Thursday, May 2, 2013

Handy-Dandy Super Easy Fun Saddle Pad Making Photo Guide

Please visit!  I hope you will spare yourself the trouble I have had!

Welcome to my Handy-Dandy Super Easy Fun Saddle Pad Making Photo Guide!

If you're like me, or if you're not like me but wish you were, or you don't want to be but recognize that your life is incomplete and being like me will help you fill the gaping hole, you like fun, pretty, colorful things.  I have no idea how to make pretty boots; that I leave up to the good folks at  (I'm not getting paid to advertise for them, but it seems like I should, doesn't it?)

What I can make are saddle pads.  Yes, I can technically make a pad 100% from scratch, but frankly it's a lot of work and expense and it's so much easier to just buy a saddle pad.  So this is where we start.  I generally like Tuff Rider All Purpose pads.  They're inexpensive (around $16), fairly large (I have a big butt and therefore a big saddle), and well made.

Here we go.

Step One:
Gather your equipment.  Here's what you need:
  • Saddle pad
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Pretty fabric.  Length needed varies depending on fabric width and saddle pad size.  1 1/4 yard is generally sufficient
  • Ribbon.  I use 7/8" grosgrain ribbon.  It comes on an 18' spool.  If you get wider ribbon, the spool will be shorter, so you will probably need two.
  • Thread.  Color should match the ribbon, not the fabric, though the world won't end if you do it differently.
  • Optional but highly recommended:  Temporary fabric adhesive, AKA basting spray.  I only recently discovered this stuff and I am in love.

 Step Two:
Cut off girth loops and billet straps.  Set aside for later reattachment.

Step Three:
 Spray the pad with adhesive.  Smooth your fabric down, making sure there are no wrinkles.  Trim the fabric roughly around the pad.  You do not have to be precise here.  Just get rid of the bulk so you can see what you're doing.  Note that I'm working on one side here, the fabric is not on the other side yet.

Step Four:
 Sew down the fabric around the outside edge.  Again, you don't need to be precise.  At this point, you're just getting the fabric sewn down so it can't move.

To sew along the back seam, I roll half the pad so it fits under the arm of the sewing machine easily.  If you have a fancy pants industrial sewing machine with tons of room, you can skip this.  But if you have a fancy pants industrial sewing machine, you probably don't need my advice, so get lost, make your own photo guide!  Sew down the middle of the seam, not off to the side.

 Step Five:
Sew a couple or a few big U shapes to keep the fabric from wiggling around.  The adhesive spray is temporary, so you need to sew the fabric down.

 Step Six:
 Trim the excess fabric around the edges to just about where you sewed it down.

 This is a pretty good example of where you want it.  Yet again, you do not need to be exact at this point.  The ribbon will hide the edges.  You want to get rid of the extra fabric, that's all.

Step Seven:

Repeat steps three through six on the other side of the pad. Try to have the fabric on each side of the back seam come as close together as possible.  It makes the next step easier.

Step Eight:
Now we're starting to cover up the rough edges with ribbon.  If you were able to get the two sides to more or less meet along the back seam, you can sew down one length of ribbon to cover where the fabric doesn't.  If you weren't successful in keeping the sides close, you'll have to use two lengths of ribbon side by side, which is much more work and doesn't look as nice.

 Voila!  A nice, neat seam completely covering both raw edges of fabric.

Step Nine:
 Now we're going to start sewing ribbon down all along the outer edges of the pad.  You must always start with the edge of the ribbon toward the outside of the pad.  This is when you have to get a little more careful, because there's nothing to cover up any mistakes here.  (Not that I'm the poster child for perfection.  I'm the poster child for "Good Enough."  Or even "Not really Good Enough, but I don't care enough for Good Enough".)

Step Ten:
 Once you've got all the outside edge sewn, we move to the inside edge.  For the most part, this is pretty straightforward until you come to a curve (pun was not intended but I'm giving myself major points for it).  As you can see, it's a little tricky because you have excess ribbon.
 Using your fingers, pull the ribbon taut and make a tuck.  Very carefully sew over it.  Chances are it'll get a little messed up in the process.  If you really care, you can do...something... to prevent it.  Pin?  Throw in a few hand stitches to hold until the machine gets it?  I don't know because I don't care enough.  Also, note that I'm folding the tuck forward.  If you fold back, the foot of the sewing machine will catch it and make it even messier.

Step Eleven:
 If you're smart, you kept the girth loops we cut off at the beginning.  Sadly, I lost mine and am substituting ribbon.  I don't know how well this will hold, so I don't recommend it.  But if you're an idiot, it's an option.
 To figure out where the loops should go, feel for the stubs of original loops. Sew the new loops in more or less the same spot (but not the exact same spot, unless you want to make your sewing machine cry as it tries to get through the layers).
 I use a zig zag stitch because my mom told me it's strong.  Seriously.  That's my entire rationale for using the zig zag here.  Go back and forth approximately a million times, or until you think they're more likely to come off because they've been compromised by millions of needle holes than because they haven't been adequately sewn down.

Note:  I only do girth loops.  I don't bother reattaching billet straps because I never use them anyway, but feel free if you like them.

