Introduction: Saddling a Horse the Western Way

Picture of Saddling a Horse the Western Way

There are two kinds of horse riding: western and British. This is a tutorial for western saddling.

Things you will need:
a horse
horse brush
saddle pad
a saddle
head stall with bit (the head stall I am using is called a hackamore and doesn't have a bit)

While riding a horse bareback can be an exhilirating experience, using a saddle can be very beneficial. Saddling a horse is a good idea if you would like not to fall off.

The headstall is important because it gives you control over the horse. Once your horse is saddled, you can ride in a number of different places and events including rodeos, trail rides, and working on farms.

The first picture below is labeled with parts of the horse that will be useful to know later in the tutorial.

Note: horses and the equipment needed to ride them can be expensive. If you are interested in getting in to riding, I suggest browsing craigslist for supplies.

Step 1: Brush the Horse

Picture of Brush the Horse

This step VERY important! When riding, horses sweat under the saddle. If you don't brush the loose hair off the horse's back, and it gets wet, the horse may shake to remove the hair (and you).

Step 2: Brush the Underside of the Pad

Picture of Brush the Underside of the Pad

Brush the inside of the saddle pad with your hand to ensure that there are no sharp or hard objects stuck in the fibers. If there are, pick them out. Such objects can be uncomfortable for the horse.

Step 3: Place Pad on Horses Back

Picture of Place Pad on Horses Back

Once the pad is free of hard objects, place the pad on the horse's back.

Make sure the dark leather patch is on the front side of the horse and pull it up to the withers (the horses shoulders).

Step 4: Prepare Saddle

Picture of Prepare Saddle

To prepare the saddle, make sure the girth strap is attached to the right side of the saddle. Then flip the right stirrup and girth strap over the saddle to get them out of the way. This will make it easier to put the saddle on the horse.

Step 5: Place the Saddle on the Horse

Picture of Place the Saddle on the Horse

Pick up the saddle while holding the right side straps up, and approach the horse from the left side. Now place the saddle on the horse's back with the horn right above the withers. You can adjust the saddle more once it is on the horse.

Note: Most riders saddle, mount, and dismount from the left side. That's just the way things are.

Step 6: Let the Straps Down

Picture of Let the Straps Down

Once the saddle is situated, let the right side stirrup and girth strap down. You can then grab the girth strap and get prepared to strap the saddle on.

Step 7: Tighten the Tie Strap

Picture of Tighten the Tie Strap

The next step is to string the tie strap (the thick black strap) through the ring on the girth strap. The strap should go through the back of the ring on the girth strap. (pic 1)

Then pull the strap up, and loop it through the dee ring from the front down (the strap should now be up against the horse). (pic 2)

Loop the tie strap back through the girth ring front back to front again. (pic 3)

Step 8: Tighten the Tie Strap a Little More

Picture of Tighten the Tie Strap a Little More

To keep the saddle from falling off, string the tie strap through the ring on the girth strap once more. The strap should go through the back of the ring on the girth strap. (pic 1)

Then pull the strap up to tighten the strap around the horse's girth. (pic 2)

The strap should be quite snug around the horse's girth, and the saddle should be even on its back.

Note: horses are pretty tough animals. This tightening does not hurt them. If it did, you'd definitely know it.

Step 9: Secure the Strap

Picture of Secure the Strap

Once the saddle is snug, you need to secure the strap from coming loose.

To secure the strap, loop it around the dee string like you would tie a tie. The end of the tie strap should go through the front of the dee ring and out through the left (pic 2). Then move the tie strap to the right and insert it through the back this time. DO NOT tighten it yet (pic 3).

Take the end of the tie strap and put it through the left-to-right loop you just made. Then pull it down and tighten the "tie" (pic 5).

To get the extra length out of the way, you can loop it back through the ring.

Step 10: Put on the Bridle

Picture of Put on the Bridle

This are directions for how to put on a hackamore (which relies on pressure to the nose rather than the mouth). A bridle is the headstall plus the bit.

