People ride horses for different reasons. They can be a viable means of transportation for modern farmers. You’ve most likely seen horses used as polo ponies. Polo players could never do without their horses.
But do you have an idea of the number of horse riders that have fallen off the back of their horse? If you check the statistics, what you will find will surprise you. What is the main cause of such falls? They are partly due to saddling the horse the wrong way. This is why it’s important to learn the right way to saddle a horse.
Sitting on the horse’s back and enjoying your ride starts with saddling it the right way. You will learn how to do that in this article.
There are two basic styles of riding horses. There is the American and the Western style. Both are quite similar and the methods of saddling them are almost the same. There are small differences this article will highlight as they come to light.
Whichever style a horse rider is fond of, all riders will need certain items. These are important if they want to saddle the horse the right way. You may have to get these items ready now so your reference to this guide will be easier.
The list of items needed is inexhaustible. The more experienced the riders are, the more creative they become in the art of saddling horses.
In any case, the following are basic items needed for anyone saddling a horse:
The equipment listed above can be very expensive. But don’t forget that horses themselves aren’t cheap either. A rider who wants a safe ride wouldn’t mind incurring the extra cost. They would want to get these safety devices if they appreciate the value of life and the cost of injuries.
How To Saddle The Horse:
1. Tie The Horse Up
Not all horses need to be tied. But when you tie a horse, it’s more likely to understand that it’s time to relax. This is a horse that is calm and a rider can saddle with ease. When a horse is not moving, chances of making mistakes in saddling are rare.
2. Bridle The Horse
Imagine a car without a functional steering rod. All sorts of comfort and safety devices added to it would not make driving it safe and convenient. A bridle is to a horse what steering is to a car. It is the piece of tacks that gives horse riders the control over the horse they ride. These leather straps strung together go around horses’ muzzles and heads. They also have bits that enter the horse’s mouth. They allow riders to lead and direct the horses they are riding. Riders use the reins to move the horses’ to the direction they want.
Experienced riders know that they must pet and calm down their horses. This will assure them that they are in safe hands. If you want your horse to lower its head so you can bridle it, keep stroking its muzzle.
You’ll place the bit in the horse mouth in the space between the incisors or canine and the molar.
Use your right hand to hold the bridle over the muzzle of the horse. Use your left hand to hold the bit around the lips of the horse. Horses do not like to open their mouth to accept a bridle. You have to encourage them. You do this by placing your thumb on the open space in their mouth where there are no teeth and wriggle it around. It is possible to hit your hand against the horse’s teeth by accident. So be careful while doing this.
Exercise the same care as you slide the bridle’s crown over the horse’s ears, one after the other. Then, fasten all the bridle’s buckles tight. Make it secure but not too tight so the horse can flex its neck or jaw anytime it wants.
You can then proceed with saddling after bridling the horse.
3. Check Your Saddle
You need to make sure that your saddle is complete with all parts intact. This is important if you’re riding different horses and they have to share saddles. It’s also important to do this if you have to take the saddle off a horse. If you are using a Western saddle, you should have the following parts on your saddle:
- Cinch ring
- Latigo keeper
- Dee ring
- Stirrup leather
- Rear jockey (housing)
- Pommel (swells)
You may not get to use all the parts each time you want to saddle a horse. Even then, every part of the saddle is important and must always be present. They have to be intact before you use it if you don’t want to compromise safety and comfort. A saddle without all its parts functioning can fall off any time while the rider is enjoying the ride. The results can be catastrophic.
4. Dry Up The Horse
The next important thing is to dry up your horse. This is where you need the brush that is on the list of equipment. This is because horses usually sweat when they are under the saddle. And when they’re carrying a rider, the extra weight adds extra pressure, though not so much for a powerful horse. Still, all this means that a horse will usually sweat.
There could be some loose hair on the horse’s back. If these get soaked in the horse’s sweat, it may want to shake the loose hair off. What happens? They will shake their rider off as well; causing them to fall down. That can result in injuries.
There could also be some dirt or grit on the horse’s back or girth area. If you don’t remove this, there could be chafing under the saddle or girth. You can also use a sponge to remove any mud as its presence can cause painful galls or irritations for the horse. Any of these will cause the horse to misbehave, this can bring some discomfort to the rider.
5. Check The Underside Of Your Saddle Pad
Start by brushing your saddle pad. After, use your hand to check the underside of your saddle pad. Check to see if there are any sharp or hard objects in the fibers. Pick them out if you find any. The presence of such objects can create some inconvenience for the horse. In turn, it can cause the horse to misbehave.
6. Place The Pad Or The Blanket On The Horse’s Back
You can now place the pad that is free of any hard objects on the horse’s back. While placing it there, the dark leather patch should be on the front side of the horse. Pull it up to reach the withers, that is, the horse’s shoulder.
