Introduction: How to Saddle a Horse
Horseback riding has long been a favorite pastime for many people. It is not only a favorite pastime but a way of life in many parts of the United States. Before riding the horse, make sure the horse is saddled properly so that the rider and horse will be safe. Even though saddling a horse looks complicated, it is actually fairly simple. It only takes about ten minutes.
Step 1: Halter the Horse
The first thing to do when saddling a horse is to get a halter and lead rope, most times these are kept in a barn or tack room. Then go to the horse that is going to be saddled. Put the horse’s nose through the small hole in the halter and then strap the latch on the left side of their head, some halters may vary. Now that the horse is haltered, it can be lead to where it will be saddled.
Step 2: Curry the Horse
After tying the horse up, possibly to a trailer or hitching post, grab a curry comb. A curry comb is used to brush the horse. Brush out the horse’s mane, tail, back, legs, chest, and stomach. Make sure to get all the loose hair, dirt, and mud off the horse before continuing. This is also the time to look to see if the horse has any cuts or injuries. Never place the saddle on sore spots as this can cause the horse to act up, feel uncomfortable, make the sore worse, or even cause the horse to become lame. A lame horse cannot be ridden until it is healed. If saddling a horse that is easily spooked, try to avoid standing in the horse’s blind spot, which is behind the horse. Try not to throw things around or make loud noises; these things can also spook the horse.
Step 3: Saddle Blanket
Next, get out the saddle blanket. The saddle blanket looks like a well-padded rug, and it is placed under the saddle so the saddle doesn’t rub. Place the pad evenly on the horse’s back making sure it’s not too far back or too far forward. The saddle blanket sits about three inches over the withers of the horse. The withers are the horse’s mane. The blanket should also hang evenly on both sides of the horse stomach.
Step 4: Placing Saddle
Now it’s time to place the saddle on the horse. A strong person can just quickly swing the saddle over the horse’s back. A less strong person will hook the right stirrup over the saddle horn and this will make it easier to swing the saddle on the horse. Once the saddle is placed on the horse, it’s time to make sure everything is even. Make sure the saddle is even and is completely on the saddle blanket and not on the horse. The saddle should be placed just as the saddle blanket is, squarely and evenly.
Step 5: Cinching the Saddle Part 1
Once the saddle is placed correctly, it’s time to cinch it up. The cinch is the long strap that is attached to the right side of the saddle by the stirrups. Some saddles have a place where the front cinch and back cinch hook to the saddle so that it must be unhooked first and some saddles don’t. The saddles that don’t hook the cinch to the saddle will have the cinch laying across the seat of the saddle. Some people prefer not to ride with a back cinch; however, the back cinch helps the saddle not slide forward and backward. Make sure the cinch strap is dangling on the right side of the horse. While standing on the left side of the horse, reach under the horse’s belly and grab the cinch strap. Then wrap it around the belly just behind the front leg. If the saddle is exactly where it should be the cinch should lay perfectly. It’s important for the cinch to be in the right spot because if it is not, it could irritate or pinch the horse and could cause you to get bucked off.
The cinch is wrapped around the belly and pulled up towards the main
part of the saddle. In front of the left stirrup is a metal loop with a leather strap attached to it, while still hanging on to the cinch take the strap and loop it through the metal that resembles a buckle on a belt on the end of the cinch. Loop it from back to front and then take it and loop it back through the metal loop that the strap is on from front to back. Then repeat through the cinch again.
Step 6: Cinching the Saddle Part 2
At this time the strap should be shorter, loop it one last time through the metal on the saddle, pull on the strap to tighten it. Then hook the belt tooth through the belt hole in the cinch to hold it in place. Always check it and make sure it’s not too tight, slide two fingers in between the cinch and the horse to check to see that it is tightened just right. If the cinch is too tight the horse will be uncomfortable and irritable and might cause the horse to kick or bite. Make sure there are no wrinkles in the skin under the cinch.
Now if using a back cinch, it’s time to cinch that up. Another strap will be hanging down on the right side of the horse just as the front cinch was. Reach under the horse’s stomach from the left side and grab the back cinch around the middle of the belly, then buckle it like a belt to the metal buckle that’s on the back of the saddle. Make sure the back cinch is snug to the belly but not overly tight.
Step 7: Bridle the Horse
The last thing to do is put the bridle on the horse. First have the horse lower its head and loosen the halter, but not all the way so as to still control the horse. Hold the crown of the bridle in the right hand, then place the bit at the horse's lips using the left hand. Next, move the curb strap under its chin to ensure it won't accidentally slip into the horse's mouth. The curb strap looks like a chain. Then have the horse open its mouth by sliding a thumb into its mouth in the area on both the upper and lower jaw of the horse where there are no teeth, between the front and back teeth. Next, slide the crown of the bridle over the ears by folding the horse's ears straight forward or straight back. After that, buckle the throat latch and check the throat latch to make sure it’s not too tight. A two finger rule is a good way to check.
Step 8: Check the Saddle
Now ride the horse for a little while with the saddle on and after five to ten minutes get off the horse and re-check the cinch to make sure it’s still tight.
Step 9: Conclusion
Saddling a horse is easy and simple and will only take about ten minutes when following these instructions. Remember a few important points such as not standing directly behind or in front of the horse, checking for sores, to not over tighten the cinch, and make sure the bridle is not too tight on the horse’s mouth. Whether riding for fun or for work, getting the saddle on the horse correctly is important.