01-13-2011, 08:58 AM
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You should never use a blanket alone. All should be used with some kind of liner pad, at least 1/4" thick felt. Only those really thick doubled wool blankets could be used alone, under a saddle that fits the horse really well and on a horse with plenty of muslce on his back.
Today's western saddles are not made to be used with only a thin blanket, no matter how well they fit a horse. The synthetic fleece under most saddles does not provide any real protection to the horse from the bars of the saddle. There needs to be some real padding between the horse and the saddle tree. At minimum you need a 3/4" felt saddle pad alone, or a 1/2" felt liner pad under a thin navajo pad (single or doubled). A 1/4" liner only works with higher quality wool blankets that are thick, like the Mayatex show blankets or similar.
If you're doing a lot of trail riding up and down hills, over varried terrain, I would suggest a quality 3/4" felt pad. If you don't have the budget for something like a 5-Star pad, Diamond Wool makes a decent felt pad. I have a couple of theirs and they have done well for me. Another option is a Toklat Woolback or Coolback fleece pad. These pads are fleece material and the coolback comes in fun colors. They provide some real cushion to the saddle and the saddle "settles" in to the fleece, helping the pad stay in place. They whick moisture to help keep the horse's back cool.
On the flip side, too much padding can make your saddle unstable and it can change how it fits the horse. Think about wearing multiple pairs of socks with either too big or just right shoes. It just feels awkward. If you want extra cushion, you can go with a quality theraputic pad like a ProChoice pad, Supracor, or Skito (my favorite!). ThinLine makes a great pad that's quality felt with their shock absorbing thinline material sewn in to the top. Or you can buy a pad made of just the ThinLine material and use it with a thick blanket or other pad. I have four ThinLine pads and 5 Skito pads and really love them. They perform well. I also have one Supracor and like it too, though it's a bit stiff.