Saddlecloths, or Saddle Cloths, have been used for centuries with all different types of saddles all over the world. Saddlecloths are designed to fit underneath the saddle and are made in a variety of materials including cottons, wools and synthetics. Generally square in shape, they come in different thicknesses too to provide comfort for the horse.
Numnahs are essentially saddlecloths shaped around the saddle so that less of the material is visible.
Saddlecloths and Numnahs provide comfort for the horse and act as padding between the saddle and the horse’s back. Many thicker types offer shock-absorbtion.
What is a Saddlecloth?
A saddlecloth fits underneath a horse’s saddle and provides comfort for the horse when being ridden. A Saddlecloth helps to compensate for saddles that do not fit perfectly and come in varying densities of padding and filling.
Saddle blanket, saddle pad (or numnah), and saddle cloth are all terms that refer to blankets, pads, or fabrics that are inserted beneath a saddle. These are typically used to wick away perspiration, cushion the saddle, and protect the horse’s back. There are lighter weight saddle cloths, such as a shabrack, that are primarily used for decorative purposes, frequently worn over a more utilitarian pad.
Saddle blankets have been used with all types of saddles for centuries. Some are single-thickness, while others are designed to be folded and used in double-thickness configurations. While a pad or blanket cannot replace a properly fitted saddle, pads with shims or blankets with a unique design can help compensate for minor fitting issues.
The most blanket-like style is associated with western saddles in the American style. It is typically made of wool, cotton, or similar synthetic fabrics. They are approximately 35 inches (0.89 m) square when fitted beneath the saddle, although designs vary to accommodate horses of various sizes.
A saddle pad (in the United States) or numnah (in the United Kingdom) is a thicker pad made of felt, foam, or another modern material sandwiched between a tough outer cover on top and a soft cover on the side that comes into contact with the horse. The best designs absorb shock and reduce back muscle fatigue in the horse. Saddle pads come in a variety of styles and shapes and are used with virtually any type of saddle. In some disciplines, sheepskin numnahs shaped to fit around a saddle are popular.
The term “saddle cloth” has two distinct connotations. A saddlecloth is typically a square pad worn beneath the saddle in Australian English. In the United States, the term refers to a very light, thin blanket worn over a pad or heavier blanket for decorative or identification purposes, such as the square cloths worn beneath race horses’ saddles.
English Saddlecloths and Numnahs
English saddles typically have a shaped pad, referred to in British English as a “numnah.” The English saddle pad’s original purpose was to protect the saddle from dirt and sweat, as the panels of the English saddle provided adequate padding and protection for the horse. It was a simple pad, either a neutral shade designed to blend in with the saddle, or, more recently, white and shaped to fit the saddle’s outline. Today, English style pads are also used to alter a saddle’s balance and compensate for fit issues. Additionally, square pads, referred to as saddlecloths in the United Kingdom and Australia, have become a popular style for eventing, show jumping, and dressage, in part due to the ability to customise the corners with insignia. They are also popular with children and casual riders due to the variety of bright colours available.
Additionally, there are new styles of English saddle pads available, such as the “riser” pad, which is thicker in the back than in the front. Other pads feature an opening to accommodate the horse’s withers, some are shaped to compensate for lordosis or swayback, and numerous modern “space-age” materials such as gel or memory foam to absorb shock and modern synthetic materials with wicking properties to wick away moisture are used.