After the Saddle Dr. came to fit our saddles in April, I mentioned that he recommended a cushy saddle pad for older horses (Older Horses can Benefit from a Saddle Pad that Cushions). One of the options he recommends is sheepskin. Yes, they offer a nice soft soft cushion but the therapeutic value of natural sheepskin goes beyond that making them useful for horses of all ages.
I first discovered the benefits of sheepskin years ago when Kroni started to develop bumps on his back. His saddle fit fine; it was the sweat that caused the problem. Once I tried the sheepskin pads the bumps disappeared.
Natural sheepskin can absorb up to 30% of the moisture (water vapor) that accumulates under the saddle, wicking the moisture away from your horse’s back and creating a natural air barrier between your horse’s skin and the pad. It keeps your horse cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Sheepskin also has anti-bacterial properties (because the wool fibers consist of proteins) so they protect your horse’s skin from bacteria.
Keep in mind that to realize these benefits the sheepskin should be placed directly on your horse’s back. I see many people using sheepskin pads over baby pads to keep the sheepskin clean. That’s really not necessary; the wool fibers naturally repel dirt so shaking it out or brushing it when it’s dry gets rid of most of the grime. I put my damp pad on a saddle rack to dry out and wash it occasionally in cold water and a mild detergent; mine are at least eight years old and are still going strong.
One caution about sheepskin pads. Some of them are so thick and lush that they can change the fit of your saddle so make sure you take that into consideration.