Saddle blanket

The terms saddle blanket, saddle pad (or numnah), and saddle cloth refer to blankets, pads or fabrics inserted under a saddle. These are usually used to absorb sweat, cushion the saddle, and protect the horse's back. There are lighter types of saddle cloth, such as the shabrack, used primarily for decorative purposes, often placed over the top of a more utilitarian pad.

Saddle blankets have been used for many centuries with all types of saddles. Some are a single thickness, others are made to be folded and used with a double thickness. Although a pad or blanket cannot take the place of a properly fitted saddle, pads with shims or blankets with a special design can partially compensate for minor fitting problems.

The most blanket-like style is associated with the American-style western saddle. It is usually made of wool, cotton, or synthetic fabrics with similar characteristics. When fitted under the saddle, they are approximately 35 inches (0.89 m) square, although designs vary to fit horses of different sizes.

English saddle
A modern style English square pad.

A saddle pad (US) or numnah (UK) is thicker, usually with layers of felt, foam or other modern material sandwiched between a tough outer cover on top and a soft cover on the side in contact with the horse. The best designs absorb shock and minimize fatigue for the horse's back muscles. Saddle pads of various styles or shapes are used with any type of saddle. Sheepskin numnahs that are shaped to fit around a saddle are popular in some disciplines.

The term "saddle cloth" has two meanings. In Australian English, a saddle cloth is usually a square pad worn under the saddle. In the United States, the term refers to a very thin, lightweight blanket placed over a pad or heavier blanket for purely decorative or identification purposes, such as the square cloths used under the saddles of race horses.

A traditionally styled western saddle blanket
Schabracke free
A modern saddle pad of a shabrack-type design
A western saddle placed over a saddle blanket.
A modern western saddle pad, with blanket design on top, fleece underneath, and felt or foam padding on the inside

Designs for stock saddles

Both blankets and pads are used with western saddles, the Australian Stock Saddle and other saddle designs with a solid tree that covers many square inches of a horse's back. The standard stock pad is square or slightly rectangular, and is designed to show under the saddle, providing both protection and style. These pads come in many colors and designs, and at horse shows may be color-coordinated to the rider's attire.

Designs for English riding

A traditional English saddle pad is cut to conform to the shape of the saddle.

English saddles typically use a shaped pad, called a "numnah" in British English. The original purpose of the English saddle pad was simply to protect the saddle from dirt and sweat, as the panels of the English saddle provided the necessary padding and protection for the horse. It was a simple pad, either a neutral shade designed to be nearly invisible under the saddle, or, more recently, white, and shaped to fit the outline of the saddle. Today, English style pads are also used to alter the balance of a saddle and to compensate for fit problems. In addition, square pads, called saddlecloths in the UK and Australia, have become a popular style for eventing, show jumping and dressage, in part because of the ability to add insignia to the corners. They are also popular with children and casual riders because they are available in a wide range of bright colors.

There are additional new types of English saddle pads such as the "riser" pad, which is thicker in the back than the front. Other pads are made with an opening to allow extra room for the withers of the horse, some are shaped to compensate for lordosis or swayback, and many modern "space age" materials are used, such as gel or memory foam to absorb shock, and modern synthetic materials with wicking properties to absorb moisture.

Other designs

A hybrid design that is a cross between a saddle blanket and a horse blanket, called a quarter sheet, is a larger blanket placed under the saddle but which covers the horse from shoulder to hip while riding. Quarter sheets are sometimes used in cold weather to keep a horse's muscles loosened up when warming up for competition, or on horses that may have to stand around when under saddle and run the risk of stiffening up if their muscles get chilled.


Saddle Bl. 1870
Navajo single saddle blanket, circa 1870

When the horse was first domesticated, the saddle blanket was the first and only piece of equipment placed on a horse's back, attached with a strap or rope, used primarily to protect the rider. Over time, the blanket developed into a pad, and later the pad or blanket became a buffer and support for a saddle.


External links

Media related to Saddle blankets at Wikimedia Commons

Australian Stock Saddle

The Australian Stock Saddle is a saddle in popular use all over the world for activities that require long hours in the saddle and a secure seat. The saddle is suitable for cattle work, starting young horses, everyday pleasure riding, trail riding, endurance riding, polocrosse and is also used in Australian campdrafting competitions and stockman challenges.

