Grab Yourself A Sheepskin Seat Saver

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A seat saver’s job is to cushion the rider, but we know it can also provide warmth on chilly days while keeping the leather in the saddle from getting piping hot in the summer. Some models offer extra grip in the saddle and can help a rider from sliding around. At horse shows, it can be a handy layer of protection between clean clothes and oiled leather. Some models may even benefit women who frequently develop vaginal-health problems in hot weather because the seat savers allow some extra air flow.

For a seat saver to be useful, it must be completely comfortable. This means a nice pliant padded feeling that retains its resiliency over time and a secure fit with no bunching or slippage when riding, mounting or dismounting. Attaching, adjusting and caring for the seat saver should be simple. Seat savers vary in thickness, with larger ones generally more comfortable for long trail rides and thinner ones somewhat preferable for riding that requires a more subtle feel of the horse.

We tested our seat savers on a variety of English and Western saddles. We used multiple riders in different saddles on long and short trail rides as well as in a ring. Seat savers were evaluated for design, comfort, fit, easy application and adjustment, quality and care.

English Seat Savers...

Fabri Tech #8855 with Top Grain Leather
• Suggested Retail: $79.95-$89.95.
• Material: Top grain leather on one side, split (suede) leather on the other. Foam filling, nylon ties, silver grommets.
• Colors: Black, brown.
• Features: A very thick foam pad handsomely quilted with soft, smooth leather on one side and suede on the other. Thick nylon ties with elastic and Velcro enclosures criss-cross under saddle for fixture. Clean with saddle soap, buff dry.
• Comments: A little confusing to affix as the sturdy ties did not keep pad from bowing over the saddle when attached, although the pad settled into place with the weight of a rider. Protrusion of pad at the pommel seemed excessive. The pad sometimes slipped forward when riding. Overall, this is a handsome pad, the “cushiest” in our test of English seat savers. Despite the excess material at the pommel, it may be an excellent choice for riders who want or need a lot of padding.

ToklatWoolback 18-186
• Suggested Retail: $31.95.
• Materials: Virgin wool fabric, nylon ties.
• Colors: Natural.
• Features: This saver has the absorbency and breathability of natural wool. Triangular-shaped pommel. One sturdy nylon tie attaches from pommel to back pouch, which slips under cantle. Brush fleece before and after washing. Machine wash cold, gentle detergent, hang to dry.
• Comments: We never found an ideal fit with this one-size-fits-all pad, despite trying it on saddles varying in size from 16.5 to 19 inches. The pad tended to slip. The wool was attractive, warm, yet breathable.

Toklat Original Toklat Coolback 17-086-LA
• Suggested Retail: $23.95.
• Materials: Hospital-inspired orthopedic polyester. Non-allergenic.
• Colors: 13 colors.
• Features: Cushioning was developed to wick water. Triangular-shaped pommel. One sturdy nylon tie attaches from pommel to the back pouch, which slips under cantle. Brush fleece before and after washing. Machine wash in cold water on gentle. Dryer safe.
• Comments: While initially more slippery tha its wool counterpart, that problem was due to a coating that wears away with washing. The synthetic didn’t maintain the loft and comfort of the real wool pads.

Toklat Originals Toklat Woolback with Equigel Insert 18-176G
• Suggested Retail: $124.95.
• Materials: Virgin wool, nylon tie.
• Colors: Natural.
• Features: White wool pad with black backing pouch for Equigel insert. Two styles, general-purpose, close-contact. Saver attaches with elastic strap under cantle and two slender elastic loops on either side of square pommel. Insert must be removed and hand washed with mild soap, warm water. Air dry. Wool cover should be machine washed cold, gentle detergent, hang to dry.
• Comments: The method of attachment was initially confusing, with slipping and bunching problems. However, once we got it secured properly, we were in good shape. The elasticized loops stretched out after repeated use, but the Equigel padding was acceptably thick and provided excellent padding. The wool is attractive, warm and breathable. Comfortable pad.

Summer’s Ice Equine Products English Seat Saver #9406
• Suggested Retail: $59.95.
• Material: Australian sheepskin, three Velcro straps, elastic under cantle.
• Colors: Ivory, brown, black.
• Features: Sheepskin, hand wash, hang dry.
• Comments: This is an extremely comfortable seat saver with the thickness, resiliency, warmth, breathabiliy, and softness of natural sheepskin. Fit was excellent on saddles of varying sizes. Saver was easy to put on and remove and remained secure in saddle at all gaits and over all terrains. Attractive, comfortable and easy to use, this seat saver was a favorite. The manufacturer recommends hand washing. We also tried machine washing it on gentle, because many of our testers don’t have the time to hand wash, and we found it was fine in the washer. However, we did line dry it as directed.