Finished Product:
 Ta-Da!  A beautiful, one of a kind saddle pad!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Miscellaneous notes:
  • When selecting fabric, I don't like to use flannel or anything with a nap.  I used flannel a long time ago and in my experience it wore through quickly, presumably because the nap created friction from my leg and wore at the fabric.
  • Grosgrain ribbon.  It's cheap and it's sturdy.  I've never used satin ribbon, but I don't think it would stand up to use.
  • Ribbon width:  I like 7/8" because one spool is enough, and it covers edges and adds color without being overwhelming.  You can use wider ribbon if you wish.  If you're really questioning your ability to be even remotely tidy, it will cover more mistakes.
  • I used a white saddle pad because it's what worked best for the fabric I chose.  You can use any color pad you want.
  • This method would work well for dressing up an old pad, or if you buy a pad with a monogram or other embroidery that you don't want.  Rather than ripping it out, cover it up!  Have a pad that's faded/dirty or a little torn?  Give it a facelift!  If you're nervous, you might want to practice on an old pad first so if you totally mess up you won't care.
  • I'm not entirely sure how you can mess this up.  It might seem complicated, but it's really not.  Just take your time!
  • Total time to make:  about 2 hours 

If you enjoyed this post, please go to to read about my troubles with my 2011 Volkswagen Jetta.  I hope it will prevent you from making the very expensive mistake of buying a VW. 


  1. Holy crap, that's awesome! I've NEVER thought about covering up a gross pad and you make it seem so easy! And I love the "I don't know because I don't care enough." That's same mentality I take to my crafty projects, too. :)

    1. I used to just do fun ribbon around the edge, but one day a friend gave me a plain white pad and asked me to make it pretty. No further instruction, just do something fun with it. I had no clue what to do when it hit me--fabric overlay! Her pad was done in a watermelon theme--pink fabric, green ribbon, and black piping. I've also done a pad in Vera Bradley fabric that I got on eBay.

      LOL, I would try harder to be precise and neat and all that if I was making a pad to sell, but for me, I just don't care.

  2. I have no patience to be crafty, but totall admire those who are!

    1. I'm not patient either, hence "not really good enough but I don't care that much", lol. You can be pretty half-assed with it.. I put in a little more effort for the photo guide.

  3. Now that is a great idea!!! I just found your blog via Carly's blog, via Sprinkler Bandit. Enjoyable reading so far! Your guy is a cutie, with a very nice ass, I might add. :-)

    I have an unattractive, very old, covered-in-funky-woolly-plaid- material pad that I am pretty embarrassed to get out. As an occasional lesson student only I've just sucked it up and used it, saving my pennies for the lesson fee itself. Never even thought about recovering it! I might just give this a shot, being possessed of semi-decent sewing skills.

    Hopefully the project will go better than the time I read in a Practical Horseman tip how to recover your helmet in velvet and gave that a whirl. NIGHTMARE. One of those "but it didn't LOOK that hard" type of disasters... Ugh!

    1. LOL! I almost (almost!) hope your attempt is a dismal failure just so you can tell me about it and show me pictures!

  4. Great post - and you're hilarious! I really enjoyed your directions - the humor made me read every step and giggle along the way.

  5. I honestly laughed so hard! Such a good idea and I love that you have pictures to go with it! Gonna try it once I get some money (ha ha)

  6. i will try this!! seems sosososo much easier than doing a 100% handmade one! But do i use quilting fabric or what?

    1. It is sosososo much easier!! I've made them 100% from scratch and it is NOT worth it!

      Yes, quilting fabric is perfect. I use cotton fabric, either in the quilting section (I usually go to Joann Fabrics, and their quilting fabrics are usually on the wall) or in the nursery/baby fabric section (because nursery fabrics are sooooooo cute!!!).

      If you're not sure, feel the quilting fabrics, then feel the fabric you're interested in. If they feel similar, you should be fine. If it's synthetic, check for washing instructions (last thing you want is a dry clean only saddle pad!). You would probably want to stay away from denim or corduroy or other heavy fabrics, just because they'd be a lot harder on your sewing machine. And obviously you don't want satiny/slippery fabric.

      Feel free to post pictures of your finished pad(s)!

  7. This is wonderful! Thanks so much for posting.

    P.S. Your blog is great :)

  8. Hi,
    I am creating a saddle pad from scratch and I loved the way you finished yours! I was wondering if you knew how to add braiding to the outside of the saddle pad as well as the ribbon. I have bought saddle pads from stores and love the way it looks. If you have any idea how to attach the braiding it would be a massive help!
    Thank you:)

    1. Hi, I'm glad you like my guide!

      I've used braiding once and it was a while ago.. I think I just sewed over the top of it, maybe with a zig zag? I can't remember... This wouldn't really work if the braiding had more than one color.

      I haven't tried this, but... If you haven't bought your braiding yet, you could try something like this:

      It's cord/braiding attached to fabric tape, so you just tuck the tape under your ribbon or seam binding so only the cord/braiding shows. If you've used piping, same type of deal.

      If you wanted to do double braid, probably the best way would be to sew down the outer braiding first, then sew the inner braiding and ribbon together.

      Those all seem to be dry clean only, but you could probably get away with regular washing.. Maybe try buying a short piece (like 6") first, sewing it to fabric, and then washing it to see what happens. TBH, though, I'd probably just make my saddle pad, throw it in the washer, and keep my fingers crossed, LOL!

      I would suggest that you not put the braiding right under your leg/girth. I would worry that the friction might damage the braiding.

      If you decide to give it a shot, please let me know how it works!! I'd love to see pictures!

  9. where can I buy a roll of waffle neoprene to make pads out of?

  10. Wonderful and witty ! Thank you !

  11. When making the horse pad c as needed u use cotton quilting material for both side of the pad. Kathy

  12. What kind of sewing machine did you use for this? I tried to add binding to an old pad but it was too thick to even fit under the presser foot of my machine :(