Saddling a horse correctly is essential to ensure you ride safely. While it can seem confusing at first, it is actually simple to follow, although it is a good idea to have someone who knows what they’re doing to help you out the first few times.
Using a Western saddle is slightly different than using an English saddle, but below we have explained the basics of how to saddle a horse, beginning with preparation for saddling and then how to correctly use both types of saddle.
Keeping reading on if you’re ready to find out more.
Preparing To Saddle A Horse
1) Tie Your Horse
First of all, you need to tie your horse so that they stay put while you prepare them for saddling. Cross-ties are usually used for this, as they are one of the most secure knots.
2) Groom Your Horse
Grooming your horse before saddling them is very important. If you don’t groom them properly, they can become irritated and sore underneath the saddle.
Use a curry comb to first remove any mud and dirt that may be stuck to their body. You can then use a dandy brush, followed by a soft brush and body brush to help distribute your horse’s natural oils and give them a shine. You should pay close attention to their back, belly and girth area.
Then you should go in with a mane and tail comb to remove any knots and tangles, followed by cleaning their hooves and check for lodged stones. You will need to be careful when doing this, because you may get kicked!
3) Check For Sores
Checking your horse for sores is essential before saddling them. If your horse has any wounds, lumps, bumps or swelling, then this may mean they are unfit to ride. Placing a saddle over any sores will just aggravate the wound more and will make your horse very uncomfortable.
4) Put On A Saddle Pad
You’ll need to place a saddle pad or saddle blanket on your horse before the saddle. This will protect their back and also keep the saddle in place.
Place the pad a bit higher on the withers, then slide it back into place just behind the mane. This will ensure that the hair on the horse’s back lies flat beneath the pad and saddle. Then make sure the blanket or pad is even on both sides.
5) Saddle The Horse
Once you have completed all the steps above, you are ready to saddle your horse! The way in which you saddle your horse will depend on whether you have a Western or English saddle. Take a look below in more detail.
How To Saddle A Horse – Using A Western Saddle
A Western saddle is designed for utility. It was originally designed for a cowboy or rancher to use on the job. It has a saddle horn and a high back, making it more comfortable for long hours on horseback.
1) Put The Saddle In Place
First of all, you’ll need to put the saddle in place on your horse! Stand on the left side of the horse and flip the right-side cinches and stirrup over the seat of the saddle to keep them from getting caught beneath it.
Then, swing the saddle over the horse and rock the saddle back and forth into position. Then, unfold the cinches and stirrup.
2) Position It Correctly
After placing the saddle on, position it correctly. You’ll need to ensure the center line is lined up with the spine of the horse and that both stirrups hang equally on both sides. The front of the saddle should sit just behind the withers and not on top of the shoulder blades.
3) Ensure It Fits Correctly
You should never use a saddle if it doesn’t fit properly, as it can cause the horse to bolt or buck and can cause them sores on their back.
You can ensure the saddle fits correctly by sliding two fingers under the gullet (the curve of the saddle just under the horn) without cramping. There should also be 3-4 fingers-width of space between the horse’s forearms and the cinch.
4) Secure The Front Cinch
One of the most important steps is securing the front (main) cinch. You should do this gradually as to not hurt your horse.
First of all, pull the cinch under the horse’s belly, towards you, and slip the latigo strap down through the cinch buckle. Pull it all the way through and make sure neither the cinch nor the latigo strap are twisted.
Next, lift the latigo and slip it through the saddle’s D-ring, from outside-in. Leave the ring angled towards the left and ensure the cinch is snug, but not too snug. Do this process once or twice more if you have a lot of length left in the latigo strap.
The secured part of the strap should be straightened so each layer is on top of the one beneath it. Then, gradually pull down on the tail of the latigo to tighten the cinch. You shouldn’t tighten it all the way just yet.
Then, move the tail of the latigo horizontally across the secured latigo and bring it up through the saddle’s D-ring again, but this time from the right side. Slip the tail down through the loop created and fasten the knot.
After this is done, you should walk the horse around for a minute or two. This will help to relax your horse, and stop bloating, which is a trick some horses use to keep you from putting the saddle on too tight!
Now you can finish tightening the cinch. Do this by pulling the top layer of latigo strap (not the tail) upwards. Then, re-tighten the knot. Now you’re done securing the cinch!