Dover Saddlery Equigel Suede Seat Cover
• Suggested Retail: $152.80.
• Material: Suede cover over Equigel pad, two elasticized straps over skirts, single nylon strap with plastic lock enclosure. Rubberized underside.
• Colors: Black.
• Features: Black suede cover affixes with nylon staps over skirts. Pouch slides over the cantle and nylon strap attaches to a plastic lock enclosure toward the front.
• Comments: A handsome pad with a nice level of padding, neither too thick nor too thin. It’s a good choice for riders who want some extra padding for trail rides but don’t want a bulky feel to interfere with ring work. Easy to adjust and well-fitting on a variety of saddles of different sizes. Open seams exposing the layers of suede and rubberized underside at the pommel detracted slightly from otherwise excellent construction. Testers wearing chaps found that the seat-cover skirts tended to slip inside inner thighs of chaps and get caught when posting or riding in two-point position. An attractive, easy-to-use cover could go from the trails to the show ring.

Just Merino JMS Wool English Saddle Seat Cushion
• Suggested Retail: $45.95-$49.95.
• Material: Merino sheepskin, elastic straps, Velcro enclosures.
• Colors: Nine colors.
• Features: Natural wool on leather. Elastic cantle pouch, three elastic straps with Velcro enclosures. Elastic will be replaced free if it wears out within seven years. Brush wool to clean or machine or hand-wash cold water, gentle detergent, hang dry. Saddle styles also available: Western, Australian, McClelland, Jockey exercise saddle. Deluxe English Full-Cover Saddle Seat Cushion to cover entire saddle of all-purpose, dressage, and Wintec saddles.
• Comments: A comfortable, attractive pad that was easy to adjust and fit a variety of saddles. Pad occasionally slipped a little in saddle but overall performed well. Thick, soft and resilient, this pad got high marks with our testers.

Cashel Co. English Tush Cushion
• Suggested Retail: $44.95.
• Material: Closed cell foam core, cotton/polyester/Lycra cover.
• Colors: Black
• Features: Easy to affix/ adjust elastic ties. Non-crushing closed-cell-foam pad retains shape and provides 1/2” layer of padding. Does not retain heat.
• Comments: This well-made pad is easy to adjust and fits a variety of saddles. Dark and unobtrusive, it isn’t overly thick and may be just the right one for those who need or want a slim, comfortable seat saver, especially for ring work.

Western Seat Sav ers...

Just Merino JMS Western Saddle Seat Cushion
• Suggested Retail: $45.95-$49.95.
• Material: Merino sheepskin, brass grommets, braided cord tiedowns.
• Colors: Nine colors.
• Features: Natural wool on the leather. Elastic cantle strap, five tiedown grommets give choice to tie the front through the swells and around the horn or down to the D-rings on the side of the saddle. Elastic will be replaced free if it wears out within seven years. Machine/hand wash. Air dry out of the sun.
• Comments: A soft, comfortable cushion. The sheepskin molds to the saddle and lies flat on the cantle without a cantle pocket to hold it there. The rough leather underside keeps the pad from slipping. Kept its shape with plenty of loft. A solid choice.

Just Merino JMS Deluxe Western Saddle Seat Cushion
• Suggested Retail: $59.95-$79.95.
• Material: Same as above.
• Colors: Nine colors.
• Features: Same as above except the Deluxe model has additional side flaps to cushion the area down over the jockey.
• Comments: A really plush and comfy seat that makes you feel what the early horsemen must have felt riding on thick pelts. Some of our riders preferred the extra length under the leg. A superior saddle seat cushion for long rides on the trail and one of our testers’ favorites.

Summer’s Ice Equine Products Western Seat Saver No. 9407
• Suggested Retail: $60.95.
• Material: Australian sheepskin with polyester cantle pocket, brass grommet tiedown points, hook-and-loop fastener.
• Colors: Natural.
• Features: Removable, nylon horn loop with hook-and-loop fastener that attaches to hook-and-loop fastener on the underside of the Seat Saver.
• Comments: A comfortable seat cushion with the resiliency of natural sheepskin. The deep, well-made cantle pocket keeps the back firmly in place while the removable horn loop makes it the easiest seat cushion we had to put on and take off. Since the length of the horn loop is so easily adjusted this seat cushion is an ideal choice where one seat cushion is used on different size saddles. The well-positioned front grommets allow for more-permanent attachment, although we would have liked some tie-down strings provided with it. A very nice-fitting, comfortable cushion that is easy to use and one of our testers’ favorites.

