Friday, February 26, 2010

Hunter Pads: Good and Bad

In today's post I hope to show you the difference between a well-fitting hunter pad and a poorly-fitting hunter pad.

Hunter pads are shaped saddle pads made of sheepskin or synthetic fleece. Which material you use will depend on your budget as well as on your personal preference. They are either white or the colour of natural sheepskin. Saddle pads with pockets or room for a number are not appropriate for the hunter ring at open horse shows.

The ideal fit of a hunter pad has one to two inches of saddle pad sticking out evenly on all sides of the saddle. The shape of the pad should match the shape of your saddle. For this reason, you will need to try different pads with your saddle to find the best one for you since there is not one "correct" shape for everyone.

This post provides the names of several brands that offer various sizes and shapes of fitted pads.

Now I will show you some examples of what not to do, followed by some examples of well-fitting pads.

The Bad
This saddle pad does not fit. There is too much saddle pad sticking out behind the saddle and there is not nearly enough in front of it.  It is not simply a matter of shifting the saddle pad forward to make it fit as the shape of the front of the saddle pad is not the same as the shape of the saddle.

This saddle pad does not fit, either. It suffers from the same problems as the first saddle pad, but this time there is too much saddle pad beneath the flap as well. The border created by the pad should be the same size around the entire saddle; if the pad sticks out too much at the bottom then it is too long for your saddle.

This pad is just altogether the wrong shape for this saddle. If you look at the back of the saddle pad, the angle between the back of the flap and the bottom of the panel area is very open, around 135 degrees. If you look at the same angle on the saddle itself, the angle between the back of the flap and the panels is just over 90 degrees. This shape difference causes a large amount of saddle pad to show behind the flap. This pad also needs to be shifted forward so that there is more sticking out in front of the saddle, but that would not fix the problem with the shape behind the saddle.

This is a half pad. There are very few horses out there who are complemented by a half pad, so unless you cannot find any full pad that fits your saddle, it's best to reserve the half pad for schooling, not showing. A half pad tends to make a horse look half-dressed and, in my eyes, ruins the horse's topline by creating a flat picture instead of a round one.

The Good
This pad fits this saddle very well. There is a small border of a consistent size sticking out around the saddle (the part of the pad behind the flap is just obscured by the rider's leg).

This is an example of a sheepskin pad. It also fits the saddle well, with a small border showing around all edges of the saddle, though it could extend a little bit more behind the cantle. This discreet saddle pad allows the focus to shift to the horse.

This pad also fits well. There is an equal amount sticking out on all sides and it fits securely enough that the bottom of the pad has not shifted backwards and created a bulge of material behind the flap as some pads do.


  1. Can you wear a square pad?

    1. No, square pads are never appropriate for the hunter ring.

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