Summer break is almost here and most of us have big plans of spending time in the saddle every day all summer long. Our favorite time of year! I think it’s pretty fair to say most of us have quite a collection of saddle pads, both everyday ones and special ones we use for shows. That said it seems like a great time to give some pointers on saddle pad care to help them last longer and looking their best. The majority of saddle pads on the market fall into a few simple categories. The cotton quilted all-purpose pads, white faux fleece pads & organic sheepskin fleece pads. Each of these textiles requires appropriate care to get the maximum use of the pad over its lifetime.
Our first pointer is probably a no-brainer but never put your saddle pads away wet.
Wet saddle pads are subject to mold and odor. No one likes a stinky saddle pad! Always make sure to leave a wet pad draped or hung so the wet side is out and has access to circulating air so it can dry properly. I leave my pad wet side up on my horse’s blanket rack in front of his stall. Wet pads should avoid direct sunlight while drying to avoid bleaching and in the case of sheepskin, exposure to the sun while wet can cause shrinkage and damage to the hide. The metal logo emblem on your Ogilvy pad may be subject to corrosion if left wet. Chronic exposure to a damp environment will cause the logo rivet to eventually erode and break off. Wet saddle pads can also contribute to moldy tack when left in your tack room.
Washing your saddle pads
Eventually, all pads get dirty and require a trip through the washing machine. Before washing your pads, it’s always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s suggested care guide. Taking a brush to the underside and loosening debris, dirt, and stuck-on hair with a stiff brush will help your pad get cleaner. For faux fleece and sheepskin pads, we recommend gently using a wire “slicker brush” commonly used on household pets. These brushes have small flexible tines that will help loosen any matted organic material. In the case of faux fleece using one of these brushes will help keep the material from pilling up in the washing machine. I strongly recommend taking heavily soiled schooling pads to a laundromat. Washing these at home is especially frowned upon by parents and spouses of equestrians. (Although we probably don’t mind a little extra horsehair on our clothes, apparently it can be problematic. Who knew?) That said, colorful cotton quilted all-purpose pads are fairly durable. It’s always best to follow the instructions on the tag. However, if the tag is missing, these pads can be washed in your washing machine with warm or cold water. Make sure to fasten any velcro straps closed so they don’t catch on other things in the cycle. We recommend using a detergent that is free of dyes and perfumes in your saddle pad laundry to protect your horse’s skin from a reaction to the detergent. Once washed, we discourage putting pads in the dryer, the preferred method is to hang dry.
- Ogilvy saddle pads using faux fleece or cotton materials should have any inserts removed. Once you’ve removed the inserts, fasten all velcro straps and then wash on the delicate cycle using cold or warm water with a gentle detergent. After washing, allow to hang dry. Make sure the pad is completely dry before putting the inserts back into the pad.
- White faux fleece saddle pads like those from Wilkers and Toklat’s Medallion series are machine washable. Remove any inserts, and fasten any velcro before putting them into the washing machine. Again we suggest using cold or warm water on the delicate cycle with a gentle detergent. Spot cleaners and bleach are discouraged as they can create a yellow tint to the pad.
- Sheepskin, Therawool and other natural fleece saddle pads require special care so as not to void the manufacturer’s warranty. These pads are made of living organic materials and need to be cleaned very carefully. Using traditional detergents like Woolite or any of the detergents suggested above will ruin your beautiful Fleeceworks or Mattes pad. The detergent will dry out the core causing the fleece to fall off the face of the pad leaving large bald patches.
For Everyday Care
Let the item dry. Brush dirt and sweat marks with a wire slicker brush. When almost dry, a light brushing of the wool areas with a wire slicker brush is recommended to remove any soil. The natural oils in the hair fibers will normally release dirt particles with a light brushing. Brushing also cleans the fleece and restores the loft of the pad. If the Sheepskin or Therawool pad becomes exceptionally soiled, the preferred method is to hose off using as little soap as possible. Alternatively, these pieces can be machine washed in cold water on the delicate cycle using one of the following soaps: Leather Therapy Leather Laundry Solution, M.O.S.S. Leather Laundry Wash Or Mattes Melp Leather Wash. These soaps are specially formulated to clean the fleece while conditioning the sheepskin. It should be noted, machine wash should be used sparingly as excessive exposure will shorten the lifespan of your fleece product.
Once washed, the pad should be allowed to hang dry. Unlike faux fleece and cotton blend materials which are often dry overnight, Fleece will take a full 24 hours to dry, some slight shrinkage may occur while drying. If this occurs, gently stretch and reshape the pad while it is still damp.
Following these easy tips to care for your saddle pad will keep your collection looking great for years to come!