5) Loosely Secure The Back Cinch
Next, you should loosely secure the back (bucking) cinch. There should be two fingers-width of space between the horse’s belly and the bottom of the cinch.
This process is similar to securing the front cinch, but instead of finishing the process with a knot, you’ll use the buckle.
6) Lead The Horse Forward Five Steps
By leading the horse forward five steps, you’ll ensure the skin under the cinch isn’t wrinkled. This will prevent the horse from being pinched while riding.
Another way to do this is by stretching each front leg forward for a few seconds. This helps to reduce tension in the horse’s skin.
7) Attach The Breast Collar
If you use one, attach the breast collar next. You should do this by latching it to the saddle’s cinch and front D-rings, which will keep the saddle from slipping backwards. This is especially helpful for on the trail.
Now the saddle is in place, you are ready to mount up!
How To Saddle A Horse – Using An English Saddle
An English saddle is best for formal riding and show riding. It is a sleek and smaller saddle with no saddle horn and a low back.
1) Move The Stirrups Higher
First, you should run up the stirrup irons on the stirrup leathers. This secures the stirrups and moves them out of your way and also means they won’t hit your horse as you lift the saddle over their back.
2) Detach The Girth
Next, you’ll need to detach the girth (or cinch) and set it aside. You are going to put it back on in a a moment, but taking it off means it will not dangle in your way when you try to position the saddle. You can also fold it over the top of the saddle.
3) Ensure The Pad Is Lined Up
Before putting the saddle in place, you should make sure that the saddle pad or blanket is lined up correctly. If you are using a contoured pad, you should find an inch of pad all the way around. With a square pad, be sure to leave at least one inch around the front edge of the saddle.
Ensure the pad is not too far forwards, either. This can make the shoulder movement hard.
4) Put The Saddle In Place
Now it is time to place the saddle on your horse. You should stand on the left hand side of your horse and place the saddle on with the pommel of the saddle just in front of the horse’s withers.
The arch of the pommel should be directly over the highest point of the horse’s withers and the saddle will nestle in behind the horse’s shoulder-blades.
5) Replace The Girth And Tighten
Once the saddle is in place, you can replace the girth. This allows you to tighten the saddle and secure it in place. Attach the girth to the girth billets on the off side (the horse’s right), then bring it up to the near side (the horse’s left).
The girth should come under the horse just behind its front legs. If you can see a gap between the elbow and the girth, the saddle is too far back. Once it is secure, you should be able to get your hand between your horse and the girth, but it should be a snug fit.
6) Drop Your Stirrups
Next, drop your stirrups.
Now you are ready to mount your horse!
How To Saddle A Horse – Bridling
Once you have saddled your horse, it is time to bridle them. The bridle is the tack that goes on last because, after you bridle your horse, you can’t tie them up again until you finish your ride.
The steps for bridling are nearly the same for both an English and Western saddle.
1) Secure The Horse
First of all, you should secure your horse with the halter. Standing at the left side of the saddle, unbuckle the halter, slide the noseband off, and then re-buckle the halter around the horse’s neck.
Then, put the reins over the horse’s head so they lie on the horse’s neck.
3) Headstall And Bit
Next, it is time for the headstall and bit. You should stand at the left side of your horse’s head, facing the same direction that your horse is facing. The headstall should be in your right hand and the bit in your left hand. Let the bit lie against your outstretched fingers.
Place your right hand just on top of the horse’s head, in front of their ears. If you can’t reach, you can instead reach your arm under the horse’s jaw and around to the right side of the horse’s head so your right hand and the headstall are just above the horse’s forehead or above the bridge of their nose.
Open the horse’s mouth and insert the bit. Do this by gently pressing down on the inside corner of the horse’s lip to open their mouth and gently guide the bit into their mouth. Raise the headstall in your right hand until the bit slides all the way in to the horse’s mouth.
Now you can gently slide the headstall over the horse’s ears, ensuring the browband sits evenly on their forehead.
4) Buckle The Throatlatch and Noseband
You should next buckle the throatlatch and noseband, if any. On a Western bridle, you probably won’t have a noseband to tighten. If a curb chain or strap is attached to the bit, make sure that it’s loose when you let the reins go slack.
5) Unbuckle The Halter
Now you can unbuckle the halter. If you plan to mount where you are, leave the reins over your horse’s neck. If you want to lead your horse to another area for mounting, remove the reins from over your horse’s neck and lead them by the reins.