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Avoiding Saddle Soreness in Horse Riding

Advice to Stop Saddle Soreness when Horse Riding

OK people, let's get the "butt" of the issue get sore in the saddle!

Don't be embarrassed, it happens to a massive amount of people across a wide variety of sports but is perhaps more common for lovers of Equine sports where it's particularly prevalent in warmer conditions.  Just check out the forums for the Inverness Problem and see how often the matter is raised!  Sitting astride the back of that powerful beast for hours at a time will often result in sore bits & pieces!

No matter what you do, you can't seem to avoid that hot spot materialising, the irritating rash or the chaffing around the nether regions so here's some genuine advice on bespoke underwear and next to skin apparel that may help you enjoy those days in the saddle with far less discomfort.  There are equally quite a number of sources for those of you seeking to ride well and properly or even starting to get into the saddle in the first place, then Jen Reviews offers some excellent advice and guidance on the wider aspects of the sport.

But this article focuses entirely on your comfort in the saddle so let's deal with that. Let's initially address some things not to do.  First and foremost.....DON'T USE COTTON!  This possibly goes against everything you may have heard in the past but it's a fact that cotton will absorb and hold sweat and will "bind" up and exacerbate the problem.

Furthermore, the fact that cotton retains so much moisture will actively encourage bacterial growth and irritation as it takes ages for cotton to release moisture in the form of evaporation.  Think how long it takes for your towels to dry on the washing line.  If you are wet and warm in a stale moisture ridden environment for hours at a time, what's likely to happen downstairs?  Think about nappy rash.  Same issue here guys.

Secondly, you probably don't need to bother with the assortment of padded pants on offer.  The best padding in the world is your bum!  90% of padding is either absorbent or will often be foam based and will not readily eradicate moisture and will encourage pooling which will exacerbate the problem further.  Unless you are prepared to invest in a seriously good pair of top end Cycle Shorts with a proper cycle Chamois padded zone like they use on the Tour de France at upwards of £100, then don't bother, but if you do, remember these will only cover a very small seat area as they are designed for very small saddles by comparison.  Jelly padding and cotton thick seats are simply not effective enough.

So enough of the don't do's, what is the solution?  The simple answer is air.  You need to breathe as best you can but unless you are Lady Godiva and prepared to ride naked as the day you were born, we're guessing some clothing of sorts is a pretty good idea.  But your skin is the best breathing fabric around so you should embrace that fact and enhance its unique and wondrous capabilities.

Without doubt, modern synthetic fabrics offer the best solution to this perennial Equine problem.  They are incredibly efficient at moving moisture from the skin to the outside of a garment where it can more readily evaporate. They are very lightweight, dry rapidly, are very durable and quality versions will have Anti-Bacterial capabilities to help with freshness and longevity.

You need a product that sits close to the skin.....very close so it fits neatly below your riding gear and won't ride up with a good leg length to cover the bulk of the upper thigh somewhere between 5" to 9" leg coverage is usually enough to meet the needs of all shapes and sizes of us humans. 

Good fitted Sports Underwear for Men and Women with minimal seams around the "delicate" areas is a very good everyday option and one of the very best we have found for Men is the unique and exceptionally comfortable Ball Park Pouch system, come from SAXX really isn't a gimmick, they really do work!

Another good option especially for guys, is a good Compression Short and is definitely the way to go for that tighter more secure fit and anatomical structure to "accommodate" a guys unique anatomy and to offer extra support for the thighs that get used extensively in riding.   For the ladies some good seamless Sports Underwear such as ODLO's impressive Performance Light range is also a good solution for you but likewise there are Compression Shorts for women that would also fit your requirements but ladies have fewer "bits" to worry about when sitting so regular sports underwear may be preferable.  But regardless of your ultimate preferences there are some key areas to consider.

Fabrication: 99% of Compression Shorts and Synthetic Sports Underwear will be made of Polyester™ with some being Polypropylene™. All will contain a percentage of either Lycra™ or Elastane™ or similar which are "brand" names for the Elasticated fibres within the fabric that provide the ultimate stretch and recovery which most people perhaps don't fully appreciate. 

