Skip to Main Content

What is your saddle pad made of?

Posted in Equestrian News, Home Page articles

What is your saddle pad made of?

the rider news sunset two horses and a rider

The big advantage that wool brings is from its elasticity, resiliency and moisture management.

This might not be a question that has garnered much interest before or maybe it has.  As an onlooker with more experience in felt than riding it seems more focus is spent on the saddle with the saddle pad sometimes being an afterthought.  This likely should not be the case as it is what connects the horse with the rider. 

At first glance, many of the felt pads look the same, and one may assume that they will all perform similarly.  If they look the same and sometimes feel the same, then it comes down to price, right?  Not necessarily.   The fiber and manufacturing process can drastically impact the horses’ comfort and the rider’s stability on the saddle.  The best way to understand this, is to understand felt. 

Felt is a non-woven textile where its versatility leads it to be in industries such as saddle pads, music (such as piano hammers & drum mallets), gasket/seals, floor protectors, boot liners as well as polishing wheels to name a few.  Through the manufacturing process, the material can be made to either be like a fabric or firm like a piece of wood.  Fiber quality, type as well as particular production processes can drastically have an impact on the elasticity or resiliency of the felt.

Typically made of polyester, wool, viscose, polypropylene, alpaca or a blend, the fibers and production process chosen can be determined by the application, required performance or price point. From a saddle pad point of view, most felts are made out of polyester, wool or a blend.   Polyester is man-made, tends to be a less expensive fiber that is oil based, does not have hollow breathable structure and is a smooth fiber.  Wool on the other hand is sustainable as it is grown on sheep, has grip from its fiber scales and has dynamic properties that your horse can truly benefit from. 

The big advantage that wool brings is from its elasticity, resiliency and moisture management.  Wool has incredible fiber memory so even though it is compressed, it will bounce back returning to its original state use after use. Combined with its weight pressure distribution from horizontal fiber interlocking you can truly protect a horses’ back and make the saddle be more secure for the rider.  Moisture management of wool is another advantage to your horse.  Wool fiber has a hollow structure that naturally wicks moisture.  The fiber is straw like where it takes moisture on or gives it off as needed.  This creates even moisture sweat absorption which helps eliminate pressure points that can cause sores for the horse.  The breathable fiber of wool makes for a material that insulates against heat or cold by taking on moisture or giving it off.  It is a key characteristic and reason wool is used in outdoor active wear and should be considered for horseback riding in our 4-season climate.  

For those interested in the manufacturing process, felt can be made two ways.  One is needled felt which is where the fibers are mechanically needled together. It is a felt that is less expensive to make, but comes with risks.  With needling, there is always a risk of needle breakage as the fibers are compacted. In the process, needles may break, remain in the felt and work their way out over time.   Long term a needled felt is unstable with primarily vertically aligned fibers so it is more likely to come apart or lose its elasticity and resilience.  A needle felt saddle pad over time compresses, becomes firm and leaves more of the downward pressure on the horse’s back.  

The true and traditional way of making felt is referred to as wet pressed felt or pressed felt.  This classical process costs more to make because it is labour intensiveness.  To make a pressed felt, the wool fiber’ scales are opened up and interlocked through exposure to steam, pressure and motion.  This process takes time but naturally aligns the fibers in a more horizontal direction.  The gain of producing felt this way is a wonderful feel that gives resiliency, bounce and stability to improve riding performance.  Cost is higher on a pressed felt as well since not all wools can be made into it. Fiber length, fineness and wool type all play a part in fiber selection.  The general rule is any fiber can be turned into a needled felt, but not all wools can be used to make a pressed felt.  Long term, a pressed felt will give better value to the consumer because of its lifespan and stable performance that conventional synthetic felts cannot match.

Fiber and felt manufacturing, what does this all mean?  In general, there is more to felt saddle pads than price.  If looking to replace, always look at the fiber makeup and if you can, ask what type of felt the pad is made of.  The pad is in contact with the horse so you want a felt that that breathes and does not slip, has excellent compression memory and that breathes.  You want your horse to be comfortable the same way you want to be comfortable.  There are materials that we as people will not wear or use because they are stiff or make you feel hot.  The same should be kept in mind for horses too.  If you have more questions or are curious about felt, ask us.  The Brand Felt has been making felt in Mississauga, ON since 1959 and always enjoy talking felt.

For more information visit

What Our Clients Think

  • Horses are all natural, where possible use all natural fibres when putting a blanket on, or even your saddle pad.
    ~Crochet Do Dads

Sign Up For Our Digital Edition

Take The Rider With You Everywhere.

Get Our Digital Edition

905.387.1900 Contact