I RECOMMEND WASHING A MINIMUM OF 2X PER YEAR
IF THAT SEEMS EXCESSIVE TO YOU THEN PLEASE AT LEAST WASH YOUR PAD EVERY FALL
If your horse could talk, he would tell you to please use a clean, dry, and non-compacted saddle pad every time you ride.
Consider what the material is made of:
WOOL is overall and in general one of the best materials for saddle pads. It is often one of my first recommendations for riders. Wool breathes well, absorbs sweat and wicks it away from the horse. As pads wear in, the woolen fibers begin to compact and shift away from areas of higher pressure, and migrate to areas of lower pressure. This can happen faster than you think!
A wool pad will often compress over the shoulders first - so that's the first place to check. Press the pad between your fingers in an area along the border of the pad, and do the same in an area that sits over the shoulders. Does the shoulder area feel compacted? If this is the case, then don't worry about washing it, just consider that it may be time to retire that saddle pad to a dog bed. It is no longer doing what it needs to do!
CLOSED CELL FOAM is also a great choice for certain applications. It holds its shape really well, doesn't wear out nearly as fast, and has excellent impact absorption qualities. Some of the best pads have a combination of closed cell foam interior orthotics with woolen blends for the bottom. Note that closed cell foam does not breathe nearly as well, and can take longer to dry when saturated with horse sweat, or after you have washed it. Give your saddle pad ample time to dry before using it again.
MEMORY FOAM can be found in some saddle pads as an adjunctive layer, and serves to reduce bounce and amplify impact absorption when combined with other materials. It should never be the sole material of a saddle pad. It does not breathe well at all, tends to be very hot, relatively heavy, and takes longer to dry.
In between washing, you should use a dandy brush to remove excess hair and as much dried sweat as possible. When brushing will not restore the bottom surface to a soft flexible condition, or if the pad gets hard to the touch, then it is time to wash your pad.
I suggest you wash your pad when you notice areas of high friction that are crusted over with dried sweat and hair. If the pad is covered in dried sweat, then it isn't going to breathe well, nor absorb additional sweat to draw it away from your horse.
Sound Advice: When brushing or cleaning your pad, it is not important to obsess too much over the hair that is worked into the woolen fibers of the pad on the bottom. Clean horse hair is actually a natural substance to have next to their bodies, and will not cause an issue. Just try to get the dirt and sweat washed out for best results.
Soak first ~ Use warm water. Do not use hot water, because it will damage the wool’s natural elasticity. Let warm water soak for 15 minutes. You might want to reapply warm water once more if the weather is cold.
It is best to use a neutral or minimally higher pH soap. Ideally it could include antibacterial properties, and preferably not create a lot of sudsy bubbles, which will pose less risk so no soap residue remains in the fibers to irritate your horses skin. I have also used a Tea Tree soap because it is a natural disinfectant. You may also look into using Wool-ite or Kirks Castile Soap.
Do not use Dawn Dish soap or the like, as the high sudsing is frustrating and time consuming to rinse out and can be extremely irritating to the horses skin if not rinsed completely out! You will know your horse is having a reaction to the soap residue if he develops hives, bumps, swelling, redness, or begins to roll excessively or bite at his back or girth area following a ride. If this occurs, rinse your horse with cool water and use a rubber brush to gently massage the skin. Do not use hot water, and do not rub vigorously - as this will increase the inflammatory response.
Do Not machine wash wool blankets! Hand wash by placing your pad top-side-down on a clean matt, concrete, wooden surface, or hang it over a rail to wash.
For pads that have a contoured topline, you must be careful when washing the underneath side so that you don't damage the spine leather and contouring. Wash one side, then the other. Do not try to lay it flat to wash both sides at once, as this can damage or deform the spine.
Wash from the spine of your pad to the edges. Spray your pad at an angle so the water can lift the dirt and carry it away. Let your pad soak 15 minutes so the water can loosen the grime and dissolve the salts. Begin with spraying from an angle again to carry away the loosened grime before adding your choice of soaping agent. Use a soft face brush in a push and pull motion or a soft rubber curry with the rounded rubber tips to work the soap into the deep layers of the pad. A Circular motion may cause knots and balls on the pad surface which you will have to pull off later.
Most importantly, make sure that you rinse the soap completely out of your pad. Continue to rinse with clear water until no more bubbles are produced in any area of the pad. Leaving any soap residue could easily irritate your horse’s skin. Always rotate the pad during rinsing to ensure dirty, soapy water flows outward to the edges of the pad rather than soaking into it. Pick the pad up and spray the area it was resting on to rinse away soap. Then lay the pad back down with the top up and rinse to see if soap remains. If so, then turn it back over and continue to rinse. You may need to repeat this rotation several times before you have confidence that no soap remains. When in doubt, rinse again!
RECOMMENDED CARE FOR "RIGHT FIT" SADDLE PADS
Brush out hair and dirt from your pad weekly using a rubber curry comb or medium body brush with a push and pull method. You may want to brush your pad out after each ride in the spring when horses shed or when riding in a dusty environment.
Air dry your pad after every ride. Lay the pad on its back so the air can dry the bottom or hang it on a blanket rack so air can circulate all sides.
Store your pad on a rail in a well ventilated area, so your pad will be able to air dry completely after each use.
Do not store your pad under a saddle on a saddle rack. The hard edges of the rack will leave imprints in your orthodic and cause irregularities that may affect your horse.
Do not lay your damp pad on top of your saddle. Damage to your saddle leather will occurr.
If you follow these simple maintenance procedures on your new "Right Fit" Saddle pad you will get the performance that you need to keep your horses back comfortable, protected and cooled.
If your horses back doesn’t hurt, he will perform better and will be much happier when you saddle him up.