Introducing the Horse to the Saddle
Before you start to introduce your horse to the saddle, you should consider his age and amount of training. Your horse should be at least 4 years old before you start to train him with a saddle. It is usually better to wait until he is 5 or 6 years old. Your horse's back muscles must be well developed before you put a saddle on him. He should be able to stand still and calm.You should be able to lunge and lead your horse without a problem. You should also be an experienced rider.
Remember, do not expect to see perfection all at once. Be patient and kind with your horse. Your horse should become gradually better at working with the saddle as you train. Work at a steady pace and keep things simple during your first training sessions. Don't introduce too many new things at once.
Before you start training your horse with the saddle, Join-Up with him first. After you join-up, bring out your saddle, saddle pad, and girth. Lay your riding equipment down and let your horse have time to investigate it. Pick up the saddle pad and rub it against his back, legs, and belly. Reward your horse if he behaves well. Gently place the saddle pad on your horse's back and take it off. Again, reward your horse if he beahves well. If your horse gets upset, keep placing the saddle pad on your horse's back and taking it off until he accepts it.
Next, gently place the saddle on your horse's back. Take the saddle on and off until your horse is used to it. Gently tighten the girth but, don't make it very tight at first. You want get him used to preasure in the girth area.
It is a good idea to lunge your horse while the saddle is on his back.. This will help him get used to moving with the saddle on. Tighten the girth so that the saddle will not move if he bucks but, still don't tighten it too much. Roll up the stirrups. You may have to tie a knot in the leathers so that they will not slip.
Green horses may buck as you lunge. However, you must remain calm while lunging your horse. You have to make your horse believe that he is the only one that is bothered by the saddle. After your horse stops bucking, watch for signs that he wants to join-up again. Repeat the Join-Up process and reward your horse.
When you get on your horse, he needs to plant his feet and be prepared to carry your weight. Teach your horse this by pulling on the saddle horn or pommel of the saddle.
If things are going smoothly, place one foot in the stirrup and add weight to the saddle. Hold onto the mane and lead rope. If your horse panics, step out of the stirrup. If not, go around to the other stirrup and repeat. Touch all of your horse's hindquarters while you are in the stirrup. You may accidentally kick his rear when you mount. Get your horse used to the concept of your leg going over his back by moving your arms around his hindquarters and the girth area.
When your horse's body language tells you the time is right, you may mount. Be careful! Do Not kick your horse when you mount!!!! If your horse panics, just do a one rein stop. Dismount quickly.
After you have mounted your horse, do not push him to walk with you on his back. Dismount and gradually work up to riding your horse. Always reward your horse for good behavior.