By Sarah MacKenzie, Certified N2 Saddle Fitter
Most of us love finding a new pretty saddle pad at the local tack store or during a late-night shopping spree; one that is just the right shade of navy to match our new polos or the exact colour teal to go with the diamonds on that brow band you have been trying to match. I know that many of you, myself included, want that perfectly coordinated look but not many riders know that not all saddle pads are made equal. Unfortunately, sometimes the most beautiful, and expensive, saddle pads are not the best ones for the saddle. Foam filled saddle pads may seem nice and comfortable for your horse but they actually compress to almost nothing once the weight of the rider is in the saddle. A good saddle pad is filled with a wool or felt cotton mix; they retain their shape, not bunching under the saddle like thin pads can, and do not affect the fit of the saddle.
Riders must also be careful how the billets of their saddle go through the billet holder on their saddle pad. Billets are placed at specific angles to maintain the correct balance on the saddle, we must keep this in mind when threading our billets through the keepers as sometimes the keepers are set too far back for the saddle. In an N2 Saddle, the front billet should hang straight down and have no angle in it, if possible. It is better to leave the front billet out of the keeper, allowing it to hang where it should, rather than force it at an incorrect angle through the billet holder. There are many good saddle pads out there, it’s just a matter of knowing what you are looking for.