Sweat flaps are large pieces of leather that protect the saddle from the horse’s sweat. Lying underneath the saddle between the billets and the horse, these flaps do their work out of sight, but they still deserve some consideration when you purchase a saddle.
Saddle makers often use lesser quality leather to make these flaps, so ensure that they are not too stiff to absorb sweat. They may not be visible on a saddled horse, but they still need to do their job. The sweat flaps should also be large enough to protect the parts of the saddle’s underside that are exposed to sweat.
Many saddle pads come with a built-in sweat flap strap. By slipping the sweat flap through this band, you keep the pad and saddle together as one unit, which reduces slippage of the parts.
There is a downside to the additional layers of protection that the sweat flaps offer. They make the saddle under the rider’s legs bulkier and bumpier. For this reason, some saddle makers seamlessly blend the sweat flaps with the panels, creating a flatter and smoother contour.
Another drawback to the sweat flaps is that they keep the horse a bit more removed from the man-animal contact. For those who prefer a closer feel when riding, the relatively new monoflap saddles may be a good choice, as they feature saddle flaps but lack sweat flaps.
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