Saddling a horse can sometimes be a struggle. Especially if you are short and have a tall horse. I can’t do anything about that, but I can give you a few tips that should make saddling easier.
Don’t Tie The Horse When Saddling
When saddling your horse, I suggest that you don’t tie him up. If the horse has been prepared through groundwork, and is actually ready to saddle, you should be able to simply drape the lead rope over your left arm during this process. The less confined a horse feels, the more comfortable and secure he is.
Furthermore, never act sneaky around your horse. Use flowing and deliberate movements. Don’t try to quickly slip the blanket or saddle on him before he realizes it’s coming. That will not work in your favor.
Blanket Or Pad
Of course, the blanket or pad comes first. If the horse feels the need to move around when you put the blanket on, just slightly tip his nose towards you and go with him. It’s actually better for a horse to move around a little than be frozen in place. Then, when he slows or stops, take the blanket away. Then start over. A few times of doing this should help him realize the blanket is no big deal.
Put The Saddle On The Horse
By now he should be able to stand relatively still for the saddle. When you pick up your saddle, reach across the seat with your right arm and grab the skirt on the other (right) side. Picking up the saddle that way will allow you to balance it on your right hip.
Stand at the horse’s left shoulder with the lead rope still draped over your left arm. The saddle will be resting on your right hip and your right hand will still be on the right saddle skirt. Use some hip action to add more leverage as you place the saddle on the horse’s back. That leverage will help the right stirrup clear his back and allow you to gently set the saddle in place. You never want the saddle to plop down on the horse’s back. That can cause him to get weird about being saddled.
If you need more clarification about these terms, go to our vocabulary page.
Rub The Cinch Area
Then it’s a good idea to rub the horse in his cinch area. Make sure there’s no tightness or avoidance. If he does try to avoid being rubbed, let him move his feet but go with him. When he gets braver about it, stop rubbing to reward his acceptance. Repeat until rubbing the cinch area gets no reaction.
Snug Up The Saddle Cinch
Next you will snug up the front cinch. Just tighten it enough so that the saddle will stay put. Then untrack his feet by asking him to step his hip over to the right and then the left. Make sure he can freely move his feet with the saddle on his back without any choppiness or anxiety.
Snug up the cinch a little more. You never want to over-tighten the cinch. A saddle that fits your horse should not need to have the cinch super tight.
Want to be sure your saddle actually fits your horse? Go here: Saddle Fitting
Back Saddle Cinch
If you have a back cinch, tighten it after you snug the front cinch. And always unbuckle the back cinch first when unsaddling. In other words, the back cinch should never be buckled unless the front cinch is snug.
Move The Horse With Saddle
Now untrack the feet again and make sure he can still freely move. Lunge him around a few times at a walk to ensure he is not feeling confined in his feet and mind.
If you have a round pen, this would be a good time to remove the halter and send him around both directions. This is especially helpful for horses that are not yet completely confident about the saddle.
Fencing With The Saddle
Now that the horse is saddled and can freely move his feet with a snug cinch, it may be advantageous to do some ‘fencing’. This is where you climb up on a panel above the horse and bring him underneath your knees. Once he’s standing underneath you, rock the saddle around on his back. Move the stirrups around and make sure none of that causes a big reaction.
If all this checks out, you should be good to go. Before you actually mount your horse, you may want to also review the Proper Mounting Technique.