Learn The Best Method To Clean A Fleece Or Western Saddle Pad

A clean saddle pad is essential for the health and comfort of your horse. Fortunately, cleaning saddle pads is relatively easy in most cases. In this article, we explain how to clean some of the most commonly used saddle pads, those made with fleece, sheepskin, and wool. Also see our article on the different types of saddle pads.

Key Takeaways:

  • A clean saddle pad is essential for the horse’s health and comfort.
  • You can clean saddle pads at home with a few simple steps.
  • Wash by hand using appropriate cleaning materials to avoid damaging fabrics and leather.
  • Air-dry saddle pads thoroughly, ensuring they are fully dry before storing them.
  • Restore fleece to good condition by fluffing it with a brush.

How to Clean a Fleece Saddle Pad or Sheepskin Saddle Pad

Fleece can be either natural or synthetic, and sheepskin is a natural fleece still attached to the hide of a sheep. Natural and synthetic English saddle pads both help protect your horse’s back, but you need to clean them regularly, so they stay looking and feeling good.

Here are some tips on how to do this safely and effectively:

  • To keep a fleece or sheepskin saddle pad in pristine condition, hand-washing with a mild soap (such as Eucalan) using cold or lukewarm water is highly recommended.
  • Do not use laundry detergent when washing these pads, as detergent is often too harsh for delicate fabrics and soft fibers.
  • After washing your saddle pads, rinse them with cool water and remove any excess liquid.
  • Finally, air-dry pads in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.
  • To prevent a sheepskin saddle pad from shrinking during the drying process, dry the sheepskin pad with the sheepskin side up and keep the skin stretched.

After your sheepskin or fleece saddle pad is completely dry, use a coarse pet brush to fluff the fleece for the freshest appearance.

Addressing Clumped and Matted Fleece

It’s not uncommon for a fleece saddle pad to become clumped and matted. This is especially true for horse pads used regularly. Fortunately, it’s not hard to fix this problem.

matted fleece

Use a pet brush with coarse bristles or a wire brush, called a carding brush, to gently comb through the matted area to separate the clumped fibers and restore your pad’s fluffy appearance.

If necessary, use a comb to remove stubborn clumps. You can also dampen the clumps with lukewarm water before brushing them out if necessary.

After carefully removing the clumps, the pad should look almost as good as new.

How to Clean a Western Saddle Pad

When you wash saddle pads, even Western ones, hand-washing is typically preferred. Many Western saddle pads are not made for cleaning in a washing machine and can be irreparably damaged by harsh soap. Instead, fleece Western pads should be washed by hand similarly to English saddle pads.

Horse owners can also use a garden hose with a pressurized nozzle to spray down some types of Western saddle pads. Spray cold water at an angle towards the edges of the pad rather than straight onto its fabric. Otherwise, you risk pushing dirt further into it.

The saturated pad may be heavy with water after washing, so don’t hang it to dry. Instead, dry the pad on a flat surface.

Cleaning Leather Trim

Pads with leather trim require additional steps. The leather can be cleaned along with the rest of the pad, but you need to use a special leather cleaner, like ThinLine Tack Cleaner.

thinline tack cleaner

Start by wiping the leather down with a damp cloth to remove dirt. Next, apply cleaner and, if needed, conditioner. ThinLine products typically do not require conditioning, but if you need to condition leather, use a paste conditioner.

When you’ve finished cleaning and conditioning, wipe the area down with a clean cloth.

Finally, buff the leather with a soft rag to give it a nice shine.

Removing Dirt and Debris from Saddle Pads

Dirt, debris, and sweat can build up on a fleece, sheepskin, or western saddle pad between washings, making the pad look dull and dingy.

To clean a dirty pad, use a soft brush or rubber curry comb to loosen dirt and debris and brush it away. A rubber curry comb used in a circular motion can adequately remove even stubborn clumps of dirt.

In addition to brushwork, a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery or hose attachment can remove loose dirt. However, be gentle when using a vacuum cleaner.

Once you’ve finished cleaning the pad, store it in a dry, clean place.

Saddle Pad Cleaning: Frequently Asked Questions

While pad cleaning is pretty straightforward, some people may have questions about the process.

Here are answers to some of the most common saddle pad cleaning questions:

Should I Use Detergent When Cleaning the Pad?

Detergents are not usually necessary for cleaning saddle pads. Detergents can be harsh and may damage fabric, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.

A hand wash with Eucalan, or another appropriate cleaner, is recommended if the pad needs a complete wash.

Can I Machine-Wash My Saddle Pad?

With the exception of cotton pads, machine washing is generally not recommended since a washing machine can damage the pad.

Even with cold water and a gentle cycle, the materials used to make horse riding pads are usually not designed to withstand the pressure of a washing machine.

How Often Should You Clean Saddle Pads?

Check the care instructions. Most saddle pads and horse blankets should be cleaned on a regular basis. The frequency depends on the materials and design of the pad and the amount of use.
Some types of pads, including those that have limited contact with the horse’s body, only require thorough cleaning every six months to a year but need regular light cleaning.

However, pads that soak in sweat and dirt due to direct contact may need washing every few rides.

Cleaning helps prevent saddle sores and maintains the pad’s structural integrity.

Cleaner Saddle Pads Create Comfort and Style

With the right steps and proper care, you can keep horse pads looking their best for a long time.

Make sure you and your horse enjoy your next ride safely and comfortably with regular cleaning of your saddle pads.