First, place the reins over the horse's head.

Then, guide the horse's muzzle between the nose band and chains of the head stall (pic 3).

Move the headstall up the horse's head and place the horse's ears in the gap between the crownpiece and the browband (pic 4 & 5).

Then secure the throatlatch on the first notch (6 & 7)

Step 11: Giddy Up!

Picture of Giddy Up!

Congratulations! If you followed these steps, you have successfully saddled a horse western style!

Now all you have to do is mount and ride--but that's an entirely different tutorial.

Good Luck!


Lassygirl (author)2017-09-18

Hi i have a western saddle it has a long strap an a strapon the other side across from it .i dont see u tighting that side up an i have a cinch straight strap . im new at all of this plz help an plz bare with me .

contessasaylor (author)2015-05-21

i did all that but when i went on a ride the saddle started moving backwards when going up hills so what did i do wrong. we dont have a saddle pad, we use saddle blankets...please help

You didn't do it tight enough

-moonglade (author)2016-08-25

A Western saddle can be heavy!! But you get used to it after a while.

Horse Lunger (author)2015-03-24

Pretty good!

ferrari093 (author)2014-04-04

Barnyardpunch made some really good points. But what I want to say is that if you don't know how to tack up, I'm not completely sure you should be riding. I understand if you just started and want to get into detail about it, or if where you ride the always tack up for you(which is not good, because you can never learn how to take care of your own horse) but if you want to know because you just want to get on a horse and ride....please don't. It's not safe have someone around that is experienced and can help you. Hope this is helpful and please be safe guys! ;)

tomman (author)2011-09-18

the "tie straps" are actuly called the latago and worrying about hurting the horses is veryminila if your horse is with other horses (like they all should) they get bit and kick by other horses and dont care i don not thinka poke from a 120 pound person is going to kill them but with the postives tieng the latago is a lot more scure than the keeper notches thanks for wnlighting thoses who are equine challanged

pfred2 (author)2011-02-26

Horses are big and scary and have teeth and hooves! The only horse I ever liked was Mr. Ed. Wilbur!

Goodhart (author)pfred22011-07-05

*chuckle* Yes as with almost ANYTHING worthwhile, one has to be attentive to what is going on. 

I've been bitten, butted, and had 2 (pony) hooves planted into my chest.   I don't FEAR them any more then I did before.  I respect them more however, and have learned a LOT of lessons in the mean time.  

Now, you wouldn't want anyone to call you a "specific animal of certain disposition", now would you?  :-)  

Goodhart (author)2011-07-05

What a BEAUTIFUL horse you have there. And a very well explained instructable also.

One of these days, hopefully BEFORE I get too old, and once I have lost some weight (for the horse's sake), I want to get back into riding again.
I had taken some lessions after having done a few trails and although I am NO expert, I do find it enjoyable with the proper horse (being they are all a little different, sometimes a match is hard to make). 

Thanks for the reminder of goals I'd nearly forgotten  :-)  

mclisa (author)2011-05-18

It's usually easier to place the saddle on the horse from the right (off) side, if the horse is willing. This is especially true if you are using a rear cinch, breast collar or a crupper or britchin. The cinch and other stuff won't get in your way.
The tradition of mounting from the left side at least partly due to cavalries. The rider would have a sword on his left side, so it was easier to swing his right leg over the horse.

Saint Mom (author)2011-04-17

Just had to say... I won the 'Miss Etna Centennial' contest back in 1973 and my participation in the talent portion of the festivities consisted of saddling my horse!! Good, wholesome memories!

Vyger (author)2011-03-29

Something else that we were always careful to do, mostly as a kindness to the horse, is after you place the saddle on the back, don't just push the stirrup and straps off the top, rather walk around to the off side and lower them with your hand. This way the stirrup does not hit them in the flank. On sensitive horses this can cause them to jump or twitch. You want to make saddling as pleasant an experience for them as possible.

