A good ride starts with a properly saddled horse. You can prefer Western saddles, hunting models, or even jumping saddles if that’s your thing. But you won’t get anywhere - and you might even get hurt - if your horse isn’t saddled right.
We’ll keep it short and get right to the point. Before we begin, you must brush your horse first. Remove all the dirt until the horse’s hair is flat. Even if you do everything right, leaving grit under the saddle will cause the horse discomfort and pain.
With that out of the way, let's get going!
Place the Blanket Evenly Across Both Sides
It all starts with the blanket. The blanket is the foundation of a well-positioned saddle, so don’t just toss it over the horse.
When placing the blanket, put it below the mane and then slide it into position below the shoulders. By sliding the blanket, you make sure the hair remains flat underneath the saddle, avoiding possible discomfort for the animal.
Firstly, don’t go below the hips when sliding the blanket. Secondly, make sure the blanket is evenly distributed across both sides. After that, we can move on to placing the saddle.
Position the Saddle
The big step. Firstly, put the stirrup and the cinch straps onto the saddle. If you’re unsure what these things are, they’re the straps and belts you use to tie the saddle to the horse and place your feet while riding. So fold all of that stuff up before lifting the saddle onto the animal.
When placing the saddle, similar rules apply to placing the blanket. The saddle should sit naturally along the horse’s back curve. Do not place it too close to the shoulders on the front; the horse needs the room here to move properly.
Similarly, don’t put the saddle too close to the horse’s hips on the back; the animal will be in pain if you put such pressure on its hips.
Once the saddle is in the correct position, put all the straps down, make sure they aren’t stuck anywhere, and prepare for the next step.
Buckle Up, But Properly
First you’ll want to make sure the animal stands evenly on both front legs. Then, gently take the girth or the cinch below the horse’s belly. Tie the cinch, slowly; make sure that it’s not too close to the horse’s elbows, or what some folks call the armpits. Leave about a palm’s width of space between the elbows and the cinch.
Do not tighten the cinch too hard. It’s a common misconception that tightening the saddle hard will make the saddle more stable. It won’t, it will just make the horse uncomfortable or cause pain.
With that said, these are the three most common mistakes people make when positioning their saddle, and we say avoid them.
- Don’t place the saddle too close to the shoulders or too close to the hips
- Don’t put the cinch too close to the horse’s elbows
- Don’t tighten the saddle too much
We hope this brief guide was helpful. Happy Riding!