Gone are the days when the sole purpose of a saddle pad was to keep a saddle clean and free from a horse’s sweat. Nowadays saddle pads offer a host of extra high-performance features, including breathability, shock absorbing properties and much more. With the fit and comfort of a horse’s tack at the forefront of every rider’s mind, a well-designed and fitting saddle pad is crucial to ensure that your horse can perform at their best.

To help you make the best choice for your horse, our new team of testers has been using and reviewing eight saddle pads for hacking. Each of the pads has been rigorously tested for three months and is marked out of five for fit, performance and value for money. This gives an overall rating out of 15.

1. Cathedral Equine Saddlepad

RRP £45

Colours: Maroon, grey, white with maroon piping, white with grey piping

Size: Dressage full


Fit: This saddlepad gives clear coverage around the saddle and sits nicely in the gullet, clear of the spine. It didn’t move or slip down while I was riding. I really like the fastenings, which comprise Velcro loops that go around the D-rings. They are easy to attach and hold the pad in place without letting it slip backwards, as can happen with other pads. The reinforcement around the girth straps is great for durability. 5 stars

Performance: The pad is quilted and feels nicely padded without being too bulky. My horse is fully clipped and is prone to rubbing, but this saddlepad hasn’t rubbed anywhere. It is breathable and he hasn’t had any sweat on his back. It washes well and still looks like new, with no wear and tear whatsoever. 5 stars

Value for money: I think at £45 it is great value for money and I would have expected it to be more expensive. It looks smart with the quilted silky fabric and is great quality too, so I would be very happy to purchase it again. I would highly recommend it for riders wanting a great fitting, breathable pad that also looks good. 5 stars

Total: 15

2. Showmaster Saddlepad Basic

RRP £37.90

Colours: Atlantic green, black, berry, green-lake, light blue, cherry, light denim, pale rose pink, mahogany, navy, ocean blue, oregano, purple, sapphire, white

Sizes: Shetland pony, pony, cob/ full (GP), dressage


Fit: This is a smart looking, classic design cotton saddlepad that fits very well. It sits neatly under the saddle and is nicely shaped. It has long straps that fasten around the girth straps and secure it well. However, I’m not sure how you would keep it in place if you have a monoflap saddle. 4.5 stars

Performance: This saddlepad is lightly padded and it doesn’t slip or rub, which is great news as I have had issues with others doing so in the past. The breathable air mesh material on the underside appears to do the job well as it keeps my horse cooler and less sweaty. The pad has been washed a few times, but it still looks like new. 5 stars

Value for money: I have been impressed with this Showmaster pad and would definitely recommend it.

Total: 14.5

3. Le Mieux Ultra Mesh Close Contact Square Saddlepad

RRP £69.95

Colours: Dark navy, navy, black, grey

Sizes: Large


Fit: This pad fitted well and followed the contours of my horse’s back. It sits up into the gullet and doesn’t drop down while in use. The fastenings are easy to use and neatly attach to the D-rings on the saddle. 4.5 stars

Performance: The pad has a nice feel; it is lightweight, but with additional padding where the saddle sits. However, it isn’t too bulky. I’ve not had any issues with it slipping or rubbing, and I’ve also been very impressed with it’s breathability. Even during fast work on a warm day my horse didn’t get as sweaty as he does in his usual pad. The lining is made from bamboo – a sustainable material – which is good to see. 5 stars

Value for money: The Ultra Mesh Saddlepad has washed up really well and there are no signs of wear. I would highly recommend it. 4.5 stars

Total: 14

4. Le Mieux Soft Shell Anti Slip Dressage Square Saddlepad

RRP £114.95

Colours: Navy, burgundy, black

Sizes: Large


Fit: I was really impressed with this saddlepad; it doesn’t move at all, even with no straps. The grip design works well and makes the pad quick and easy to put on and take off. The cut is nice and it sits well under the saddle without putting pressure on the horse’s back. The additional padding where the panels of the saddle rest is a good addition, especially for my horse who is quite sensitive. 5 stars

Performance: The pad sits very still so there has been no rubbing, despite the fact that my horse has a fine Thoroughbred coat. The material is breathable and my horse hasn’t been left with any sweat patches on her back, even after hard work and in warmer conditions. I was dubious when washing it, thinking that is may diminish the grip, but it is still sticky and just like new after a wash. 4.5 stars

