Gear Riding Tips

How to Pick the Perfect Western Horse Show Pad

horse in stall with western show tack
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Written by Susanna Wright

How to Successfully Select a Stunning Show Saddle Pad

There are many things to consider when selecting a Western show pad. From color and design to class shown and even customer service, selecting a new show pad can be complex.

You’ll want to start with which Western class (or classes) you’ll be showing in. Then, set a realistic budget. From there, you can consider a variety of other show saddle pad scenarios.

Consider your horse—select a pad that pops with your horse’s color and coordinates with your outfit. Pad dimensions and thickness may also factor into your decision.

Plus, customer service is not to be overlooked.

If you’re shopping online, colors can vary depending on your monitor or viewing device. Pad quality can vary by weaver. We’re happy to share a few saddle pad companies that really stand out for their customer service!

black white and gray show saddle pad without wear leathers

Show saddle pad without wear leathers. Source: Susanna W.

Saddle Pads by Type and Class

First, let’s differentiate between a work pad and a show pad.

Many people use a work pad for day-to-day riding. These are usually padded with wool, fleece, or felt. They’re more durable, designed for daily use, and may include features such as wither relief, contouring for fit and wear leathers.

western saddle with saddle pad on horse

Source: Susanna W.

Thicknesses generally vary between 0.5” and 1”. Sizing is usually 30” x 30” or 32” x 32” for a larger horse/saddle combo.

You’ll want to use a work pad (or under pad) underneath your show pad.

Show pads may not provide adequate cushioning between your saddle and your horse. Using a work pad (or “under pad”) as a base layer also helps keep your show pad clean.

I use a Best Ever wool pad for my work pad. I went with the ¾” thickness. The 30” x 30” fits my work saddle and doubles as my “under pad” at shows. This size is easily hidden by my show pad. I’m impressed with the quality of this saddle pad—it should hold up for years!

best ever custom saddle pad on horse

Custom Best Ever wool saddle pad. Source: Susanna W.

There are two main categories of woven western saddle pads: a show pad and a ranch pad.

Western Show Pads

Show (or pleasure) pads are generally thicker and larger. In the stock breed world, we usually buy what is referred to as an “oversize pad” to allow a bit more of the color/pattern to be visible under our rather large show saddles.

It also provides more real estate for pinning your number!

blue gray and copper western show pad by prickly pear

Western show pad with traditional design. Source: Susanna W.

Patterns for pleasure and reining pads generally feature zig zags, straight lines, squares, diamonds, triangles, and other simple shapes. These designs are pretty consistent across various weavers.

Pads may measure 34” (the spine, or length of the pad) by 42” (the width, or drop of the pad). They are typically ½” – ¾” thick.

Sometimes, saddle pad weights are referenced. A high-quality Western show pad weighs about 8 – 9 lbs.

Ranch Saddle Pads

Ranch pads are usually a little thinner and smaller than a traditional western show pad. They may have more intricate geometric designs than a traditional show pad.

ranch saddle pad with geometric design

Geometric design on a Ranch saddle pad. Source: Susanna W.

Measurements can be 34” (spine) by 38” or 40” and may only be ¼” thick. Ranch pads weigh between 3 – 5 lbs.

The purpose of a ranch riding class is to portray a horse and rider team that is ready to go to work—on a ranch. While various breed associations may have slightly different rules, generally speaking, silver adornments and bling on your horse’s tack is discouraged.

This can also translate to your saddle pad.

Ranch pads should not use metallic thread.

If you purchase a show pad without metallic thread, you can absolutely use it to show in ranch riding! You could also use a ranch pad to show in other Western classes. 

Comparing & Contrasting: Show Pad vs. Ranch Pad Thickness

comparing the thickness of a ranch pad vs a show pad

Left: Show pad (top) Ranch pad (bottom). Right: Ranch pad (top) Show pad (bottom)

Saddle Pad Colors

You can find a saddle pad in about every color combination possible. Be sure to select a color that complements your horse and your outfit.

Hobby Horse makes a great color wheel highlighting which colors look best on what horse coats.

For example, red can really pop on a bay horse, while shades of blue and teal looks great on a sorrel. If you have a palomino or buckskin, you’ve got even more options, as these horses look great in just about any color!

Saddle Pad Prices

Show pads can get expensive. A new show pad costs between $150 and $450, more if you opt for something custom. An average new show pad retails for about $225.

Ranch pads run a little less, as they use less material. Expect to spend between $125 and $250 for a new one (excluding custom options).

A used show pad can be a great option if you’re on a budget! Your best option for finding a used show pad is one of many Facebook groups. One example is “Show Pads for Cowgirls on a Budget.”

ranch saddle pad on sorrel horse

Source: Susanna W.

Customer Service

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of saddle pad makers out there. Remember, depending on what you’re looking for, you may need to return or exchange a pad. Look for reputable companies that prioritize customer service when shopping to avoid any letdowns.

Here are five different saddle blanket companies I’ve tried personally or have close western show friends who have!

Company

Overall Rating

Key Takeaway

Prickly Pear Saddle Pads

*** Excellent customer service

Backroad Trading Company

*** Bold colors & patterns

EM Custom Pads

***

New inventory weekly

Mayatex **

Widely available & budget friendly

Saguaro Show Pads *

Buyer beware

Prickly Pear

Based in LaPorte, Indiana, Prickly Pear offers a wide variety of in-stock saddle pads and custom options, all at competitive prices. Plus, they have great customer service!

