Does your horse really need a sheepskin saddle pad?

Nowadays, there is a mind-boggling array of padding options for tack, and more and more riders seem to be plumping for sheepskin half pads under their saddles. But is it always necessary?

“Ordinarily, a well-fitting saddle does not need a pad,” says Freedom Saddlery’s Steph Bradley. A Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) and Master Saddle Fitting Consultant (MSFC) qualified saddle fitter, who has recently been upgraded to Master Saddle Fitter (MSF) by the SMS, Steph adds: “Certain situations do require it, but it’s always best to get fully qualified advice from your saddle-fitter.”

Situations where pads are required include when the horse has changed shape or lost muscle, a common occurrence in competition horses or those recovering from injury. If you are thinking of using a pad, consider the following tips from Steph:

1. Don’t use a pad if you don’t need to. Your saddle will have been fitted without one, so don’t put more underneath and affect its fit.

2. All pads should have a clear gullet so they don’t impede the space on either side of the dorsal spine, otherwise it’s like putting a thick sock on under a well-fitting shoe.

3. A pad of one thickness will lift the saddle all over — it will not rebalance an ill-fitting saddle.

4. The more padding you place between you and your horse, the less saddle stability there will be.

5. Seek regular, properly qualified advice on your saddle fit. If a pad is needed, something has changed with the fit of your saddle, so call out your fitter.

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Ideally, padding should be seen as a temporary solution only, according to Steph.

“Pads are useful for changes that occur, and are advised for a small tweak when no action can be taken to the saddle itself, but they are a short-term correction,” she says. “Always ask why they are needed and when the situation should be reviewed. It really should be function over fashion.”

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