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Introducing the Saddle: Horse Training Tips


Please consider this article as tips only. It is not our intent that reading this article will in any way enable you to saddle a horse. If this is your first time saddling a horse, we recommend seeking a professional trainer for assistance.

A small boy tightens his horse's saddle.Saddling a young horse for the first time can be intimidating and dangerous. Follow these Ten Tips to make the process easier and safer for both you and your horse.

Tip #1: Make sure you have a horse friendly helper to hold your horse with a long rope or lunge line. Do not tie or cross tie the horse while saddling, this can be very dangerous!

Tip #2: Always start on the left side, as this is the correct side for throwing on the saddle and mounting/dismounting the horse. Also, make sure your helper is always on the same side of the horse as you. If the horse acts up, the handler can pull his head towards both of you, moving the horse's hind end away from you.

Tip #3: Start by rubbing the saddle pad all over the horse's body. If he flinches, don't back off. Continue to apply moderate pressure until the horse accepts it.

Tip #4: Whenever the horse shows acceptance, give positive reinforcement by rubbing him on his neck or shoulder. Use a calming voice until the horse is comfortable with the saddle pad. Then place it in the correct position on his back and withers.

Tip #5: Quickly lift the saddle up and over, onto his back. Being slow and cautious with this maneuver may give the horse time to become skeptical and skittish. Like removing an adhesive bandage, this is best done in one swift motion.

Tip #6: When using a Western saddle, slowly get the loops set. Use a girth that has a tongue on the buckle and set the tongue firmly in a hole on the latigo. Gradually tighten in 30-second intervals.

Tip #7: When using an English saddle, attach your girth on the right side. Pull it up to a relatively snug (but not tight) hole on the left side. Slowly tighten it in 30-second intervals, remembering to give positive reinforcement.

Tip #8: After the saddle is firmly in place, take the long rope or lunge line from your helper. Let the horse walk off on his own to become accustomed to the saddle. Don't ask him to immediately gallop off – this will cause excitement and drama every time you go to saddle him.

Tip #9: Proceed to lunge the horse, allowing him to jog/lope or trot/canter both directions until he is comfortable and quiet. Do not allow bucking or playing! If you allow this, he will take advantage of every situation and place you in harm's way. As soon as your horse goes to toss his head or buck, nip it in the bud!

Tip #10: Repeat this same scenario for multiple days in a row. Horses learn through repetition. And as always, remember that positive reinforcement leads to better acceptance from the horse.


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