I contacted Prickly Pear when shopping for a show pad, as I had questions about pad sizing for my mare. They went above and beyond to reassure me I was ordering the correct size, even sending pictures for reference.

Turnaround time for both communication and shipping was fast.

ranch pad by prickly pear

A Ranch pad by Prickly Pear (image used with permission)

Pros:

  • Fast, friendly customer service
  • Huge in-stock selection
  • Show and ranch pads available, as well as custom options
  • You can find Prickly Pear live at events like the Midwest Horse Fair, AQHA Level 1 Championship, and All American Youth Horse Show

Cons:

  • Almost too many options! There are a LOT of colors and designs to choose from

You can find Prickly Pear on Facebook, Instagram, or visit their website.

Backroad Trading Company

Owners Frankie and Allie specialize in creating custom show pads that will make you feel like a million bucks (without spending it!).

While I haven’t personally purchased from Backroad Trading Company, this particular company has come highly recommended among the amateur stock breed community for its selection and customer service.

Pros:

  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Bold, stand-out colors and designs
  • Custom designs available with a 4-8 week lead time
  • Buy with confidence: Most friendly return options of the companies reviewed here

Cons:

  • These show pads run a bit more than some other companies listed, starting at $225. Elite pads are $425.

Visit Backroad Trading Company here.

EM Custom Show Pads

Another company that is highly respected by stock breed show amateurs is EM Custom Show Pads, which is based in Texas. Offering both in-stock show and ranch pads, as well as custom, you’re sure to find something you love with this company!

Pros:

  • Ready-to-ship colors and designs that really pop
  • New inventory added weekly
  • Canvas pad bags available

Cons:

  • The show pads on the website aren’t sortable by color, so be prepared to peruse a LOT of (gorgeous) options!

Check out the EM Custom Show Pad website here.

Mayatex

Mayatex has been making hand-woven saddle blankets since 1944. From work pads to show blankets, Mayatex has hundreds of options at a variety of price points.

Pros:

  • More entry-level friendly price points than other companies
  • Solid options available
  • Blanket options with and without wear leathers
  • Able to buy through dealers—which means you could shop in-person at a brick & mortar store

Cons:

  • Not as unique or customizable as other options listed

You can buy this brand through retailers like Schneiders Saddlery, Smart Pak, State Line Tack, and Amazon, as well as directly from their website.

Shop Mayatex on Amazon.

wool saddle pad with show saddle

Mayatex show pad. Source: Susanna W.

Saguaro Show Pads

Saguaro Show Pads is based in Georgia and offers a variety of colors and pad patterns in both show and ranch styles, as well as custom options.

Pros:

  • Website is easy to search by pad size and pattern/color
  • Lots of in-stock options
  • Frequent discount codes

Cons:

  • Buyer beware; customer service here is lacking
  • Using a discount code >10% off makes any purchases non-returnable

Rookie Real Life Review

I’m as guilty as many equestrians when it comes to underestimating the potential need for customer service. Here’s a quick story to remind you (and me) to be cautious.

I purchased a Ranch pad using a Black Friday discount code in November 2023. The pad is really beautiful, but when I put it on my horse, I noticed “pokey bits” along the front and back edges. One in particular is quite sharp!

saguaro saddle pad with pointy edges

Pointy edges on Saguaro ranch pad. Source: Susanna W.

The wool, which is burned to keep the edges from fraying, hadn’t been woven into the edges correctly, creating sharp pieces that protrude, hitting my horse right along the hip.

I reached out regarding the issue and was told to “trim the edges with scissors.” Unfortunately, this didn’t fix the problem, and Saguaro refused to refund my order or replace the pad.

So I’m stuck with an expensive, defective product that makes my already-spicy mare uncomfortable. Disappointing!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is the difference between a ranch pad and a pleasure pad?

Typically, ranch pads have geometric designs, while show pads have more standard lines in their design. Ranch pads may be slightly smaller (less oversized) than a pleasure pad. Ranch pads can also be thinner (1/4”); pleasure pads tend to have a thicker weave (1/2”).

comparing the thickness of a ranch pad vs a show pad

Left: Show pad (top) Ranch pad (bottom). Right: Ranch pad (top) Show pad (bottom)

Pleasure-type show pads may have metallic thread; these are typically not allowed in ranch classes.

Q: Do I need two different saddle pads to show in ranch riding and western horsemanship?

Nope! If you buy a show pad without metallic thread, you could use the same pad for all your western riding classes at a show.

Q: What are the dimensions of a western horse show saddle pad?

Typical dimensions can range from 34” (spine, or length) by 38” up to 42”. You can also order custom sizes for your specific horse/tack combination.

Q: How much does a show saddle pad weigh?

Show pads generally weigh between 8 and 9 lbs, depending on the tightness of the weave, thickness of the pad, and overall quality of materials used.

Q: How much does a ranch pad weigh?

Ranch saddle pads typically weigh between 3 and 5 lbs depending on the size, thickness, and tightness of the weave.

Q: Do you need an under pad with a western show pad?

Yes! The under pad provides cushioning for your horse’s back and helps keep your show pad clean. Be sure to “tent” the front of the pad for wither relief and to avoid rubbing.

Q: Do you need wear leathers on a show pad?

No, you don’t need wear leathers, but they will help extend the life of your show pad. If you’re investing in a higher-quality pad, it will usually comes with wear leathers! If you have the option to add them, we’d suggest it.

horse in western show tack in stall with dog

Mayatex saddle pad. Source: Susanna W.

Parting Thoughts

With the right information, finding a Western show pad should be fun. Happy shopping!

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About the author

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Susanna Wright