Given the amount of time and money we all spend to insure our saddles fits our horses, it’s surprisingly easy to overlook the importance of storing your saddle properly to maintain that excellent fit. English saddles are made with panels that are either flocked with wool or made from foam. Storing your saddle on an uneven surface — or a rack that puts pressure on the panels — can negatively impact the panels. And remember, how much money did you just spend to have a saddle with panels that distribute your weight evenly over your horse’s back?
The traditional metal saddle rack — you know, the one found in most tackrooms — is one of the worst culprits. The way the saddle sits on the metal racks can imprint the shape of the tubes on the panels and dent the flocking. The result? Uneven pressure on the horse’s back which can be difficult to reshape. If you have this kind of rack, flip your saddle over and check to make sure there no indentations and consider one of the fixes detailed below.
What are the best type of racks? A straight pole rack works surprisingly well. With these, the pole sits inside the gullet channel and does not affect the panels. Some people prefer to put padding over the pole to protect their saddle.
In my tackroom, I’ve got a free standing barrel-style saddle stand, shown in the top image I also typically put a Saddleright pad under my saddle to further protect it (although it is not shown in the photo). This ensures there are no pressure points on the panels. I’ve also used a quilt stand, which has the right shape, especially when protected by a thick wool western pad.
So, how can you protect your saddle?
When you are at a boarding facility, you can’t ask the barn owner to replace the saddle racks but there are some things you can do to protect your saddle. The least expensive way is using a pool noodle. Watch the video below to see how to use the noodle to give your saddle a better platform. Consider adding a thick saddle pad or two to provide extra cushioning. I had thought of selling my thick wool western pads until I realized they could be used to protect my saddles . . . with the added benefit that I already own them.
Another option is to use a product that’s been designed to protect your saddle from the pressures of a rack. I’d never heard of the SaddleMattress until I was at a barn last winter where several people used them. (Note: this is not a sponsored post and I do not have a SaddleMattress, but the people I know who use them are very happy with them.
According to the manufacturer, their product offers protection in three ways.
- Reduces pressure – Our base layer is designed with a special coating to provide a protective shock-absorbing barrier that significantly reduces damaging pressure.
- Redistributes weight and balance – Our unique contoured weight bearing layer lifts and properly redistributes the weight and balance of the saddle.
- Cushions – Our center ridge supports the saddle through the gullet allowing the panels to rest cushioned on two beveled fins.
The SaddleMattress company used a gel-filled 3/4 inch thick Port Lewis impression pad to test how much protection the SaddleMattress offers to the saddle panels. You can see from the photos on their website that with the SaddleMattress, no damaging pressure points were observed.
There are different SaddleMattress models for the most common styles of saddle racks and the company will work with customers who have a different set up. Each model has a zippered cover for easy removal and laundering. The underside of the cover features a pocket that slides over the back of the saddle rack and secures with 2 Velcro seals – once secured, SaddleMattress hugs the rack and stays in place when removing and replacing a saddle.
The SaddleMattress can be customized with your name, which is another nice feature in a busy boarding facility. Given that I share my tackroom with just one other person, it’s pretty obvious which saddles are mine — most of them!
Whatever approach you use to take care of your saddle, keep in mind that maintaining the integrity of the panels is just as important as keeping the leather clean and conditioned. Your horse will thank you for it!