If you’re using a Western-style saddle with a blanket, you will need to fold the blanket in half. The western saddle pad does not need folding at all. An English saddle pad may come in a shape that fits under the saddle. This type usually has ties or hooks with loop fastener tabs. The saddle will not fall off if the rider attaches a D-ring on the saddle.
7. Get The Saddle Ready
In getting your saddle ready, check the girth strap attached to the saddle at the right side first. Make sure it is firm. Next, flip the right stirrup together with girth strap over the saddle. If it’s a Western saddle, the stirrup should already be hooked. But if it’s an English saddle, it should be up to its leather. All this will make it easier for the saddle to be stable when you put it on the horse.
Make sure you prepare it this way to prevent the hard stirrup from hitting you or the horse when you lift the saddle. Then, fold the cinch or girth back over the seat of the saddle if they are part of it. You may like to take your girth off, some people do after each ride. Then, your preparations will include buckling up both sides as you saddle up.
8. Place Your Saddle On Your Horse
Hold up the right side of the strip while you pick up the saddle. Place it on the horse’s back from the left side. This translates to the fact that you can position the saddle on the horse’s back from its right side. The horn should be right above the withers.
Try to lift the saddle high enough to avoid hitting the horse. If it does, the horse may get agitated. Worse, it can knock the saddle pad out of position. Unfortunately, you may not notice this until it starts to cause some problems. Or until the horse has begun to show signs. So the best approach here is to be gentle. Place it forward with a gradual step and then let it settle on the back later. Again, do it with care. If you hit the horse with the saddle or let it fall at once onto its back, the horse may spook and become cold backed. It may take awhile before you will be able to calm it down and saddle it.
Once the saddle is on the back of the horse, you can continue to adjust as necessary. Many horse riders like to mount their horse and dismount from the left. This is also fine.
9. Let Down The Straps
The next thing is to let the stirrup on the right and the girth down. With your hand on the girth strap, you can get ready to strap the saddle. If you’re using a Western saddle, check the pad (or the blanket) to see that there are no wrinkles under the saddle. Again, horses don’t find it comfortable to carry a saddle with wrinkles in the blanket or pad. They can begin to show behavior that can cause injury to the riders and themselves.
10. Fasten The Tie Strap
The thick black strap is the next item to deal with. Pull up the strap and loop it through the D-ring. You will start from the front. At this point, the strap should already be up against the horse. To tighten the strap, you will loop the tie strap backward. It will pass through the girth ring front to back and toward the front again. Keep an eye on your horse to see how it is reacting to the tightening. A change of style might be in order here. If you sense that anything is wrong, take a quick review of the process to be sure you did everything right.
11. Complete The Tightening Of The Tie Strap
Make sure your horse is responding well to how you’re going about fastening the tie strap. When you have seen that it is not showing any signs of discomfort, continue tightening the strap. Tighten it a little more to prevent the saddle from falling off. Again, make sure the tie strap passing through the D-ring is firm on the girth by stringing it one more time. It will pass through the back of the ring on that girth strap.
It’s now time to pull the strap up. This will tighten the strap around the girth of the horse. If everything is fine, it will be snug around the girth of the horse. By now your saddle is even on the back of your horse.
You might feel that you are hurting your horse. Don’t worry, horses are strong animals. The tightening is not likely to hurt them. Be observant and watch the response of your horse. If the tightening hurts it, you will know. In this case, go back and see where you should loosen things up.
12. Secure The Strap
It is possible for the strap to fall off and come loose after the saddle is snug. This is why you have to secure the strap. You will secure the strap by looping it around the D-string. This will look like tying a knot. Let the end of the strap pass through the front of the D-ring and come out through the left side. You will then insert the strap through the back. This means you will move it through the left this time.
Do not tighten it yet. You will have to move the end of the tie strap and let it pass through the loop you have made on the D-ring (from left to right). It is now time to tighten the tie. Pull it down to tighten.
It is possible that you have not exhausted the full length of the tie at this point. If so, loop it back through the ring again.
13. Rest The Saddle And Remove Wrinkles
As you have been following the steps above, it is possible for wrinkles to build up. Don’t forget what you have read earlier. Horses don’t find it comfortable to move about with wrinkles under the saddle. So check the skin under the girth to make sure that there are no wrinkles.
You can also check through the front legs of the horse. Pick up one leg at a time by holding the pastern. It could also be low on the canon. Stretch it forward and observe what happens. Repeat the process for the other leg. You should know by now if there are wrinkles and do what is needed as suggested earlier.
Again, check as the horse starts to walk. If you see that the girth is becoming loose, make the necessary adjustments. Check the girth before you decide to mount. After moving for a few minutes, check again.
Enjoy Your Ride
There could be variations here and there to the steps enumerated here. It all depends on your experience, your horse, and the style of your saddle or ride. In any case, you will still find that the steps described here focus more on the safety of horses and their riders.
Many injuries to riders are not because of the horse’s temper. The horses are oftentimes only trying to get comfortable.
Enjoy your ride.