Polyester™ and Polypropylene™ are also trademarked brands we tend to band about at will but are "NOT" Elasticated in their own right, they are synthetics the fibres of which need some help from the Elasticated element in their construction to follow the contours of the body's numerous lumps and bumps.

Moisture Management: You are looking to shift moisture away from the skin so you can be as dry as possible.  You cannot and never will prevent sweating and neither should you try.  The key is managing sweat which is salty and the crystals of which are naturally abrasive so you should seek to create a barrier between your skin and any component that may cause rubbing such as the saddle but also from jodhpurs and riding trousers.

Not all "Poly" based products will manage moisture.  Your cheap £5 "Lycra Cycle Shorts" from many well known high street stores, are not good quality.  They are £5 for a very good reason!  Lycra™ is a trade name for Elastic and will "NOT" manage moisture on its own but will in fact actively encourage sweat production. 

You need a Poly based product with a percentage of Lycra™ or Elastane™ whose fibres are vertically aligned to the skin to act like a drinking straw to create a capillary action and "suck" up moisture effectively.  Cheap cycle style shorts do not do the job you are looking for and will add to your woes.  Buy wisely!

Ventilation: Added ventilation is also a consideration. However under jeans or jodhpurs and whilst sat in the saddle, this is probably less important because you are unlikely to get much ventilation benefit in such circumstances as air will struggle to circulate around, but you will benefit when you get out the saddle. 

Also consider that as soon as a product of this nature has vented panels applied, they will lose some of their compressive capabilities so what you will find is that compression shorts with vented panels will usually be more expensive because brands have to create a superior vented structure so the shorts remain compressive.  Worth consideration but be prepared to pay a slight premium for this.

Compression Rating: For your convenience and appreciation, categorises our compression products by a simple scale of 1 to 3.  A Level 1 Compressive item in 90% of cases will be more than adequate for horse riding and perfect for hacking, schooling and dressage. 

A Level 2 Compression product would be useful if you are putting your legs under a lot of strain such as cross country and endurance riding where significant jumping may be involved or stood in the stirrups for long periods, in that they will provide additional support and protection for the Quads and Glutes. 

If you are susceptible to muscle injury or recovering from an injury, a Level 3 Compression item is the way to go as these have targeted higher compression abilities that accelerate recovery.  Baselayer™ has an explanation of these compression ratings that you can use as a Compression Reference Guide.

Seaming: Seams under and around the crotch are a real problem in manufacturing.  We are human shaped and as such we are very hard to make items for that will be truly seamless especially shorts and trousers and particularly around the "under carriage" where our shape changes radically. 

In almost every case you will discover that there will be seams around that area in some form or's an almost inevitable fact of life.

The trick here is to try and identify a garment that has an independent gusset design and, where possible, no centre seams front and back in order that the sensitive areas are devoid of seams that could irritate and minimise any pressure point exposure.  An independent gusset will also offer greater freedom of movement for when you are sat astride your mount.

You will often find that the gusset zone in decent compression shorts and sports underwear, may be constructed with a micro-meshed variety of the same fabric as manufacturers are acutely aware that this zone is the area that produces the most heat and moisture so they use higher wicking meshed fabrics in these areas to help eradicate moisture more quickly and keep this area drier.

Waistbands: This too needs real consideration.  Try to avoid any draw cords.  Being sat in the saddle for long periods with a tight string cutting you in half, won't help matters.  A wide Elasticated soft fabricated waistband around 1 to 2" wide that is moisture controlling too, will do the job nicely.  It'll keep them in place and stop excess moisture causing rashes around the waistband area.

Leg Length: Leg length is largely a matter of choice.  6 or 7" for men tends to be the default leg length and is ideal for 90% of guys.  For women the popular leg length tends to be 4 or 5" with "some" brands doing a 6 or 7" leg and, depending on individual preferences, either would normally fit the bill.

There are other actions you can take that will help reduce the annoying issue of chaffing and irritation around the lower regions.  For additional reference to solutions, this link to our Chaffed Thighs article will undoubtedly help.

Baselayer™ are genuine experts in this field and experienced on-line since 2003.  There is almost nothing we haven't heard of that we can't help you with when it comes to your comfort so if you have a query, just call (0) 1689 603675 or email  You'll get a quick, personal and problem specific reply with a likely solution at the end of it.

Baselayer™......we're here to help.