When you’re learning about horse tack and the world of riding, you may learn that a saddle fits on a saddle pad or a numnah (a term used in the U.K.), though the two are not exactly the same. You would never dream of throwing a saddle onto your horse’s back without adding a saddle pad to improve their comfort and prevent rubbing.
In the past, a saddle pad was often just a cowboy’s old blanket, which was used over the horse’s back and then used at night to sleep on. Today, with new technology and fantastic materials, you get saddle pads that can fix back problems, stop saddles from slipping, and improve your horse’s level of comfort.
So in this article, we’re talking about what to look for in a non-slip saddle pad, and then giving you our recommended brands.
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What Is a Saddle Pad?
Okay, so let’s get specific. A saddle pad is essentially any padded square that is placed between the horse’s back and their saddle. The function of a saddle pad is to keep the saddle clean and stop the saddle from rubbing the horse’s shoulders and withers.
However, the design of saddle pads has improved and become much more innovative over the years. For example, you can have a saddle pad made to help raise your saddle and support your horse’s back. With a specialized saddle pad, you can even counter conformational problems such as a mild swayback horse or a horse with asymmetrical shoulders.
And of course, saddle pads can help stop your saddle from slipping on the horse and improve the general fit of the saddle overall.
How a Non-Slip Saddle Pad Works
Saddle slippage is any rider’s worst fear. When a saddle moves too far forward, it can press on the horse’s withers, causing pain and defensive behavior from the horse (such as rearing or bucking) to relieve the pressure.
A saddle that slips backward is just as dangerous; even a slight backward movement can put pressure on the horse’s back and ribs, leading to pain and inflammation of the kidneys. In extreme cases, either type of slippage will lead to the saddle not being able to take the rider’s weight and can lead to dangerous accidents.
A non-slip pad works by providing a textured and padded surface that sticks to the horse’s coat, muscles, and ribs. When the non-slip pad is connected to the saddle, it means the saddle can’t slip backward or forward.
Usually, a non-slip pad is attached to the saddle using straps that pass through the billet straps. The pads have straps that the girth passes through, securing the saddle in place.
What Is the Difference Between a Traditional and a Non-Slip Saddle Pad?
A traditional saddle pad is a basic piece of layered fabric that the saddle sits on. These pads absorb sweat, and they keep the saddle clean. A traditional saddle pad dries quickly, is thin, and prevents minor slippage.
A non-slip pad is made from a material that provides the perfect fit, allowing the saddle to fit in the specifically designed area of the horse’s spine. Non-slip saddle pads tend to conform better to the horse’s shape, in part because of the gel components that are often used. Other components that help a non-slip saddle pad grip include foam, silicone, and fleece.
Why You Would Need a Non-Slip Saddle Pad
A non-slip saddle pad is ideal for those who pursue equestrian sports such as jumping and dressage, and they’re even a good choice for Western riding. If your horse has a conformational issue (such as being barrel-shaped with low withers) or they have lost weight recently, you may need to use a specialized saddle pad to help improve your saddle fit and ensure your horse is comfortable.
Older horses that have lost their topline may also require a saddle pad to help protect them against saddle pressure. A saddle pad will protect the horse’s sensitive areas from pressure and abrasion.
What to Look for in Non-Slip Saddle Pads
There are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing which saddle pad is best for you and your horse:
You can get saddle pads that come with foam, gel, and a range of other composite materials. The type of material used and the manufacturing process will determine whether the design will last and whether it will be successful in keeping your horse comfortable.
Some equestrians still believe that a foam saddle pad can’t be as comfortable as a more traditional sheepskin one. At the end of the day, you know yourself and your horse best!
Not all saddle pads are created equal, and some will last longer than others. Buying from a high-quality reputable brand will increase the likelihood that your saddle pad will last you many years.
The type of saddle you ride with will determine the shape of the saddle pad. Your horse’s topline will also determine whether a low cut saddle pad will work or if you need a type that is cut away from the withers.
Depending on what you need the saddle pad to do, you may need some extra features, such as riser pads, which are made from thick foam you can lift and correct the saddle fit. Consider getting the expert advice of a professional saddle fitter to help you find the best possible fit for your horse.
As a rider, your budget is always going to be a consideration. Buying a high-quality saddle pad can save you money in the long run, but you don’t want to sacrifice your horse’s other needs, like food!
Aesthetic & Design
Saddle pads come in different designs and colors, so choose one you like the look of!
7 Best Non-Slip Saddle Pads
Now here are our recommendations for the best non-slip saddle pads in each category:
Best Non-Slip Saddle Pad for Competition Riding: TechQuilt Dressage
While there are many different forms of competition riding, dressage is perhaps one of the most technical, where so much as a wrinkle in the saddle pad can change the way the horse moves and performs. Because of this, the TechQuilt Dressage Saddle Pad Non-Slip Lining is an excellent choice for dressage riders.
- Highly technical saddle pad with non-slip mesh between saddle and horse’s body
- Non-friction padding on saddle pad’s outer for better leg stability
- Raised wither area for better clearance
- Machine washable
- No front Velcro straps to secure saddle to the saddle pad
- Not all girth positions may work with the girth straps on the bottom edge of the pad
Best Non-Slip Saddle Pad for Jumping: Maxtra Comfort Plus Contour
When a saddle pad fits perfectly, it will also minimize slippage, and this is especially important in a high-risk sport like jumping. The Maxtra Comfort Plus Contour Saddle Pad offers the best features for a safe, slip-free ride over the course while jumping or eventing.
