This article is part of our Saddle Up With Comfort Awareness Campaign, brought to you by 5 Star Equine Products.
If your saddle pad has lost its cushion, and is becoming hard and stiff, it’s time for a deep clean. How often you wash your saddle pad can be dependent on a number of factors. Is it winter? Do you take time to intermittently brush off hair from the underside? Do you ride an hour every day, or an hour a week? All of these factors will play a key role in how often you should be giving your pad a deep clean.
Let’s take a look at how to give your saddle pad a good cleaning, to ensure its longevity.
Western pads are commonly made from 100% wool, or a wool/felt mix. We worked with the experts from 5 Star Equine Products, to see what they had to say about the proper way to clean your pad.
- Start by removing loose hair and grime with a rubber curry comb, or your fingers. Work the curry comb in a gentle, circular motion, to loosen up any hardened hair. This is a good practice to get into after every ride, as it can increase time between deep cleans, and keep your pad in lasting, good shape.
- Soak your pad thoroughly with water, ensuring that you are using lukewarm water and avoiding hot water at all costs. Hot water can damage the wool’s natural fibers. 5 Star Equine Products recommends that you wash your pad at an angle, avoiding spraying water directly at the pad. Start from the center and work your way out.
- After your pad has been soaked, start applying soap. Don’t use just any, regular soap! 5 Star recommends using something like Woolite, or a neutral/alkaline-based shampoo. Again, using an acidic-based soap can damage the wool fibers. It can also irritate your horse’s back if you don’t get it all washed out!
- Let the soap soak into your pad to thoroughly clean away residue, then wash it out. Rinsing your pad completely free of soap is paramount in importance. 5 Star notes that rotating your pad as you rinse is a good way to ensure you aren’t rinsing dirty water atop parts you have already cleaned.
- Allow your pad to dry completely before storing it away, but don’t lay it on its back! This can damage the contour of the pad.
For a full rundown of cleaning tips check out [5 Star’s Full Cleaning Procedure]
What’s the Purpose?
Cleaning your saddle pad might be something that slips your mind. However, a saddle pad that is hard and stiff from buildup and sweat isn’t serving its purpose in cushioning your horse’s back. A stiff pad can create pressure points under your saddle, and cause pain for your horse.
Maintaining your saddle pad, regardless of the material will preserve the cushioning, and protect your horse’s back. It also preserves your investment, and aides in the longevity of your saddle pad.
Note on Neoprene
Pads made from this material are quick and easy to clean. Although, a neoprene pad can become stiff and even crack if allowed to accumulate horse sweat and grime. It’s important to keep your neoprene pad clean and let it dry out of direct sunlight, to avoid damage.
Give your neoprene pad a good rinse and wash to keep it free from hair, dust, sweat, and other residue. Wipe off with a soft cloth, or let it air dry thoroughly before storing it away.
How To Fit a Saddle Pad
How do you know if your saddle pad fits? You might have all the tips and tricks for a good saddle fit, but your pad definitely plays a role in this.
- Your pad should not be too long, or too short, but just right. There should be about 2-3 inches of pad behind your saddle. If your pad is too short you run the risk of your saddle rubbing. If it’s too long, it can restrict movement, cause discomfort, or just be too bulky.
- Contoured saddle pads are very popular, as they give your horse’s withers clearance for movement and comfort. Either way, your pad should not be restrictive across his withers. Check to see if you can fit a finger or two between the withers and pad. Tenting saddle pads is a common practice, meaning you pull the pad up slightly into the gullet, to provide wither relief.
- Thickness is dependent on your saddle, horse’s conformation, and the material of the pad. A thicker pad might provide more cushion and relieve pressure points, but too thick of a pad can cause your saddle to roll. If possible, it’s best to fit your pad and saddle at the same time, to ensure they are a cohesive unit. Don’t forget that a saddle pad cannot alleviate a poor saddle fit. Although you can try and shim a saddle, or use a thicker or thinner pad to help, it’s like squeezing into a pair of shoes that don’t fit right. Regardless of what you do, there will most likely be discomfort.