Why Are Dressage and Jumping Saddle Pads Different Shapes & Have Different Purposes?



Whether you’re soaring over jumps or executing precise dressage movements, the right saddle pad can make a significant difference. Understanding the key aspects and benefits of these specialized pads is essential. In this article, we delve into frequently asked questions surrounding jumping and Dressage pads and explore their different shapes and purposes.

Key Takeaways:

  • A jumping pad and a dressage pad each serve different purposes, meeting the needs of the demands of each Equestrian sport.
  • Jumping saddle pads are typically thicker, offering more cushioning and shock absorption to handle the impact of jumps.
  • A Dressage pad is generally thinner and larger to accommodate the longer dressage saddles and promote closer contact between horse and rider.
  • Dressage and jumping saddle pads provide benefits such as cushioning, pressure distribution, moisture-wicking properties, and protection against friction.
  • Riser pads and saddle fitting shims can help address saddle fitting issues by adjusting the balance and alignment of the saddle.



    white cotton dressage saddle pad

    View the Thinline Cotton Dressage pad


    Difference Between a Jumping and Dressage Saddle Pad

    While all English saddle pads may look alike to the untrained eye, a jumping saddle pad and a dressage saddle pad can vary significantly in design.

    The Jumping Saddle Pad

    A jumping saddle pad is a specially designed pad placed between the horse’s back and the saddle to provide cushioning, comfort, and protection during jumping activities, like show jumping or cross-country jumping.

    Jumping saddles typically have a shorter, more forward-cut flap than dressage saddles. This design allows for greater freedom of movement in the horse’s shoulder area, which is essential for jumping activities. Consequently, jumping saddle pads are smaller in size to fit comfortably under the jumping saddle without interfering with the horse’s range of motion.

    Jumping saddle pads are generally also thicker and offer more cushioning to absorb the impact of jumping movements. However, despite the added cushioning, a jumping pad should be lightweight.



    Thinline jumping saddle pad


    View the Thinline Jumping pads


    The Dressage Saddle Pad

    Dressage saddle pad is a type of pad used in dressage riding. Dressage saddle pads are designed to fit under dressage saddles and provide comfort and protection to the horse’s back during dressage training or competitions.

    Dressage saddle pads are typically thinner and larger than jumping pads. Dressage saddles have longer saddle flaps that provide a deeper seat and better leg position for the rider during dressage movements.

    The larger size of the Dressage pad accommodates the extended length of the dressage saddle, providing adequate coverage and protection while ensuring a proper fit. They are made to promote closer contact between the rider’s leg and seat and the horse’s body, so the rider can feel every movement of the horse and communicate with the horse with more immediacy.

    Additionally, Dressage riders and horses must look immaculate during competitions, so a Dressage pad is often made with attractive stitching or decoration for a fancier appearance in the show ring.

    Supplementing with Risers, Half Pads, and Therapeutic Pads

    When it comes to optimizing the fit and comfort of your horse’s saddle, the use of riser pads and therapeutic pads can make a world of difference.

    Whether you’re dealing with saddle fitting issues, seeking to enhance performance, or looking to provide extra support and relief for your equine partner, these supplemental pads can be valuable tools in your equestrian toolkit.

    Riser Pads

    A riser pad, also known as a shim pad or wedge pad, is a type of pad meant to adjust the balance and fit of the saddle on a horse’s back. It is typically made of foam, felt, or gel and is placed between the saddle and the saddle pad.

    The primary purpose of a riser pad or saddle shim is to elevate or raise the front or rear of the saddle to achieve proper alignment and balance. This can help accommodate a horse’s conformational asymmetries and changes in muscle development. Riser pads come in various thicknesses and shapes, allowing customized adjustments to achieve optimal fit and rider comfort.

    Therapeutic Pads

    A therapeutic pad is a specialized saddle pad that provides therapeutic benefits to the horse. These pads are constructed with advanced materials and technologies that promote comfort and support and alleviate pressure points, like foam or gel.

    Therapeutic pads often incorporate features such as inserts, anatomical shaping, and shock-absorbing properties to distribute weight more evenly and reduce the risk of soreness or discomfort.

    They can be particularly beneficial for horses with back issues, sensitive or injured backs, or those in need of additional support during intense activities such as jumping or long-distance riding. Therapeutic pads are available in various designs and can be used with different types of saddles to help enhance the horse’s well-being and overall performance.

    Half Pads

    A half pad is a type of saddle pad about half the size of a standard saddle pad. Half pads give the horse and rider additional padding while absorbing shock, particularly in areas where the saddle may put pressure or create friction. It can help improve the fit of the saddle, enhance comfort, and minimize the risk of soreness or discomfort.

    A half is often used with a regular jumping or Dressage pad to provide an extra layer of protection and customization.

    Half pads come in various materials such as sheepskin, gel, foam, or memory foam, allowing riders to choose the level of cushioning and support they prefer. They are commonly used along with a jumping pad or Dressage saddle pad when riders seek to optimize the saddle’s fit and ensure their equine partners’ well-being.

    FAQs About Jumping and Dressage Saddle Pads

    Saddle pads can be just as crucial to a horse’s performance as a good saddle. Saddle pads help distribute pressure to prevent sore backs and injury, among other things.

    We answer a few questions about choosing the right pad below.

    How do I choose the right saddle pad for dressage and jumping?

    When selecting a jumping or Dressage saddle pad, consider factors such as material quality, thickness, breathability, moisture-wicking properties, contouring or cut-outs for wither clearance, and overall fit under your specific saddle.

    It’s also essential to ensure the pad is the correct size for your jumping or Dressage saddle, offering adequate coverage and protection to the horse’s back.

    How do I determine if my horse needs a riser pad or shims?

    The need for a riser pad or shims varies. One common indicator is issues with the saddle’s fit, such as the saddle tilting forward or backward, uneven pressure distribution, or the horse showing signs of discomfort or resistance. Additionally, a riser pad may be beneficial if your horse has undergone changes in musculature or asymmetry or if the saddle tends to slide or shift during riding.

    It is advisable to consult with a qualified saddle fitter or equine professional who can assess your horse’s conformation and saddle fit to determine if a riser pad would help achieve better balance and alignment.

    Are there any specific care instructions for jumping or dressage saddle pads?

    Care instructions may vary depending on the material of the saddle pad. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. However, standard care practices include regular cleaning, air drying, avoiding excessive heat or direct sunlight, and storing the pad in a clean and dry environment when not in use.