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Research Assessment #6

The Science of Saddle Pads

Date: 10/24/20

Subject: The Science of Saddle Pads

MLA/APA citation:  

Clayton, Hilary. “The Science of Saddle Pads.” United States Dressage Association (USDF) Horse Health Connection, 2016,

        pp. 24–29. 


        I am working on narrowing down an idea and design regarding the saddle pad I am going to make for my original work, so I decided to focus on an article that was based on the actual science behind saddle pads. I was planning to look solely at this saddle pad from a materials perspective, but now I think I may need to consider the structure in my design. While reading the article, I came across numerous information about how uncomfortable pressure on the horse’s back from the saddle can cause stress to the horse which could likely result in an increase in heat. There is much data on sheepskin pads “reducing pressure points” which could be useful in relieving stress from the horse and in turn reducing any unnecessary sweating (Clayton).

        Additionally, the article referenced the best materials that have been found to not only decrease stress or pressure on the horse but also aid with the wicking of sweat away from the skin in order to cool the horse (Clayton). The article explained that synthetic fibers are made from “oil based products” and are “less comfortable” while natural fibers such as cotton are “soft, absorbent, and breathable” and have the “ability to disperse heat and moisture” (Clayton). From this piece of information it would make sense to use more natural materials such as cotton because they would be better at keeping the horse cool and therefore reduce the sweat from the horse and reduce the risk for bacterial or fungal growth. There are so many differing factors to consider when creating a saddle pad, many of which I had not even thought about when starting this research. It is quite fascinating to me to be able to apply logical, scientific thinking to a somewhat everyday product for equestrians. 

        I did come across a piece of research in this article that referenced the importance of creating airflow through the saddle pad and how that would decrease the heat buildup between the pad and the back of the horse (Clayton). This information got me to thinking that it might be wise to incorporate some kind of ventilation into the saddle pad. I wonder if incorporating a type of mesh or vent along the very top of the saddle pad would allow air to slow through allowing sweat to cool without accumulating in exorbitant amounts. By incorporating a ventilation system I wonder if I will be able to truly make a difference in the heat underneath the saddle pad. Will this accomplish my goal? Or is this something that has already been explored by companies and has proved ineffective? I think the next bit of my research will focus around the structure and composition of existing saddle pads that are frequently used and bought. I may even try to talk to fellow equestrians to find out what kind of saddle pad they like the best and why. 

        Overall, I think this article was quite interesting and effective in continuing my research. It has provided me with more detailed information regarding saddle pads and has given me some ideas on where I can go with my material and design of my saddle pad. While I do think that a more natural fiber approach may be beneficial I still wonder if there are materials that help repel bacteria or fungus that would be better for the main body of the saddle pad. I have also begun to ponder the importance of some kind of ventilation system or a layer of padding within the saddle pad that may help with pressure or overall ventilation. There are so many different avenues I can take with my continuing research and I am looking forward to what I will learn in the coming weeks.

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