Have you ever wondered how to measure a saddle pad? Or maybe, how to know what size pad you should use? Here are a few guidelines.
Most saddle pads have two or three measurements. Length, width, and sometimes thickness. The first number on a pad's measurement is the length of the pad along the horse's spine. The second is going to be the width of the pad, from one side, across the withers, and down the other side. The thickness of a pad can come in different forms. An all felt pad is easy, it's the thickness of the felt used to make it. Some times that gets a little more confusing if there is more than one layer of material. A measurement is often given only for the filler inside the pad. For example, a fleece bottomed pad with a blanket top may say it has a 1" filler. That pad will actually be more than 1" thick because of the two other layers.
To choose the size of the pad that you need you will need to measure your saddle and look at it on your horse. For a couple of examples, I measured a few 14" barrel saddles and found that the skirts ranged from 23" to 25". 15" Team ropers ranged from 25" to 28". You always need a pad that is AT LEAST the length of your saddle's skirts with a little bit to spare on either end. So the barrel saddles that I measured need pads that are a minimum of about 27" long. The ropers I would say need a minimum of 28" to 30". Also, be sure that you are considering that the filler of the pad must be this length. On many pads with blanket tops they are designed with the blanket overhanging the padding. The blanket alone does not count towards this minimum length.
To find the maximum length for your pad, look at your saddle on your horse. If your horse is really compact with a short back you will want to stay pretty close to that minimum. If the pad is too long for the horse, it could rub over his hips. However, with an average built western horse, you can have a blanket that is several inches longer without interfering with his movement. If your pad is a little over your minimum required size, you don't have to be as exact when tacking up, and you'll see a little more of the pad under the horse for an aesthetically pleasing look.
Coolhorse Tack Manager
2012 update - A great question just came in from a customer who wanted to know what size pad we would recommend for her daughter's 12" saddle which they ride on a miniature horse. The skirts of this saddle are 21"-22" long, so we would recommend something between 23" and 26". However, being on a mini, you may want to stay towards the smaller end of that range since you have a much shorter back to work with. Good luck and have a great ride!