- Quilted cotton inner layer
- Non-slip foam padding on topline outer for maximum shock absorption
- Non-slip faux suede outer shell for better grip and durability
- Both front and bottom Velcro straps to secure saddle
- When performing intense work, the horse’s sweat may make the pad move
- Limited air flow down the gullet due to the foam inserts
Best Non-Slip Saddle Pad for Treeless Saddles: Professionals Choice English Non-Slip Pad
Having a saddle slip sideways or forward is a big challenge for treeless saddles. Yet, a simple foam pad, such as Professionals Choice English Non-Slip Pad, slipping saddles can be a thing of the past.
- A more grippy surface is create when placed over withers area between saddle pad and horse
- Foam pad with perforated openings helps with ventilation
- Contoured shape follows horse’s natural shape for added comfort
- Synthetic material may make some horses sweat more
- When the pad is wet, it is prone to slipping
Greatest Western Saddle Pad: Horze Anti-Slip Pad
Even Western saddles can slip, and having a non-slip pad like the Horze Anti-Slip Pad can help secure the saddle and ensure there is no movement between the saddle and the horse’s body. I found the anti-slip pad to be very helpful for a round horse that tends to become extra slippery when they start sweating.
- Ideal to keep saddle securely fitted when crossing rough country
- Helps secure Western saddle to a barrel-shaped horse
- Fully washable neoprene pad
- Perforated to improve air flow
- Over time with greater exposure to sweat, the neoprene may begin to break down
- If fitted too far up along the back, it may increase wither pressure
Best English Saddle Pad: Shires Airflow Anti-Slip Saddlecloth
Riding English can place pressure on the horse’s back, and if the saddle isn’t a 100% fit, you may end up with inflammation and back issues.
The Shires Airflow Anti Slip Saddlecloth is ideal for English saddles as it has a mesh non-slip inner half pad and the same material is also on the outside of the saddle pad. This means the saddle won’t slip on the horse’s body, and it won’t slip on the pad itself.
- Padding provides additional shock absorption
- It has both front and bottom Velcro straps for girth to secure the saddle
- Fleece wither protector to provide extra comfort
- Mesh may not last as long as a natural sheepskin half pad would
- Absorbent lining may become soaked quickly while schooling a horse
Best Non-Slip Ergonomic and Corrective Saddle Pad: Wintec Comfort Pad
While not technically a saddle pad, the Wintec Comfort Pad can help reduce slippage by improving the saddle fit. In addition, it can also help improve the comfort of your horse and help counter conformational flaws in the horse, so a regular saddle pad will fit better too. It’s available in several different options, including with a lift front or a lift back.
- Ideal shock-absorbing padding for high-impact equestrian sports
- Designed to fit into the gullet, freeing the withers and shoulder for a better fitting saddle
- Lightweight and washable
- You have to ensure the pad fits correctly, with no additional movement to prevent friction sores
- Best to use after consulting with a professional saddle fitter to prevent increasing pressure point tenderness
Most Affordable Non-Slip Saddle Pad: Equine Couture Impulsion Non-Slip AP Pad
Most of us love a bargain, and the Equine Couture Impulsion Non-Slip AP Pad is a huge bargain. At less than $40, this pad offers remarkable non-slip qualities. It comes in multiple colors, too, including red, green, black, and white.
- Polyester base for better sweat absorption
- High rise over withers
- Non-slip outer half pad for better saddle stability
- Fits most saddles and is easy to wash
- Not a very thick pad, so high-impact sports may require the addition of a sheepskin half pad to provide additional shock absorption
- Colors differ slightly from images
More FAQs About Non-Slip Saddle Pads
Do non-slip saddle pads work?
Yes, non-slip pads work to prevent saddle movement across the horse’s back. By wicking away moisture, the saddle pad decreases the chance of slippage, improves ventilation, and ensures rider and horse comfort.
Why does my saddle pad keep sliding back?
If the saddle is a poor fit for your horse’s shape, the saddle may apply pressure to the pad, driving it backward. Usually, the saddle requires a non-slip pad to help eliminate saddle movement. Anti-slip saddle pads can help remove any slippage, while a balancing pad can improve fitment.
Why does my saddle keep slipping forward?
Your saddle is likely too wide, causing it to slip over the horse’s shoulders and withers. A saddle pad that is non-slip will improve the fit, prevent forward movement, and reduce the amount of sweat, therefore reducing the lubrication that the saddle slips on.
A non-slip saddle pad is an investment in the comfort of your horse, your safety as a rider, and the potential excellence of your riding. Saddle slippage may seem like a small matter, yet it can make such a huge difference to your horse’s nature, behavior, and performance.
A happy horse makes for a happy riding companion, so choose a non-slip pad for your horse today and see what a difference it makes to your saddle time. For an in-depth look at half pads, read our review of ThinLine Trifecta Cotton Half Pad with Sheepskin Rolls.
RELATED: How Much Does a Saddle Cost? (So you can budget accordingly)