The Science of Western Saddle Pads

Quick maneuvers in the arena are what stops the clock. But what if your horse is experiencing discomfort in his back? Your times will start to lengthen as your horse has difficulty stopping and turning. While saddle fit is of upmost importance when considering back soreness, often saddle pad fit can aid in supporting uneven pressure distribution that causes pain.

The difference between winning and losing could be as easy as proper saddle pad selection.


Whether you’re riding all day working cattle or you’re in the arena for a few hours, the material your saddle pad is made out of will not only help distribute weight, but also wick away moisture. Natural fiber and synthetic materials are what you should compare when evaluating a saddle pad.

ZONE™ SERIES BLANKET TOP: Look great and keep your horse comfortable with Classic Equine’s Zone Series Blanket Top saddle pad. The innovative, scientifically engineered material helps reduce stress on your horse’s back to help prevent injury.

Natural fiber saddle pads are suitable for daily riding in a saddle that fits your horse correctly. The most common natural fiber for Western saddle pads is wool. Wool has a superior ability to wick away moisture and has the natural ability to conform to your horse’s back. Felt wool that is pressed can provide better compression rebound and a longer life than other materials.

For competition and arena use, synthetic materials have the capability to absorb the shock as you turn left after heading. With new technology, synthetic material can compensate for your saddle’s inability for form to change in your horse’s back. Synthetic materials are lightweight and engineered for breathability, meaning a new level of comfort for your horse in the arena.


You put a saddle pad under your saddle to provide your horse with an extra layer of comfort. A contoured pad sets your horse up for comfort the moment you place it on his back. The design of a contoured pad fits the natural formation of your horse’s spine, meaning there’s less pressure on the wither area.

SHOCK GUARD FELT TOP: The XPF® Energy Absorbing Technology in the Classic Equine Shock Guard Felt Top pad has a self-adjusting profile that both contours and conforms to your horse’s back.

Selecting a saddle pad that conforms to your horse’s back will give him maximum protection as it compensates for pressure points by filling spaces and voids. However, it’s important not to only rely on conformal capabilities, as a shim may be needed to aid in pressure relief and weight distribution. Shims are placed between the pad and the saddle. Some pads are designed with two layers, so shims can be placed between the top and bottom of the pad and you can still look good in the arena.

When looking at design and material, selecting a saddle pad that won’t compress over time and remains pliable will ensure your horse’s back is protected and injury free while you ride and compete. 

This article is sponsored by: Classic Equine.

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