Saddling a Horse for the First Time: Horse Training Series #11

Saddling a young horse requires special attention

By Kelly Murphy-Alley
Let's go through saddling your colt for the first time. The main thing is to make sure it's a positive experience. It's a lot of pressure on a young horse.
Your job is to:
1. Stay Calm
2. Keep Them Safe
3. Keep it Positive

You can't control the horse. It might buck. It might rare. Every horse is different.
I recommend working in a round pen to keep them as safe as you can. Be sure to watch where your tools are, where you are and where your horse is to make sure nobody gets hung up.

Introducing the pad

Don't just throw it on their back. It will scare them.
Introduce it slowly. Let them smell it. Let them see it. Start by putting it on their neck. Move it to their back. Flop it around, back to their butt to make sure they know it's not going to hurt them. Then put it in position.
Once the horse is comfortable, move on to the next step.

Introducing the saddle

Moving slowly, let the horse see and smell the saddle and make sure they are paying attention. Your outside stirrup should be on the saddle horn.
Holding the lead rope in your left hand and the saddle in your right step up and put the saddle on the horse. Make sure you can let go of the lead rope at any time without getting tangled in it.
Prepare for the worst and expect the best. They won't stand perfectly still right away, but that's okay to address later.
Adjust the saddle to wear you need it, then step around to the opposite side of the horse and lower the stirrup off of the horn. Don't let anything bang against the horse's side until you've got everything tightened properly.
Pull down the girth and the back cinch.
Make sure the horse always knows where you are. Move slowly, but don't sneak around.
If you choose to use a breast collar, don't ever hook your breast collar first. There is a specific order.
1. Girth
2. Back Cinch
3. Breast Collar

When you start tightening the saddle, the horse will feel the pressure and you need to be extra reassuring. Be ready for everything.

Securing the Girth

Slide you hand down her leg and over to where the girth goes, so she knows that you're there. Reach under and grab the girth. As you're snugging the girth, you'll most likely have to move with the horse as it will want to move around. You won't be tightening the girth all of the way right away, so don't turn the horse loose yet.
Where you're riding colts, you'll want a fleece on the girth to prevent girth rub. Wash your fleece after every ride.

Securing the Back Cinch

The back cinch will apply more pressure in a different area, so it can make the horses uncomfortable at first. Apply the back cinch carefully and slowly. The back cinch is there to keep your saddle from flopping around. You don't want it super tight, but also not loose enough to get a foot hung in it.

Securing the Breast Collar

Take your time and keep the horse calm while still holding the lead rope safely. Once you've got the breast collar secure, then you can walk the horse back to the center of the round pen. Just be prepared as they may be surprised by how the saddle feels when they move. Turn to face and watch your horse as you walk it forward
Kelly Murphy-Alley
Striking KMA Performance Horses
Wilmore KY
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