A saddle pad, used to protect a horse from unnecessary chafing from friction with the leather saddle, can be personalised with the rider's name, initials or another design. Making a saddle pad unique through embroidery adds a personal touch to riding equipment and makes the pad easy to spot in a full trunk of riding supplies. The chosen design and materials of the pad can make embroidering on a saddle pad somewhat tricky, but in general the craft is not overly difficult.
Inspect the saddle pad's components and thickness. In general, a cotton saddle pad of medium thickness is the best type to embroider. A saddle pad made of very slippery material might pull or bunch under the embroidery, and a very thick pad might not be too heavy for even the heaviest of embroidery needles. If the pad is too thin or too thick, the embroidered design will likely need to be placed on another piece of fabric and then attached to the saddle pad.
Locate the desired spot for the embroidered design. The embroidery will work best where it will not press too heavily against the horse, get caught in the saddle or otherwise prevent riding equipment from working properly. Most saddle pads are embroidered on one or both sides of the pad near the bottom edge.
Select the desired pattern. Find the desired pattern and determine how it is transferred, if applicable, to the pad. Some embroidery patterns are transferred by ironing the pattern while others are traceable.
Gather the necessary embroidery tools. To embroider you will need special embroidery thread and needles. Typically, these needles are thicker than regular sewing needles, and the thread thicker than regular cotton. Check the pattern to determine if it requires any other special embroidery tools. Another good tool to purchase is an embroidery hoop, which will hold the saddle pad tight during your work.
Transfer the pattern to the desired location of the pad. Most patterns cannot be reused after a single transfer and also cannot be removed after transfer onto the pad. Therefore, make sure that the pattern is even and centred on its desired location.
Begin sewing. The majority of embroidery machines will not support the thickness of a saddle pad. If a pad is very thick, you will need to hand-embroider the design. This is not difficult, but requires patience. When hand sewing, make sure to keep the thread untangled and as smooth as possible. Do not make each stitch too long as they may break during use; short stitches, however, will look choppy. After the first ten to fifteen minutes, check your stitches for their appearance. If you do not like how your work looks, tear it out and begin again. This process is the same if you have decided to embroider onto a separate piece of fabric and attach that piece to the pad.
Most embroidery machines are programmable and self-operating. If you are using a machine, ensure that you have programmed the piece properly into the machine and attached the correct thickness of the needle. Once begun, a machine typically cannot be halted. A final product, likewise, usually cannot be removed because of the punctures in the cloth; removing a stitched embroidered piece will reveal the work of the machine and might just ruin the fabric.
If you have embroidered a separate piece of fabric, it is time to attach that piece to the pad. This can be done using a separate colour thread and an interesting, visible stitch, or a matching thread and an invisible stitch. The stitches attaching the fabric to the pad should be very tight and small to ensure that the fabric is flush with the pad and will not easily tear away.