Saddle pads come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and colors. But what is the most important thing you look for when shopping for a saddle pad? We posed this question to our readers in last week’s online poll. More than 650 people responded, and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 660 respondents, 503 (76%) said the most important factor is that the saddle pad is designed with their horse’s comfort in mind. Another 100 respondents (15%) said it was important that the pad helps their saddle fit their horse and/or them better, and 38 individuals (6%) found it important that the pad keeps the saddle clean and protects it from sweat. Four respondents (1%) said they do not use a saddle pad, and the remaining 15 respondents (2%) had other important factors not mentioned in the poll.

Additionally, more than 35 people commented about what they look for when saddle pad shopping:

Some commented that their horse’s comfort was and important factor:

  • “I want my horse to be comfortable when under saddle.”
  • “My horse is my partner, it’s important that he be comfortable.”
  • “The pad must be designed for horse comfort and protect the saddle.”
  • “I must be comfortable for my horse and must be non-slip.”
  • “Horses comfort always comes first!”

Several people said fit was important:

  • “Fit and comfort. My aged Arab has a dropped back. An Equalizer pad with shims helps me feel better!”
  • “Must fit, and not pinch neck and withers without additional layering.”
  • “The pad must fit and protect the horses back.”
  • “The pad fits both the horse and saddle.”
  • “Saddle fits horse correctly, so pad has to be thin enough to not change saddle fit Color counts, too!”
  • “Must fit my saddle size.”
  • “Good fit is always a priority, and the right saddle pad helps a lot.”
  • “If it doesn’t fit my horse and make him more comfortable it is not worth buying.”

Some respondents shared other important factors they consider when shopping for saddle pads:

  • “It just has to do its job staying between the saddle and horse.”
  • “Must prevent injury first, and, second, allow better movement.”
  • “Must curve to fit withers, no billet keepers to poke into back, and polyfill, no foam.”
  • “Must follow horse’s back contours while aiding in comfort and not cause saddle to become unbalance.”
  • “Prevents heat build-up and easy to clean!”
  • “Having sufficient wither relief.”

A few people shared what type of saddle pad they use:

  • “Thinline is my pad of choice. The improvement in my TWHs gait was incredible!”
  • “After finding my horse loving them I only use Back on Track saddle pads. Happy Horse, great ride!”
  • “We use 5 Star pads. Worth every penny.”
  • “Genuine wool felt or wool blankets for my western saddles.”
  • “100% wool is my favorite, continued for best fit”
  • “CSI pads only!”

And others left general comments:

  • “I need a saddle pad that will stay in place as my saddle is a mono-flap. I have yet to find one.”
  • “Pads with or without saddle blanket is chosen for comfort of horse and rider, and sometimes for looks.”
  • “The pad is to make my horse colorful, a clean saddle is a bonus.”

You can learn more about saddle pad science, find out what the sweat marks under your saddle mean, how to prevent saddle sores, and tips for saddle fit at TheHorse.com!

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.