How Your Saddle Pads Change How Your Saddle Fits

How Your Saddle Pads Change How Your Saddle Fits


How much thought do you give to the saddle pads you use? Do you know how half pads and English riding saddle pads change how your saddle fits your horse? Simply adjusting what you use underneath your saddle can completely change your horse’s comfort while ridden– for better or worse. 

Lift the Cantle

Take a step back and look at your saddle while it sits on your horse. Is the pommel and cantle even? Is the back of the saddle sitting lower than the front? Other signs the cantle of your saddle is too low include the saddle sliding backwards while you ride, sitting with your leg out in front of you, and struggling to get out of the saddle and into half-seat or two-point position. 

After having a qualified saddle fitter look at your saddle, you can use an English riding saddle pad that is thicker in the back than in the front. This will help to lift the back (or cantle) of the saddle and put it in line with the pommel. Ideally, you should be able to take a long level that rests on the pommel and the cantle and have it read as even. 

The  Horsena Back Balance Saddle Pad gets thicker towards the back of the half pad. This gradual increase slowly lifts the back of the saddle to bring it level with the front. Due to the hexagonal three-dimensional structure, this pad offers excellent shock absorption, pressure relief, and pressure distribution for the horse's back.

Lift the Pommel

Saddles that are too low in the front apply pressure to the horse’s withers and cause the rider to tip forward onto the horse’s neck. You may also find that you’re riding more on your pelvic bone than back on your seat bones. 

Just like there are English riding saddle pads that lift the back of the saddle, there are also half pads that lift the front of the saddle. For example, the  Horsena Front Balance Gel Saddle Pad increases in thickness towards the front of the pad, which gradually lifts the pommel up off of the horse’s withers and into balance with the cantle. 


saddle pads to lift the pommel


Make the Gullet Narrower

There’s a very important distinction between the gullet and the tree of a saddle. The tree is buried inside the saddle and is typically made of wood or carbon fiber. The gullet refers to the space between the two panels underneath the saddle. This space allows the horse’s spine to lift up comfortably. 

English saddle pads can make the gullet narrower, but they will not change the shape of the tree. This distinction is crucial to understand, as the right half pad can add padding and take up space within the gullet, but it will not impact the tree. If the tree points or rails are in the wrong spot, no amount of padding will make the saddle fit perfectly. 

That being said, if you do need to lift your saddle up off of your horse’s back and narrow the gullet, look for saddle pads like the  EquiFit Extra Thick T-Foam Half Pad. This pad has a unique T-Foam core that reacts to body pressure and heat and conforms to the exact contours of your horse and saddle, ensuring a custom fit every ride. If you’re riding in an extra hot or humid part of the country, you can rest assured you won’t cause your horse to overheat by adding extra bulk under the saddle. The open cell structure is self ventilating to prevent overheating.

Stop Saddle Slip

Your horse has a tough job balancing their rider. It only gets harder if the horse has to balance a sliding saddle as well as a rider. For some particularly barrel-shaped horses, no matter how well a saddle fits it will always have a little bit of slide. Luckily, the right English saddle pad can help. 

When searching for half pads or English riding saddle pads to reduce the movement of your saddle, look for one made from a gel material. There are many benefits to gel, including shock absorption, but they’re also slightly tacky. This tackiness reduces the movement of the saddle and helps to keep your horse healthy and happy. 

The  Horsena Gel Saddle Pad is an eight millimeter thick pad that features a unique surface texture that helps to keep your saddle in place, particularly combined with the gel construction of the pad. Many owners worry about overheating their horse’s back when using a gel saddle pad. Horsena’s three-dimensional open design allows air to circulate better and optimizes the removal of sweat. 


english riding saddle pads to stop saddle slip


Add Shock Absorption

How often do you jump your horse? Do you often sit the extended trot? Everytime we ride, our horses’ backs take quite a pounding. While we can alleviate the impact of our weight on their back by increasing their fitness, ensuring our saddle fits properly, and working on our position, the right English saddle pad can make a world of difference for your horse. 

The best half pads are made of technologically advanced materials to absorb shock, reduce impact on the horse’s back, and distribute pressure evenly. One such saddle pad is the  EquiFit ImpactEQ Half Pad. This half pad may look unassuming, but its everyday appearance hides high-tech features. 

The pad features an ImpacTeq foam core that molds to the body of the horse for a secure, supportive fit. As the rider posts, sits, or lands after a jump, the open-cell non-newtonian foam transforms from soft to rigid upon impact, absorbing extreme concussion and providing greater comfort for horse and rider.

Accommodate High Withers

Owners of horses with “shark-fin withers,” listen up! When it comes to high-withered horses, the fit of your saddle and English riding saddle pads becomes even more important. Those high withers are prone to developing rubs and scars, due to pressure points. Some horses even develop  “fistulous withers,” which involves inflammation and infection in the supraspinous bursa, a fluid-filled sac located in the area of the horse’s withers.

If your horse has high withers, it’s particularly important to use a half pad that provides wither relief. The  Shires Arma High Wither Fleece Half Pad may provide added comfort to a high-withered horse. A high wither profile and synthetic fleece lining provide comfort and keep the moisture levels down as air circulates between the fibers. 

Work with a Saddle Fitter

Before you start making changes to how your saddle fits your horse, work with a qualified saddle fitter to assess what needs to be changed. Think of your saddle like dominoes. Anytime you make a change to one part of the saddle, another part of the saddle will be affected. For example, let’s say you use the EquiFit Extra Thick T-Foam Half Pad. Now the saddle is lifted slightly off of your horse’s back, which allows your horse to lift his spine more and altogether be more comfortable. But, because the saddle is higher off the back, it begins to move around more and slide. A good saddle fitter can help you find the right saddle pad for your saddle and for your horse. 

Shop our collection of English riding saddle pads here.

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