A great saddle pad can be quite an investment, and taking care of it properly is the best way to keep it looking and performing like new. Please note that if your saddle pad came with specific care instructions from the manufacturer, you should follow them instead of the tips we’re providing. Ready? Grab your dirty saddle pad and let’s get started.
Removing Loose Dirt and Horse Hair
Be sure that your saddle pad is dry before trying to remove dirt and / or horse hair. If it’s even slightly damp, debris will just stick to it. Start by hanging the saddle pad across a clean fence, porch railing, or similarly supportive structure and give it a few good whacks with a wide, lightweight object such as a corn broom or tennis racket. Do this after every ride and hair and dirt won’t cake up, especially if you make sure that your horse is well groomed before tacking up.
If you notice that dirt and horse hair is starting to cake up, or if you’ve gotten your saddle pad exceptionally dirty, take the blanket to a nearby car wash and use the big upholstery vacuum to lift the debris. If you’d rather keep your dirty saddle pads at home, use the hose attachment of your home or shop vacuum to remove dirt and hair.
How to Wash Saddle Pads
If your saddle pad is washable and has caked-on dirt that you can’t get off with a vacuum, you can launder it in a washing machine. Be prepared though: This will make a mess inside the machine and you will need to wipe it out before washing clothes! Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for laundering, ensuring that you remove as much dirt as you can before putting the saddle pad into the washer. If you can’t find instructions but are certain the pad is washable, use the coldest setting and the gentle cycle. Do not use soap or fabric softener, as these will never come completely out of your saddle pad and could irritate your horse’s sensitive skin.
If the manufacturer’s instructions say you can machine dry your saddle pad, by all means do so. Use the lowest setting and remove the pad from the dryer as soon as the cycle completes.
If you can’t machine wash your saddle pad, then wash it by hand by soaking it in a tub of cold water and then setting it up on edge and rinsing it with a hose. Use a bristled brush to scrub compacted soil off the pad, going from the center to the edges to remove hair and debris. Be careful not to spray directly down into the center of the pad, as this will just drive soil deeper inside of it. Go sideways instead, and you can actually see the debris coming off.
Hand-washed saddle pads are usually quite heavy, as they absorb quite a bit of water. Luckily, the water will drain off the pad well as soon as you lay it across a sturdy structure, such as a saddle rack, to dry. Be sure you choose a spot with plenty of air flow so your pad will dry faster.
The more consistent you are with cleaning your saddle pad when it’s dry, the less often you’ll need to wash it. Be sure to treat any leather accents with leather conditioner to keep them soft, supple and looking good as new.