Cashel Co. Western Tush Cushion No. XTCW
• Suggested Retail: $32.95.
• Material: Closed-cell foam core, cotton/polyester/Lycra blend cover, elastic horn loop, adjustable nylon webbing cantle loop.
• Colors: Black.
• Features: Easy to put on and take off. Non-crushing closed-cell foam keeps its shape. Doesn’t mat down or retain heat.
• Comments: A well-made seat cushion that’s a good choice for those who don’t like the look of a big, wooly cushion on their saddle, don’t like a lot of padding around the back and in front of the legs, or for those who just don’t want anyone to know they are using a seat cushion. It’s so compact it’s barely noticeable when the rider is in the saddle. It provides a little padding without a lot of fluff or fuss. A quality product at a good price.

Equi-Tech Labs Deluxe Cushion Seat Gripper
• Suggested Retail: $29.
• Material: Blown PVC (polyvinylchloride).
• Colors: Black.
• Features: Dimpled texture. Adjustable, elastic strap around cantle. No front tie-downs. Fits 15”- 16” seats.
• Comments: The dimpled finish of the Gripper does just what the name suggests?''it grips your seat. It also grips the saddle seat and stays put. The front of the Gripper has no attachment points. An extension of the pad forms a “tongue” you push down into the fork of the saddle. While this keeps the pad in place, we found the tongue is in the way if you like to carry your saddle by the fork. The Gripper rode steady but began to feel a little hard after a few hours riding. The dark color makes it inconspicuous when riding.

Comfort Curves Deluxe Seat Saver
• Suggested Retail: $42.95-$45.95.
• Materials: Faux fur with fabric-covered scrunchy-type elastic attachments. Rolled binding edges.
• Colors: Five colors/patterns and custom.
• Features: A foam pad form cut to saddle shape covered with soft, plush faux fur fabric. Fits 14” to 16” seats, but can be made in any size to fit large or small saddles. Side flaps extend down to cover the jockey. A front flap flips up to cover the fork and swells. Machine wash in cold water and hang to dry.
• Comments: A comfortable saddle cushion that was soft, but it did not stay in place as well as the others we tested. The side pieces tended to punch up in front of the rider’s leg. The large, gathered covering over the elastic attachments was a bit bulky and tended to get in the way if you wanted to hang something else over the saddlehorn.

Toklat Originals Woolback Western Seat Saver No. 18-187 and 18-187G (gel insert)
• Suggested Retail: $42.95; with EquiGel gel pad insert $124.95.
• Materials: Virgin wool.
• Colors: Natural.
• Features: The absorbency and breathability of natural wool. Machine wash, hang to dry. Gel pad insert is easily removed for washing.
• Comments: A comfortable, well-fitting pad with a good, deep cantle pocket and front tiedowns. The gel-pad insert seemed heavy at first, but it was comfortable and performed well. The thick wool pile cover provided good ventilation, and we had no problems with the gel holding heat.

Toklat Originals Coolback Western Seat Saver No. 17-087-LA
• Suggested Retail: $34.95.
• Colors: White.
• Features: Hospital-inspired orthopedic pile fabric. Non-allergenic. Machine wash and dry.
• Comments: This synthetic material version of Toklat’s wool saddle seat cushions did not maintain the loft and comfort of the real wool pads. The pile tended to pack down after minimal hours in the saddle. Due to a coating put on during manufacturing, this pad did not grip the saddle initially and had a tendency to slip when dismounting. However, the coating wears away.

Bottom Line
Seat savers add a bit of “plush” to riding, which may keep you in the saddle a little longer. Those that might actually have a compelling need for a seat saver include riders who spend long chilly hours in the saddle and those with physical problems that extra cushioning can help.

At English shows, when light-color breeches are dirt magnets, a seat saver might spare you a few smudges. For shows, we liked Dover’s Equigel Suede saver, despite its price. (Seat savers aren’t allowed in AHSA dressage classes.)

However, we felt the ultimate seat savers were made of sheepskin. They were by far the most comfortable, attractive, warm yet breathable.

Our English testers liked Summer’s Ice best because the fit was snugger and it stayed in place somewhat better than the other sheepskin pads, particularly when posting or traveling fast over uneven terrain. It is also our English Best Buy.

Western riders prefered the Just Merino pads because they liked the way it attached to the saddle, had more colors and that the washing instructions were sewn on on the saddle pad. Again, our favorite is also the Western Best Buy.

Contact Your Local Tack Store Or: Cashel Co. 800/333-2202; Dover Saddlery 800/989-1500; Equi-Tech Labs PO Box 2064, Shelbyville, TN 37162 (no phone); Comfort Curves 715/455-1652; Fabri-Tech 317/849-7755; Just Merino Sheepskin 520/364-7764; Summer’s Ice 775/267-1413; Toklat 503/636-6212.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Covers Save Your Saddle.”