3 Tips for Safe Saddling. Use Every Time!


Be safe and sensible when saddling by sticking to a practical routine.

When saddling, the horse must be "with us" and in a sweet spot, so that we can put the saddle on, mount up, and move off safely. They are connected to us, regardless of the environment or what we are asking of them. 

There are 3 parts to saddling safely; understanding the sweet spot, placing the saddle on and moving the horse off to warm up once saddled.

Build the Sweet Spot:

  • There is often NO sweet spot when a horse is not able to move; they are tied short or in cross ties, unless this has been specifically trained as one.
  • Foundationally - when their mind is not connected to you, they fidget, stamp, move around, etc. They are not ready to saddle!
  • Groom and saddle your horse in many different areas. Start in your home environment; the barn, the corral, the lawn, the driveway, near the truck and trailer, you get the idea.
  • If your horse is not good at standing in a sweet spot that you have chosen - train that first! Teach them to park in a sweet spot and groom and handle them everywhere. Principally, they must understand what the sweet spot is.  
  • We want the horse standing with us, while we saddle. With us, mentally, not afraid, not worried, connected.
  • Rehearse grooming, saddling, standing all over, in different environments around home or around the barn or arena. 
  • EMPHASIZE this - can I saddle my horse anywhere? Make that a challenge!.

Place the Saddle:

  • Let the horse sniff saddle - if they won't engage with the saddle on a stand = alarm bell. 
  • Use a long rope (22”) and have it over your arm (at crook of elbow), length out behind. Never wrap a rope around your arm!
  • Start with the saddle pad; your toes pointed to the back of the horse - standing parallel, beside shoulder, facing tail of horse.
  • Move the pad all over, swing and place on back, 3 repetitions each side - no tension or sensitivity (watch for head up or moving away or fidgeting).
  • Organize the saddle pad. Middle of the pad is in line with the midline of their back (lined up) -  the front of the saddle will be 2 fingers back from the front of the pad. 
  • Get the saddle; with right arm, reach across & grasp saddle; your arm goes across seat - grab hold of back of cantle (far side) and other hand on fender (near side)- your toes facing back - saddle on hip and set the saddle on like you set your hat on. 
  • It’s an UP thing! Swing up, turn and step it on. Swing and turn!
  • Check the cinches - let them down from the right side - check their length. Then move to the left side (cinch side) and make sure pad/saddle are lined up with the midline of their back. Quick tip - if you have to move the saddle forward - move it extra forward and slide it back into proper position so the hair lays flat.
  • Tighten the cinch.  Left stirrup is set over the seat, latigo (put away so that it's ready to be pulled out). Then with leadrope over elbow (not looped) - toes facing back - back of my arm down girth area (check for tension first) - slide hand under and get a hold of cinch (from other side). 
  • If your horse has a  "cinchy" reaction - let it slide off and on, rub the cinch area, tighten & loosen repeatedly. Repetition with rhythm and regularity is important here!
  • First tightening of the cinch is tight enough to keep the saddle on but not enough to ride - same as back cinch (bring it forward a bit to tighten).
  • Safety tip: your lead rope is over your elbow for safety so you can pull his head toward you, which moves the hind end away and you can step away from the horse. 

Move Them Off ~ Before You Mount: 

  • The saddle is securely on with cinches tight but not constrictive. 
  • When you go to step the horse off (in a forward direction away from you), move him AWAY.  Then I might back up and move him out to a circle to move him around. 
  • I WON’T assume he won't react! 
  • Move their shoulders as that moves the cinches around and they feel that movement. 
  • Move up to the trot, then ask for a bigger trot, move them around, ask to yield the hind end. Send the shoulders over, ask up to the canter to move them out. 
  • If I see some worry or tension - have a do-over. Push their body around yielding the HQ & FQ. 
  • After a nice warm up (up to 20 minutes!) - then tighten cinches and move out again.
  • Use your environment and move their mass, step them sideways, move them  out. 
  • Practice transitions, stop, sideways, yields, rollback, shoulders over. This is all still on the ground!
  • So important that we DON”T go tentatively about them. We need to be on a safe horse and we can’t be walking on eggshells. 
  • Now, your horse is ready for you to step into the saddle!

Our horses need to be expressive with no tension or worry. Our aim is to get to a point where you can get on and your horse is forward, happy, free, athletic AND connected. Most importantly, they are confident and that makes it safer for them and for us!

** This video clip & lesson is from 1 of over 100 horsemanship videos inside Open Field stacked with practical tips for all riders and all disciplines. **


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