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How To... Care For Your Saddle Pad
A good saddle pad can be an investment. Below are some tips for taking care of your saddle pad or blanket.
If your pad or blanket came with care instructions from the manufacturer, use the manufacture's instructions instead of the tips or information you may find here.
Tips For Caring For Your Saddle Blanket Or Pad
- Every few rides put your saddle pad or blanket over a pipe fence or stall door and give it several good whacks with an old tennis racket or something similar. This will knock off dust and loose hair, and help to keep dust, dirt, hair, etc., from caking up on it. Do both sides. Follow by brushing the side that goes against the horse with a soft or medium horse brush. You can also use a rubber curry comb if you use it gently. Some sponges also work well for grabbing and removing dirt and hair. If the hair doesn't loosen easily, try brushing in circles. You can use a soft brush or sponge on the top side of the blanket or pad as well, but don't clean the top side too vigorously or you may fray the material.
At right: A car wash vacuum. When used regularly, vacuums can do a good job of removing loose dirt and hair from your saddle blanket or pad.
- If your blanket or pad is washable and it has caked-on dirt that won't come off by brushing or vacuuming, wash it. Some blankets and pads are machine washable, but only use a washing machine if the care instructions that came with the blanket or pad say you can. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. NOTE: Using a washing machine to wash your blanket or pad can sometimes leave the machine with a lot of loose hair in it. Be prepared to clean your washing machine after you wash your blanket or pad.
- If you can't machine wash your blanket or pad, you can wash it by hand. You can allow it to soak in a tub of cool or cold water until the dirt, hair, etc. has loosened, then you can rinse the dirt off with a garden hose. Brush any remaining dirt or hair off when the blanket has dried. Don't use soap, just cold water. Soap can almost never be completely rinsed out of a blanket or pad and the soap residue could irritate your horse.
- If you can't or don't want to soak your blanket or pad, you can use a garden hose. Again, don't use soap, just cold water. On the side of the pad that goes against the horse you can use a soft or medium bristled brush or a rag to help loosen any stubborn deposits of dirt or hair. On the top side treat the material carefully so you don't fray or damage it. If the top isn't particularly dirty, you may not even need to wash it.
- When using a garden hose, spray the blanket or pad from the middle outward so the dirt and hair is constantly moved to the edges and off of the pad. Do not spray straight down into the pad, as this will just drive dirt, salt from sweat, and hair deeper into the pad. To prevent spraying straight down into the pad try propping it upright instead of flat. If you're using a spray nozzle with your garden hose, begin spraying your blanket or pad while standing a little farther back than you think is necessary then move closer a little at a time. Some garden hose nozzles can shoot a very powerful spray and if you're not careful you can damage your blanket or pad. Powerful sprays of water can help you get your blankets and pads clean quickly with minimal rubbing or brushing, but you do have to use them with caution.
At right: A saddle pad hanging from a clamp.
- Unless the manufacturer's instructions that came with your blanket or pad say you can place it in a clothes dryer, allow your blanket or pad to air dry naturally. Lay it over a saddle stand, pickup truck tail gate, sturdy fence rail, or anything else that will allow for a lot of natural air flow. It's usually best to lay it right-side down instead of upside down. Don't hang it up as the weight of the water could pull it out of shape or cause it to rip or tear.
- Your newly washed blanket or pad might feel stiff after it dries, but it should soften up again once you start using it. You can also roll it and unroll it to help if feel softer faster, or simply flex areas that feel stiff between your hands.
- After several washings your blanket or pad may begin to fade. If you want to preserve the colors for as long as possible be very consistent with knocking the dust and hair off of it, or vacuuming it, every few rides as described in our first tip in order to avoid having to wash it. If you do decide to wash it, wash only the side that touches the horse.
- If your newly washed blanket or pad has wear leathers or leather accents, you can treat them with leather conditioner when they are still barely damp or when they have dried completely.
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