Value for money: Although carrying a higher price tag, I think this saddlepad is good value for money. I would definitely buy another one for competitions and would recommend it to anyone who needs a grippy, comfortable pad. 4.5 stars

Total: 14

5. Equitex Classic Dressage Sport (Airtech)

RRP £239

Colours: Black/ brown, black/ silver, graphite, navy/ brown, navy/ silver, white, royal blue, red

Sizes: Pony, Connemara, full


Fit: This saddlepad offers a great fit and is nicely shaped to follow the contours of the horse’s back. It is generous in length and depth to give a neat appearance and there are no untidy fastenings – it doesn’t need them. 5 stars

Performance: It is also lightweight and smart, with a lovely soft TechVelvet underside. I haven’t had any issues with rubbing despite my horse changing coat when I tested it. Equitex said that the pad won’t slip and I complete agree – it stayed put and sat neatly in the gullet of the saddle for the duration of rides. It is easy to keep clean, and although it can be machine washed, I have tended to just wipe the underside with a damp sponge. My horse appears to not get as warm under this pad as she does under others, so I would say that its breathability is good. 4.5 stars

Value for money: There is no getting away from the fact that this saddlepad is pricey. However, it has lived up to the manufacturer’s claims and it does the job. I’m still struggling to justify the cost, however, but I’m slowly coming around to the idea. 4.5 stars

Total: 14

6. HY Equestrian Sport Active GP Saddlepad

RRP £34.99

Colours: Aegean green, black, terracotta orange, white, midnight navy, pencil point grey, rosette red, spearmint green, amethyst purple, emerald green, coral rose, sky blue, desert sand, vivid merlot, blooming lilac

Sizes: Pony, pony/ cob, cob/ full, full


Fit: This Sport Active GP Saddlepad is a classic cotton pad that is well shaped and a good size. It fitted nicely under my saddle and looked smart. The pad has a high wither design and I did find that it slipped down a little while into riding, although it didn’t press on the withers. The short fastenings are easy to attach to the saddle D-rings for security, while the anti-rub girth protection is a nice addition in a high-wear area. 4.5 stars

Performance: This pad is a good weight and it has no additional padding. I haven’t had any problems with rubbing, even on my horse’s clipped coat. He still got a little sweaty underneath it on warmer days and when he worked harder, so I wouldn’t say that the lining wicks moisture particularly effectively. It does, though, wash well and is quick to dry too. 4 stars

Value for money: I can’t really fault it as a traditional style pad – it is a good price, it looks smart and does the job. 5 stars

Total: 13.5

7. Coldstream Marygold GP Saddlepad

RRP £67.99

Colours: Black, white, mulberry purple, fern green, blush pink, slate blue

Sizes: Pony/ cob, full


Fit: This luxury saddlepad is made from a lovely silk material and it looks really smart. It is shaped well at the wither and it sits neatly up into the gullet of the saddle. There are memory foam stop cushions to prevent the pad from slipping backwards and these alleviate the need for fastenings. 4.5 stars

Performance: The quilting in the pad doesn’t add any bulk under the saddle and the lining appears to be breathable. Even on faster hacks my horse didn’t get quite so warm underneath her saddle. The Marygold GP pad has washed well and is still in very good condition. 4.5 stars

Value for money: All in all, a smart, stylish saddlepad at a good price. 4.5 stars

Total: 13.5

8. Protechmasta Infrared Airmesh GP/ Jump Saddlecloth

RRP £79

Colours: Black, white

Sizes: Pony, cob, full


Fit: The fit of this saddlecloth is ok, but I wouldn’t say that the sizing is generous. It is shaped well and is lightweight, although it did move slightly while riding. The pad is thicker than I would normally use, but the mesh quilting is breathable, which helped to stop my horse getting warm and sweaty during long rides. It has a reinforced area at the girth strap, while the D-ring fastenings are nice additional features. 4 stars

Performance: I haven’t had any issues with the pad rubbing and it isn’t showing any signs of wear. The pad has a ceramic infused lining that emits a safe form of Far infrared radiation which has been scientifically proven to gently and safely assist blood circulation to the muscles along the back. The manufacturer claims that this can assist with warm up and ease muscle tension, although I can’t say that I noticed a huge difference in my horse’s way of going. 4 stars

Value for money: The price is fair for a lightweight and breathable saddlepad with additional features. 4 stars

Total: 12

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