Why are western saddle pads so thick?! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Why are western saddle pads so thick?!

Good news for anyone who has read my other posts about searching for a saddle for my wide backed, mutton withered Pony. I finally found a saddle today! Picked up a nice, used, synthetic western saddle at a tack store for pretty cheap. Problem is, I've only ever ridden English so I'm a little lost. I've read about 25 different articles online about assessing western saddle fit, and from what I can tell without actually riding (it's been absolutely pouring all day) it fits her nicely without a pad. But the pad that came with it is foam and about an inch thick, and when I put it on under the saddle, it looks so awkward! Like the saddle is really high off her back. The saddle itself has quite a lot of fleecy padding, and the thick pad seems kind of excessive. Coming from riding English, the underside of the western saddle seems so soft already that I don't know why I'd need an inch of foam under it? But I don't know much about western so I really don't know. It just seems like a thin pad or blanket would be a much smoother fit. My tack budget for this paycheck is tapped out after buying the saddle; can I ride with my English pad or no pad? I'm rambling now... Help?
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post #2 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 08:55 PM
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They have thin "Navajo blanket" pads for like 20 dollars.
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post #3 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 09:32 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by TristaJean View Post
They have thin "Navajo blanket" pads for like 20 dollars.
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I have seen those online. But because every western pad I've seen in use or in a tack store in person was thick, I didn't know if the thin ones were okay to use alone? I thought maybe they were to go over the thick pads for appearances sake. So it is ok, if the saddle itself is padded, to use a thin blanket rather than a big pad?
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post #4 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 09:46 PM
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Because western saddles aren't actually soft underneath. There's fleece to protect the saddle, but there is no actual padding, like an english saddle. The pads are thick because of this. If you just use a blanket under your saddle, you will have one sore horse soon.

If the saddle looks awkward, are you sure it fits?
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post #5 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 09:53 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Poseidon View Post
Because western saddles aren't actually soft underneath. There's fleece to protect the saddle, but there is no actual padding, like an english saddle. The pads are thick because of this. If you just use a blanket under your saddle, you will have one sore horse soon.

If the saddle looks awkward, are you sure it fits?
Thank you, for explaining! Like I said, I know next to nothing about western saddles. But I read a ton of different articles, with photos and diagrams, about western saddle fit and I really think that without the pad it fits very well. The pad is just so thick, and sort of stiff, that it holds the saddle up off her back very strangely. But this may be because I am used to seeing English saddles and how they sit?
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post #6 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 10:01 PM
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I don't know anything about fitting Western saddles, but I read something in a book about fitting English saddles that might help you. I think the way it works is that an English saddle has all of that wool or other kind of flocking in the saddle to absorb shock and distribute pressure, and therefore you only need the saddle pad to protect the saddle from the horse's sweat and heat, etc. On a Western saddle, there is little or no padding on the saddle itself. There's a bit of fleece but not enough to provide a good cushion. That is why a Western saddle needs to have a thick saddle blanket; the blanket is the equivalent of an English saddle's internal flocking and it serves to protect the horse from the saddle. That's how I understood it, anyway. I think it is very clever for Western saddles to work that way because while an English saddle must be taken to a specialist to be relocked when the padding wears out, with a Western you can just buy a new pad.
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post #7 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by phoebeeliza View Post
Thank you, for explaining! Like I said, I know next to nothing about western saddles. But I read a ton of different articles, with photos and diagrams, about western saddle fit and I really think that without the pad it fits very well. The pad is just so thick, and sort of stiff, that it holds the saddle up off her back very strangely. But this may be because I am used to seeing English saddles and how they sit?
Is it a new or cheaper pad? If it's newer, it's going to take a few rides to get broken in and less stiff. If it's kind of cheap, a lot of them are just stiffer.
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post #8 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 10:20 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Poseidon View Post
Is it a new or cheaper pad? If it's newer, it's going to take a few rides to get broken in and less stiff. If it's kind of cheap, a lot of them are just stiffer.
It was used, but looks like it was very lightly used. And probably cheapish, since it was included with the saddle. Considering that I am 90% sure that the saddle fits well, should I just try riding a few times with the pad despite how awkward it looks from the ground, and see if it works, doesn't hurt Pony, and sits evenly with my weight in the saddle?
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post #9 of 38 Old 09-30-2012, 11:51 PM
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If your pony is mutton withered you may have needed a wider than normal saddle gullet / tree to fit. Which may cause the front of the saddle to sit too close to the withers. The thicker pad will raise the saddle off the withers. A thinner pad may not.
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post #10 of 38 Old 10-01-2012, 12:16 AM
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