The traditional Australian stock saddle was designed for security and comfort in the saddle no matter how harsh the conditions. While having stylistic roots from the English saddle in the design of the seat, panels, fenders, and stirrups, it has a much deeper seat, higher cantle, and knee pads in the front to create a very secure saddle for riders who ride in rough conditions or spend long hours on a horse.

The saddle is kept on with a girth attached to billets under the flaps, similar to those on a dressage saddle. A surcingle passing over the seat of the saddle is also used to provide additional safety. The rear of the saddle is sometimes secured by a crupper. A breastcollar is sometimes added. A saddle blanket or numnah is used under the saddle to absorb sweat and to protect the back of the horse.

Bell boots

Bell boots, or overreach boots, are a type of protective boot worn by a horse. They encircle the horse's ankle, and protect the back of the pastern and the heels of the animal.

Bit converter

A bit converter, also known as a pelham rounding, is used on pelham bits to change them from two-rein bits to one-rein bits. It is a leather strap that attaches from the snaffle ring to the curb ring, onto which the rein is then attached to the loop made between the two rings. A bit converter is very helpful when riding the cross-country phase of eventing, so that a rider using a pelham does not have to keep track of two reins— especially helpful when riding drop fences, which require the rider to slip the reins and then gather them back up on landing. It is also commonly used by children, who may have not yet become skilled enough to handle two reins with ease. However, the bit converter diminishes the rider's ability to apply the curb and snaffle functions of the pelham independently and discriminately, and thus is usually considered unsuitable for other types of riding; it is illegal in hunt seat equitation, for example.

A bit converter is also known in some places as 'roundings' or 'pelham roundings'.

Blinkers (horse tack)

Blinkers, sometimes known as blinders, are a piece of horse tack that prevent the horse seeing to the rear and, in some cases, to the side.

Crop (implement)

A crop, sometimes called a riding crop or hunting crop, is a short type of whip without a lash, used in horse riding, part of the family of tools known as horse whips.

Horse blanket

A horse blanket or rug is a blanket or animal coat intended for keeping a horse or other equine warm or otherwise protected from wind or other elements. They are tailored to fit around a horse's body from chest to rump, with straps crossing underneath the belly to secure the blanket yet allowing the horse to move about freely. Most have one or two straps that buckle in front, but a few designs have a closed front and must be slipped over a horse's head. Some designs also have small straps that loop lightly around the horse's hind legs to prevent the blanket from slipping sideways.

Horse blanket (disambiguation)

A horse blanket, also known as a horse rug (UK), is a type of coat or blanket that covers almost the entire body of a horse. The term may also refer to:

"Horse blanket", a slang term for the very large pre-1929 US dollar bill

Saddle blanket, the type of blanket used to protect a horse's back from a saddle

Kimblewick bit

A Kimblewick, Kimberwicke or Kimberwick is a type of bit used on a horse, and named after the English town of Kimblewick where it was first made. The bit has bit shanks, D-shaped rings, and a curb chain. Due to its shanks, it is regarded as a type of curb bit. The curb action is minimal to mild, however, because the shanks have short purchase arms and no lever arms (see Lever). Some variations increase the curb action. A Kimblewick is used with one set of reins.

Kura (saddle)

Kura (鞍), is the generic name for the Japanese saddle. The word "kura" is most commonly associated with the saddle used by the samurai class of feudal Japan which was developed from Chinese saddles. Over time the Japanese added elements of their own until the Japanese saddle became an identifiable style, also known as the samurai saddle.

McClellan saddle

The McClellan saddle was a riding saddle designed by George B. McClellan, a career Army officer in the U.S. Army, after his tour of Europe as the member of a military commission charged with studying the latest developments in engineer and cavalry forces including field equipment.

Based on his observations, McClellan proposed a design that was adopted by the Army in 1859. The McClellan saddle was a success and continued in use in various forms until the US Army's last horse cavalry and horse artillery was dismounted in World War II. Today, the McClellan saddle is used by ceremonial mounted units in the US Army. The saddle was used by several other nations, including Rhodesia and Mexico, and to a degree by the British in the Boer War. The saddle came in various seat sizes that predominantly ranged from approximately 11 to 12 ½ inches.

Pack saddle

A pack saddle is any device designed to be secured on the back of a horse, mule, or other working animal so it can carry heavy loads such as luggage, firewood, small cannons or other weapons too heavy to be carried by humans.


For the dragonfly genus, see Tramea.Saddlebags are bags that are attached to saddles.