Vyger (author)2011-03-29

Something we always did was to take the end of the strap and run it back up through the knot before we pulled it tight. this made it easier to get the saddle off later because all you had to do was pull the end of the strap up and it would pull back through the knot. This became especially helpful when you had a hot horse that was lathered up and everything was slippery. A good yank and the knot was undone.
As far as them holding their breath to keep you from tightening the cinch, I knew some people who would knee them in the flank but that usually just made saddling an unpleasant experience for the horse and it would harden their behavior. I found that putting off the final tightening and taking them by surprise worked a lot better. In other words, do everything else and when they are not expecting it just grab the strap and pull it tight. They can't hold their breath forever.

amateo (author)2011-02-28

Thanks for the instructable. It remembers me when I was at Costa Rica. I didn´t remember exactly how to tie the saddle. Do you mind if I use that in my blog?, of course, making a translation to spanish.


parkerpe (author)2011-02-28

Nicely explained! A good rule of thumb, or finger in this case, is that you should tighten the throatlatch so that you can put two fingers between your horse's cheek and the throatlatch strap. My horse once rubbed his head on a tree while I was letting him rest on the trail and having the throatlatch properly adjusted was the only thing that kept the bridle from coming completely off. That was a hard lesson learned on my part :-)

parkerpe (author)2011-02-28

One very important thing to check before tightening is that the girth is not twisted. Always walk around to the right side to be sure the girth is hanging straight before pulling it under from the left side. A twisted girth acts much like the proverbial "bur under the saddle", gouging your horse and ultimately upsetting them very much. This is true for both English and Western saddles. Otherwise - this is really making me want to saddle up my horse and take a trip through the woods. Thanks!

greeneprojects (author)2011-02-27

I had a horse growing up that would take a deep breath as I tightened the girt strap. The saddle was certain to start barrel rolling in minutes. Pretty funny!
I then had to develop tricks to get him to exhale like poking him in the flank a few times. Being about 11 it was frustrating at first.

A better solution to your problem would be to girth in multiple steps.
Put the girth on sort of loose at first then move your horse around a bit (walk to the arena or trail head) then tighten it up some more. Move them around again and check it one more time.
The advantage is you will avoid pinching the horse by allowing the girth/saddle to settle in and you will most certainly avoid finding out your girth is too loose 10 minutes into your ride. (and your horse will really appreciate it. :-)

the norm (author)chautman-12011-02-27

I agree with Chautman-1
but you walk a lot more than I did.
I would tight it a bit, then walk about five or ten steps and then tighten it up, the horse had to breath during those steps and that solved the problem.
I don't think I would ever want my dad to have seen me kick it in the flank to blow out, and I wouldn't want to catch anyone else doing it.

greeneprojects (author)the norm2011-02-27

Norm, As per this type of forum I am not fully understood. Or folks love, LOVE to assume the worst, or maybe just like grasping at high ground. Anyway...
I should have said poke with my finger while standing on the ground next to the horse whilst trying to put on the saddle.
Sorry if I come off sharp here but so be it. I assure you I am pretty close to the last person in the world you need be worried about abusing an animal, then or now.
Hey thanks for the wonderful advice though!

the norm (author)greeneprojects2011-02-27

Greeneproject: My apologies. I did not mean to twist what you said. It does not sound at all like you kicked your horse. Especially at eleven years old, you probably couldn't reach. I assumed you were poking with a finger or thumb, and feeling more pain than the horse did.
I was agreeing with chautman-1, not trying to get a jab at you.
I am sorry if it sounds like I am talking against you. As you say, it is easy to write it wrong in these forums.
Hope you have fond memories of riding too.

greeneprojects (author)the norm2011-02-28

Thanks Norm.
No problem. I have great memories of my time in the saddle growing up. It was extensive for living in western NC I guess. Many trips deep into the Great Smoky Mnts. Natl. Pk. My firsts trip riding alone on my own horse (after donkey and tandem saddle) was around 28 miles from Cligmans Dome down into Hazel Creek drainage almost to Fontana lake. I remember that trip like it was yesterday even though it was in 1978.

