When Should You Replace Your Saddle Pad?

When should you replace your saddle pad? Interestingly, it’s not a question I often see answered in horse literature or even talked about much among horse people.

But anyone who has been around a riding horse has likely noticed how nasty saddle pads can get. Horse sweat, horse hair and dirt all combine over time and use to make a gritty, grimy, stinky and sticky mess.

English saddle pads are usually easy to launder. Western saddle pads can present more of a challenge. But even if you are fastidious about cleaning your saddle pad, I wonder about a saddle pad losing its substance over time? When does a saddle pad become less effective at cushioning the horse’s back due to the pad’s condition?

The western saddle pad I use on Shiloh is about six or seven years old. It is a red Professional’s Choice Saddle Pad with a felt bottom that I originally bought to use with my horse, Bear. Red was Bear’s color.

Unfortunately, not too long after I acquired the pad I ended up retiring Bear from riding due to a series of health issues. By the time I bought Shiloh, it was the only saddle pad I had. Fortunately, it seemed to work for him.

I’ve never had any issues with the pad, but Shiloh has never been in anything more than what I’d consider light work under saddle with me. It’s not like the pad has ever gotten any heavy use. Not like it would for an all-day trail-ride or a long show weekend, for example.

I also let the pad air out after every ride and try to store it on top of my saddle so that it doesn’t spend time on the rack compressed underneath it.

In addition, I use a homemade liquid solution (see recipe below) to clean the grime that accumulates around the edges. I periodically brush the underside of the pad to remove the aforementioned dirt, sweat and hair too.

Despite attentive care, I’ve started to wonder if it might be time to get a new saddle pad? Like maybe in the next year or two depending upon how much riding I am doing?

With my level of at-home riding, I certainly don’t need any fancy equipment, but it’s still important to me to help my horse be comfortable when tacked up.

I’ve also had enough horses and enough equipment to realize that even well-cared-for tack can break down over time. I don’t have a climate controlled tack area. My tack, even when not in use, is subject to freezing Winters and humid Summers.

And much like our own bodies, horses’ bodies can change as they age, gain/lose weight or gain/lose fitness. Any of those situations might necessitate new equipment.

I couldn’t find any reference to this question in the books or magazines I have. An internet search surprisingly didn’t provide much more. Here is the most relevant mention I found:

“Diligent saddle-blankets care allows them to last several years and many rides, so invest in a good one. When your pad loses its fill, or you can’t wash and brush it so it returns to its original shape and softness, then it’s time to replace it. Replace neoprene when the material tears, cracks, or hardens.”

From a Horse and Rider Magazine Article by Al Dunning (a multi-time world champion and 40-year professional)

So, returning to where we started, how often should you replace your saddle pad? Near as I can figure, it seems there are no hard and fast rules. Just general guidelines.

How about you? Have you ever wondered when is it time to replace a saddle pad? Do you have a rule of thumb that you use? Let me know in the comments section or email me at thebackyardhorseblog@gmail.com.

By the way, if you are interested in that homemade liquid solution I mentioned earlier, here are the details. I combine equal parts rubbing alcohol and a Listerine-type mouthwash in a spray bottle. I spritz some on the pad edges and then scrub off the grime with a cloth. This same solution works well to clean the horse’s back after a ride. It does a great job of removing sweat marks. While I also sometimes enjoy purchasing a commercial cooling rinse solution, this combination is more cost-effective and works just as well.

4 thoughts on “When Should You Replace Your Saddle Pad?

  1. When I worked for a reining trainer we’d buy new pads occasionally, but those were also used on 6-8+ horses a day, so take that with a grain of salt haha. What I did find really helpful was we would take time about once a month to pressure wash all the pads and hang them out to dry. That seemed to really help get the hair, dirt, and grime off very well. I think it does depend on the material of the pad tho. I have had Pro Choice SMX air ride pads for years and years at this point, and with the amount of light western riding I’ve done with my horse in recent years, probably only 1 of them should be retired soon (I have 3). I’ve had other gel pads that have lasted a while, and I start looking for a new one when it seems to have less bounce back than before. Since I’ve been doing a lot of english recently, I haven’t needed a new pad, and the ones I do have get the occasional use. I do try to stay away from memory foam pads or thin western pads. I’ve found those seem to compress to quickly/easily, and never last very long. Just my 2 cents 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make good points in your comment. I had not thought about the pressure washing idea either. I could see how that could really blast out the grimey sweat. Maybe there is no hard rule “you must replace your saddle pad at X” because, as you note, there is such a wide variety/combination of materials that the point at which a pad might wear out is super variable. No one size fits all, it seems. Thank you for adding in your 2 cents!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There is a joke at the barn where I board that I have a saddle pad obsession. Or used to. Since I started riding in a Specialized Saddle where you can change the pads and shim to fit the horse, I only use wool pads. They do get dirty quickly- I like the pressure washing idea. I also brush the pad after each use to remove dirt and hair.

    Liked by 1 person

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