Shabrack or Shabraque (Turkish: çaprak) is a saddlecloth, formerly used by European light cavalry.

The shabraque was an accoutrement of the hussar cavalry, based on the Hungarian horsemen in Austrian service who were widely imitated in European armies in the 18th and 19th centuries. The shabraque was a large cloth which in its original form, covered the Hungarian-style saddle, and was itself surmounted by a sheep or goat's skin. The corners of the shabraque were rounded at the front and elongated into long points at the rear. It could be elaborately decorated with a contrasting border and a royal cypher or regimental crest. It was often discarded while on active service and by the start of the 20th century, was confined to ceremonial use; in the British Army, it is used by the Household Cavalry and by General Staff officers.

Shadow roll

A shadow roll is a piece of equipment, usually made of sheepskin or a synthetic material, that is attached to the noseband of a horse's bridle. Like blinkers, it partially restricts the horse's vision, and helps him to concentrate on what is in front of him, rather than objects on the ground (such as shadows).

Shadow rolls are most commonly used in horse racing, both on the flat and harness racing, as some horses will try to jump shadows on the ground, behavior that will slow them down. They are also occasionally, albeit rarely, seen in eventing. The shadow roll is also seen in show jumping competitions, especially for horses who have a tendency to raise their heads too high and evade the bit. The shadow roll is intended to correct this by forcing the horse to lower his head in order to see the jump; when the horse's head is raised the roll blocks his vision.

Skid boots

Skid boots are used to protect a horse's hind legs during exercise and competition, protecting the fetlocks, pasterns, and other parts of the lower leg from injury that may occur from a sliding stop. Taller varieties may also provide protection if one leg or hoof strikes the opposite leg. They are commonly seen on horses in western riding sports such as cutting, reining and other events where quick stops and fast turns on the hindquarters may be required.

Skid boots are usually made of synthetic materials such as Neoprene or traditional materials such as leather. They usually attach by a wide velcro fastening which is pulled around the leg. Some boots may have buckles, especially older designs. They are made in a wide variety of colors and of varying styles.


A surcingle is a strap made of leather or leather-like synthetic materials such as nylon or neoprene, sometimes with elastic, that fastens around the horse's girth.

A surcingle may be used for ground training, some types of in-hand exhibition, and over a saddle or horse pack to stabilize the rider's weight. It also is a primary component of a horse harness.

A basic surcingle is unpadded, attaches around the horse by means of buckles or rings, and has no other hardware. A training surcingle, sometimes called a "roller," has many extra rings attached, running from the ribcage up to the withers area. It usually has padding to relieve pressure on the horse's spine. A variation of this design is used for equestrian vaulting.


A tapadero, sometimes referred to as a "hooded stirrup," is leather cover over the front of a stirrup on a saddle that closes each stirrup from the front. A tapadero prevents the rider's boot from slipping through and also prevents brush encountered while working cattle on the open range from poking through the stirrup, injuring or impeding the horse or rider. Some designs can also provide protection in cold weather. They are also frequently used with young riders, as many parents and riding instructors feel they are a safety precaution. Most commonly seen today on a western saddle, particularly certain types of children's saddles and parade horse saddles, the tapadero is not common in modern times and is not allowed in most show competition other than Parade Horse competition and children's leadline.

Trace (tack)

In transport, a trace is one of two, or more, straps, ropes or chains by which a carriage or wagon, or the like, is drawn by a harness horse or other draft animal. The once popular idiom: "kick over the traces" is derived from a frisky or frightened animal kicking one or both feet outside a trace. Unable to understand the entanglement, the animal may become wildly confused and out of control, possibly even breaking away. Hence, to "kick over the traces", when referring to a person, means to become wild and uncontrollable, or to abandon constraint.

Twitch (device)

A twitch is a device that is used to restrain horses for various stressful situations, such as veterinary treatment. It is believed that a twitch calms the horse by releasing endorphins as pressure is applied, thus reducing stress and pain, though this is not supported by veterinarian research or evidence which indicates that the compliance of the animal comes from pain. It is usually made up of a stick-like handle loop of chain or rope on the end, or a metal ring with a rope loop which is wrapped around the upper lip of the horse and tightened. Another design, sometimes called a "humane" twitch, is a plier-like clamp that squeezes the lip with motion akin to that seen in a nutcracker. The aluminium screw twitch is yet another form of twitch.

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