It can be challenging to prepare a young horse to wear a saddle. Naturally, tack and a rider can be intimidating to an inexperienced horse. It all seems very threatening to a prey animal. There’s an easy approach that will lay a positive foundation to your under saddle work though.
Basic Steps for Saddle Work
1. Touch: It should be easy for you to rub your hands over your horse’s body. They should patiently stand and accept your contact. This has a lot to do with desensitizing your horse. From their back and belly to their legs and face, all areas should welcome your touch without a negative reaction.
2. Saddle pad: Allow your horse to get familiar with the saddle pad. Begin by letting them sniff if from both sides. Once they seem comfortable, you can gently place it on their neck and slide it down to their back.
3. Girth: Teaching your horse to wear a girth can be tricky. Try using a scarf to wrap around their belly and back. This will give you the opportunity to apply pressure in the girth area. If they seem anxious, continue to the hold the pressure until they relax then release it. You want them to understand they must stand still with this pressure.
4. Saddle: The next step is getting them use to wearing a saddle. Like the saddle pad, allow them to sniff the saddle from both sides before gently setting it on their back with the saddle pad. Try to work with your youngster when they’re calm. If excited, go back and do the steps they’re familiar with.
When they seem settled, attach the girth and bring in under their belly like you did with the scarf. Gradually tighten it.
5. Movement: As you move toward the end of saddling your horse, it’s finally time to get them moving. You can leave the stirrups dangling at the horse’s sides. Give your horse the freedom to move around in a secured round pen or on the lunge line. At first, they may be reactive to the banging of the stirrups, but in time they’ll become desensitized to it.
Give your horse plenty of time in-between each step. This isn’t a race! Be consistent and patient for the best results.
Read more on: The Right Age To Start A Young Horse.