rathmiron (author)2011-02-28

just as a little fact: riders mount left because knights always wore their swords on their left hip, and it would be in the way if they mounted on the right side with their sword equipped. (they wouldn't get their leg up)

barnyardpunch (author)2011-02-27

This is an OK tutorial, but I'd like to add a few points:

- there are several styles of riding, the two main buckets being English and Western. Horse people would understand what you meant if you said "British," but they'd also know you didn't know what you're talking about :-)

- Don't look for equipment on craigslist unless you know what you're doing or have a knowledgeable friend to help. Having a properly fit saddle is extremely important and a lot goes into selecting the right one for your horse. And there are a lot of people out there selling just plain bad tack--broken saddle trees, rotted leather, uneven wear. If you don't have the money to buy a saddle that fits (The proper saddle can easily cost hundreds of dollars, even used, if you have a hard to fit horse.), consider leasing a horse with its own tack instead of buying.

- Horses are actually much more sensitive than they are "tough." As AppyHorsey said, a horse might stoically accept having the saddle cinched up, but it behooves (ha!) you to make it as nice a process as possible. Sour a horse on being saddled and risk having your head kicked in. "Horses are tough, they can take it" is not a safe attitude towards any aspect of dealing with a half-ton animal.

Ride on!

the norm (author)2011-02-27

When you put the stirrup and girth up, the stirrup should go over the horn (the horn of the saddle should go in where your foot goes) then neither the stirrup nor the girth will slide off and hit the horse when you put the saddle on.
Then, when you let them both down, you should be on the right side, and lower them down, not just flip them over from the left side. That way the girth ring will not swing down and hit the right front leg, (If you wnat to know what it is like, take your boots off and swing the girth up and down so it hits your ankle bone - bet you only do it once)

greatwhitepike (author)2011-02-27

As for getting on and off the left; it lets other riders know which way to approach another when mounted. Always ride up on the right and no one dismounting accidentally gets stepped on or spooks a horse.

GimmeADream (author)2011-02-27

Very well explained! I always mounted from the left but now I find having the horses bi-dextrous works well also, while training. They tend to make turns easier and stand better for me. Of course breaking my left foot this winter, makes mounting a lot less painful from the right, lol.

desertdog (author)2011-02-27

Well done. You explained it all very well. As the owner of a hayburner, I think you should do another ible on the cost of keeping a horse before you do one on riding.

JohnathanStein (author)2011-02-27

Uh, someone needs to edit this post -- to a newbie, either the author got his terms mixed up (girth vs. tie straps) in the text, or the pics are not labeled right.

AppyHorsey (author)2011-02-27

This is a nice instructable for beginners. Thanks for posting it. However, I have something to add:

When putting on the saddle pad, you NEVER want to "pull it forward" as this also pulls the hair on the horse's back "forward" (the "wrong way" for the hair to lay) and it is not only uncomfortable for the horse, but can cause sores on his/her back. The "best" way is to always put the saddle pad on TOO FAR FORWARD and then "slide it back" into place. This assures that the hair on the horse's back is laying in the "correct" way. A comfortable horse is a happy horse! (And might keep you from being thrown off when the irritation becomes too much for the horse to take.) OR, if the horse "accepts" the irritation, and lets you continue the ride, you may find a sore (or sores) on his back after the ride. Saddle/back sores are hard to heal and take a LONG TIME to heal up. Which translates into WEEKS or even MONTHS of No Riding for YOU.

DDW_OR (author)2011-02-27

Very good.
In 2000 my friend and I did a 2 week, horse back, Elk hunting trip in the Great Bear Wilderness in Montana. Never did get an Elk, but it was 2 weeks of paradise. The only things that reminded you of "when" you where, where the things you took with and the occasional planes over head.

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