History and Artistry of Saddleseat Saddle Pads for Horse Riding Competitors

History and Artistry of Saddleseat Saddle Pads for Horse Riding Competitors
Table Of Content

The History and Evolution of Saddleseat Saddle Pads

Saddleseat riding dates back to the late 18th century when riders in the American South developed a style of riding inspired by the flat saddles used by plantation owners. This style evolved into a competitive equestrian sport focused on elegance and showmanship. An integral part of the saddleseat rider's turnout is the saddle pad.

The Origins of Saddle Pads in Saddleseat Riding

In the early days of saddleseat riding, saddle pads were purely functional - they protected the horse's back from the saddle and absorbed sweat. Pads were made from basic materials like cotton, wool, or leather.

As saddleseat developed as a show discipline, the saddle pad took on more importance in the rider's overall presentation and turnout. Riders began using pads made from more decorative materials and adding embellishments that reflected the saddleseat values of style, flash, and attention to detail.

The Freedman Brothers and the Rise of Decorative Saddle Pads

In the 20th century, the Freedman Brothers company became known for making high-quality, visually striking saddle pads for the saddleseat discipline. The popularity of Freedman pads sparked interest in pads as an important decorative element of the saddleseat look.

Freedman pads featured vibrant colors and patterns with decorative embellishments and embroidery. Their unique designs helped pads stand out as a defining part of saddleseat style.

Key Stylistic Features of Saddleseat Saddle Pads

Today, companies like Freedman continue leading saddle pad innovation in saddleseat riding. While materials and construction techniques have modernized, many iconic features remain hallmarks of saddleseat saddle pad style:

  • Vibrant colors and eye-catching patterns
  • Elaborate decorative embellishments such as embroidery, ribbons, piping
  • Sizes that accentuate the horse's motion and animation
  • Coordinates with rider's pads and other turnout elements

The Role and Purpose of Saddleseat Saddle Pads

Protecting the Horse's Back

While making a visual statement is an important saddle pad function today, saddleseat pads still serve the practical purpose of protecting the horse's back. Pads cushion the contact points between the saddle and horse, preventing rubbing and irritation.

Materials like wool felt or fleece get chosen for their comfort, breathability, moisture-wicking capabilities and impact absorption. Correct pad fit also prevents slipping and rubbing under the saddle during animation gaits like the high-stepping saddleseat trot.

Soaking Up Sweat

The athletic saddleaseat gaits cause a saddleseat horse to sweat heavily during riding and competition. Saddle pads soak up this sweat so it doesn't roll off the horse's back or transfer to the saddle, which can slip and rub.

Breathable saddle pads with moisture-wicking fabric on the underside help keep horses' skin dry and comfortable during demanding saddleseat rail work or routines.

A Canvas for Creative Expression

The saddleseat saddle pad provides a canvas for embellishment that reflects the spirit of saddleseat riding. Elaborate decorative elements let competitors display their personality and taste while complementing the rest of their coordinated turnout.

Today's pads offer an endless array of colors, patterns, textures, embroidery, crystal decorations, monograms and other creative touches. Expressing individual style through the saddle pad is an exciting aspect of competition.

Popular Brands Known for Signature Styles

Freedman Saddle Pads

As the original innovator of highly decorated saddleseat pads, the Freedman Brothers company still leads the industry today. Their custom pads are hand-crafted in America using European materials and time-honored techniques.

Freedman is known for trendsetting styles featuring vibrant colors, patterns like dots or diagonal ribbing, Swarovski crystals, thicker edging and a structured shape that displays a saddleseat horse's high head carriage.

Mayhew Saddle Pads

The Mayhew Company also offers meticulously made custom saddle pads with stylized designs catering to saddleseat competitors. Their pads feature attention-grabbing patterns and materials like holographic patent leather.

Mayhew infuses their pads with thoughtful design elements like strategically placed padding to complement horse conformation, specialized lining materials and stabilizing belly bands. They aim to make the pad feel like part of the horse for fluid movement.

Other Notable Saddleseat Saddle Pad Brands

While Freedman and Mayhew lead the saddleseat saddle arena, other brands also provide beautiful pads dressed to impress. These include Amerigo, County, Weaver Leather, CWD and more. Competitors mix and match to find the perfect pad that represents their distinctive taste and flair.

How Saddleseat Saddle Pads Showcase Equestrian Artistry

Saddleseat saddle pads elevate equestrian competition to an artistic level. These highly-specialized pads form part of a complete living canvas presenting the horse in motion. The styles demand attention - perfectly suiting the animated spirit of saddleseat riding.

From colors to decorative elements, competitors thoughtfully design pads to complement riding habits, boots, gloves and other turnout choices. The visual impact leaves a lasting impression matched only by the horse's graceful and eye-catching gaits.

Saddleseat saddle pads play an integral role in showcasing the allure, style and visual excitement of saddleseat riding as a unique equestrian sport. Their continued evolution speaks to the artistry and personalized creativity at the heart of the discipline.


What materials are saddleseat saddle pads made from?

Most saddleseat pads feature a wool felt or fleece underside to absorb sweat, while the tops showcase decorative materials like leather, suede, or patent leather. Piping, ribbon, embroidery, crystals and other embellishments get incorporated into designs.

How important are saddle pads in saddleseat competition?

The saddle pad plays a critical role in completing the overall visual impression and artistry of saddleseat riding. As iconic symbols of saddleseat style, pads demand as much attention to detail as the rest of the rider's coordinated turnout.

What makes a saddleseat saddle pad different from regular English pads?

Saddleseat saddle pads feature oversized shapes, vibrant patterns and lavish decorative embellishments that complement the high action and animation of saddleseat horses. The eyecatching designs suit the spirit of saddleseat as a flashy, stylistic discipline.

What is the purpose of a saddleseat saddle pad?

While making a dramatic visual statement, saddleseat pads still serve practical functions like protecting the horse's back, preventing saddle slippage and absorbing sweat. Correct pad fit also complements the horse's shoulder movement.

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