The array of numnahs, saddle pads and saddle cloths can be really quite mind boggling, so before you buy make sure you know what you actually want, what your horse needs, and what you expect from it; for example a simple saddle pad is primarily about wicking or absorbing sweat to prevent rubbing or discomfort and to keep the saddle clean and in good condition, rather than padding or protecting the horse’s back, whereas riser pads and sheepskin-lined numnahs have more protective qualities. Explained below is what you consider when purchasing a numnah for your horse.
Standard numnahs usually come in pony, cob and full size and in different shapes to fit specific saddles: showing, jumping, dressage and general purpose. They should fit under the saddle with little or no added bulk and with only an inch or two protruding. It makes sense to use a numnah with natural materials as they’re breathable to aid your horse’s comfort – wool facilitates the circulation of air to keep the horse cool, and also absorbs moisture well while cotton too is good for comfort and excellent at wicking away moisture. Think about whether you want a washable one and also consider the higher withered versions as they can easily be ‘tented’ up under the saddle to really avoid rubbing. For a horse or pony with a particularly sensitive back, sheepskin lined numnahs can be invaluable – but beware cheap synthetic versions as they’ll have the exact opposite effect.
Saddle pads and cloths
Saddle pads and cloths serve a similar purpose to a numnah but are not saddle shaped and tend to be considerably less padded. They can also be colourful and decorative. If you’ve spent a lot of money ensuring a well-fitting saddle, this may be all your horse needs underneath, simply to wick away sweat and protect the saddle. In certain competitions they are required (although not the embellished varieties!)
Non-Slip Saddle Pads
Non-slip saddle pads have various benefits: they can reduce friction from the saddle thus reducing pressure and trauma and are particularly beneficial for high-withered or hollow-backed horses, they can offer shock-absorption (gel ones are good for this), and they can help to prevent movement of the saddle and aid a comfortable fit – perhaps when a horse loses a little weight or condition.
As with any equestrian equipment, research thoroughly and get some expert advice. Although many simple numnahs and saddle cloths are inexpensive others, particularly the sheepskin or anatomical versions, will involve a large outlay, so it’s important you don’t make an expensive mistake.