There are very few things as liberating as exploring the unknown. One of the best ways to explore the great outdoors is sitting in the saddle of a trusty horse. Having a horse requires significant time, space, and money. For many people the chance to ride a horse comes with friends or outfitting companies. Growing up I was asked many times by my parents to saddle horses so others could ride. I always appreciated when people were willing to help and make an effort to learn about what I was doing.
These instructions are a basic introduction to horse saddling for those that do not own their own horse or gear. Learning along side a competent horseman is very important. Remember that going on a horse ride includes time for preparation, usually between 10-15 minutes depending on the situation. I hope this instructable helps you be better prepared for your initial saddling experiences.
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Step 1: Tie and Brush
Before saddling, make sure the horse is tied in a safe and obstacle free area. Check to make sure you have all your necessary gear, such as: saddle, bridle, pad or blanket, and brush. Use a brush to get off any loose dirt, mud, and hair, especially in the areas where the saddle will directly make contact with the horse.
NOTE: Even the most trusted horses can be spooked. You do not want the horse, or anyone around to be in danger if they begin moving about nervously. This is why it is so important to secure them in a safe place.
Step 2: Pad
Place the saddle pad on the horse's back with the front centered across the horse’s wither.
NOTE: The withers are a ridge between the should blades just behind the horse’s neck. I am using a 5 star, 1” wool pad that has a hole in the top that aids in placement and horse comfort.
Step 3: Saddle
Lift the saddle over the horse’s back and drop it into place so that the front of the saddle is on top of the horse’s withers.
Step 4: Go to the Other Side
Walk to the other side of the horse where the cinches are buckled out of the way from the last time the saddle was used.
NOTE: The safest way to get from side to side is to walk closely around the backside.
Step 5: Unbuckle Cinches
Unbuckle the cinches and check to make sure the cinches are centered underneath the horse. If they are not, adjust the latigo to lower or raise the cinch by unbuckling and readjusting it.
NOTE: Many cinches have a small ring in the middle, making sure this is evenly between the front legs is the easiest way to find the center.
Step 6: Looping the Latigo
Return to the left side of the horse and run the long latigo through the large D ring at the end of the cinch.
Step 7: Tightening the Cinch
Take the latigo up and back through the ring on the saddle and back through the cinch again. Pull on the latigo until the cinch has reached a comfortable tightness.
Step 8: Buckle Latigo
With the cinch tight, you should be able to put buckle through a hole in the latigo. Then reach up in between the cinch and the saddle and pull on the middle latigo so the buckle will close.
NOTE: It is important to secure the front cinch first because it holds the saddle to the horse’s back and will prevent accidents if the horse is spooked.
Step 9: Flank Cinch
Buckle the flank cinch to your specific needs. For pleasure riding it just has to be close enough to the horse's belly so that it won't be a hazard while riding.
NOTE: Many saddles do not have a flank cinch but this particular saddle is a roping saddle where a flank cinch is required.
Step 10: Secure Breast Collar on Side
Usually the breast collar will already be attached on the right side of the saddle and all you need to do is run it under the horse’s neck and secure it on the left side of the saddle. How you secure it will be different depending on the style of the breast collar. Like the cinch, it is important to make sure that it is centered on the horse's chest.
NOTE: Depending on the riding environment, many people do not use a breast collar. I find them very useful when riding in the hills, where your saddle may slide back.
Step 11: Secure Breast Collar Underneath
For a three piece breast collar, buckle the third piece to the ring on the cinch in between the horse’s front legs.
Step 12: Take Off Halter
Take the halter off the horse’s head and secure it around his neck, then untie him from the fence or rail.
NOTE: If your horse pulls back with the halter around his neck, while still tied, he is at a greater risk of hurting himself or you.
Step 13: Bridle and Bit
Take the top of the bridle in your right hand and put your arm over the horse’s neck to encourage him to lower his head. Take the bit in your left hand and put it in the horse’s mouth.
NOTE: Sometimes you will need to put your thumb and index finger in the horse’s mouth to encourage him to open his teeth.
Step 14: Over Ears
Slip the headstall over his right ear and then his left.
NOTE: In this picture I am using a simple over-ear headstall. Many headstalls have additional features such as brow bands and throat latches.
Step 15: Check Cinches
Before mounting, check to make sure both cinches are appropriately tight as many horse will fill their stomachs with air when being saddled.
Step 16: Finished Saddling
Now you should be ready to get on and have an enjoyable experience, but remember that working with horses is a lifelong learning experience. Make sure you are supervised with competent horseman while learning how to saddle and ride