She seemed to go well and looked very comfortable with the saddle and pad so I was very happy to know my horse was safe.

After I finished training the next week, my mare seemed sore in the back. We put out to spell and kept an eye on her. In the next few days, small white dots appeared on her withers and happened to be in the pattern of the Nexgen Acugel saddle pad.

We have racked our minds over this and can’t find any other cause other than the Saddle Pad. Her back is fine now but it has taken quite a while to get her back in action. The white marks are permanent and aren’t nice for her appearance. While consulting a person who has also tried this product, she replied “ Yes, they tend to do that”. Apparently, I’m not the first to have this happen.

I’m not saying, “Don’t try it! It will ruin your horse.” I’m really just notifying you of my experiences with the Nexgen Acugel saddle pad asking you to be careful if you so decide to try it. Good luck with it!

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Spring Valley, CA – The new SMx Air Ride saddle pad from Professional’s Choice delivers a ride that is unsurpassed in its smoothness for both horse and rider alike. It utilizes the latest technology to produce a pad that is not only shock absorbent and lightweight, but also breathable – one that epitomizes the Professional’s Choice motto, “The more comfortable the horse, the better the performance.”

Professional’s Choice is showcasing the SMx line with a newly designed and eye-catching 100% wool Navajo blanket on the Western Show Pad, which comes in nine new colors. It not only looks great but is extremely durable, while the merino wool lining helps to wick away moisture and the all-natural fibers are comfortable for the horse. However, you can now get any of your favorite Air Ride pads in the new SMx version, including the All-Around and the Charmayne James Signature Barrel Pad.

A new, patented padding material made up of thousands of tiny beads allows air to circulate in every direction resulting in accelerated heat and moisture evaporation, making it highly breathable. Your horse will feel less heat and cool off faster, increasing overall performance.

This revolutionary new padding also has a unique shock absorbing ability. Excess energy from impact is deflected throughout the pad and away from the horse’s back. It actually relieves pressure from the most sensitive area of a horse’s back and distributes the weight of saddle and rider evenly over the entire pad. This prevents pressure points from forming and gives an even, comfortable ride, not only for the horse, but for the rider as well. In fact, in some cases it even makes it more comfortable for the rider’s back.

Of course, Professional’s Choice made sure that the SMx Air Ride was rigorously tested under the most strenuous conditions. The results surpassed all expectations. The patented shock-absorbing features also make the pad compression-resistant even under the most demanding use. Durable and extremely long lasting, it may just be the longest lasting saddle pad you’ll ever buy!

The results obtained from this pad were so excellent that Professional’s Choice has backed it up with a 60-day money back guarantee and a one-year warranty (though we think anybody purchasing the new SMx Air Ride will be so pleased that they’ll have no cause to use them). If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your new pad you can return it to its place of purchase and receive a full refund.

To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

Size and Fit:
A properly fitting pad will extend at least one inch beyond the saddle on all sides. This means that you should choose a pad that is at least 2 inches longer than the length of your saddle and 2 inches wider than the width of the underside of the skirts. A smaller pad won’t provide enough protection and can result in sores. A pad that’s too big can cause problems, too by creating excess heat and bulk.

Before each use, inspect your pad for burs, twigs, hay or other annoying things that will drive your horse crazy rubbing on his back while you ride. Think about walking around with a stone in your shoe all day. In between use, a pad needs to air out and dry completely. The best solution is to have a bar or something that you can hang the pad on. The worse thing you can do is to place the pad with the horse-side (sweaty side) down on top of your saddle. This delay drying and also transfers the moisture to your saddle. That’s just gross. If you have no other option, lay the pad with the horse-side up on your saddle. A pad needs to be cleaned regularly. Dirt, hair and sweat builds up quickly on a pad and becomes an irritant to your horse.

Some Additional Tips:
Different riding activities call for different types of pads. A roper needs maximum shock absorption. A cutter, who won’t be riding for long periods, needs only a thin blanket so that close contact is maintained. A barrel racer needs a rounded pad that’s very light. An endurance or pleasure rider needs a lighter, highly breathable pad that helps distribute the rider’s weight evenly. Like saddles, different uses require different saddle pads. Many riders mistakenly believe that the thicker the pad the better. This is a common mistake. Too much bulk under the saddle makes the saddle unstable and interferes with your contact with the horse. It also increases the amount of heat generated and the chance that you’ll have a fold or bunched up area that will cause discomfort and a sore.

Wear leathers are small strips of leather sewn onto the edge of the pads to protect against wear from the rubbing of the stirrup leathers. These are a nice addition, but shouldn’t be too thick or they’ll interfere with contact with your horse.

”Self-conforming” is a current buzzword in saddle pads. Many pads now have gels and liquids inserted to cushion and conform the pad to the horse’s back. While there are some great new technology pads out there, the concept is definitely not new. Wool and mohair are great self-conforming materials and they’ve been around for ages.

Some pads have a “cut-away” design, where the pad has a cut out for the withers. This is an especially nice option for high-withered horses that might find a full pad rubbing on the withers uncomfortable.

The bottom line remains that the better your saddle fits, the less important the saddle pad will be. Start with a good fitting saddle, add a quality pad, and you’ll have a great outfit.

To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.