The process of saddling and unsaddling a horse is more than just technically correct saddle fitting. Proper saddling is all about attention to detail and grooming your horse before and after riding. They are the key to a pleasant ride – both for the rider and the animal.
An improperly saddled horse is like a person wearing ill-fitting shoes. In the same way that our feet start to hurt and wounds appear, the horse’s back starts to hurt and even get wounds from the riding equipment. Whether riding an English or Western saddle, the basics of saddling are the same. The goal is safety and comfort for both horse and rider. What should you keep in mind?
In the beginning, it’s mandatory that we brush the horse’s back and sides. We should pay attention to removing any dirt or particles that might cause abrasions under the saddle or girth. We should brush in such a way that all the hair lies flat. If we leave sand on the horse’s back or in the girth area, it can lead to painful abrasions or irritation, which in turn can make the horse anxious.
If using a western saddle blanket, it is usually folded in half. The fold should go forward when the blanket is on the horse. Alternatively, we can use a Western saddle blanket, which does not require folding. An English chapeau, on the other hand, can be shaped to fit snugly under the saddle and may have ties or Velcro closure straps attached to a ring on the saddle. It helps keep it in place while riding
The tabs or ties mentioned naturally go on top, not on the horse’s skin. The cap or blanket is placed on the horse’s back with the front over the withers and then slid back into place. This placement ensures that the hair on the horse’s back lies flat under the pad and saddle. Making sure the blanket or pad is level on both sides, check that the pad or blanket is not folded, wrinkled or curled.
At this stage we fasten the girth buckle or loosely tie the strap. We must remember to tighten the girth gently or tighten in small steps. If we girdle the horse suddenly and tightly, it may kick or bite. The horse may begin to feel stressed and act anxious. It is important that we remain calm, composed and gentle, wait for the horse to exhale and only then gently tighten the girth.
At the end we should check if there are no wrinkles on the skin under the girth. It is good to stand facing the horse, lift the front leg, holding the wrist, and pull it forward. This is done for both front legs. Why As the horse moves, you may find that the girth becomes looser. Always check the girth before getting on and after a few minutes of riding.
When the horse is in the stall after the ride, we can begin to saddle him up, which should be preceded by praise for a successful ride. Then we take off the reins and the saddle (by ourselves or with the help of someone strong, if we are not able to do it ourselves). Clean the saddle under running water, put it back in place. The most important part of saddling up is cleaning the horse with a brush, comb and shovel. We clean the horse thoroughly from the front, going downwards. During the whole activity it is good to talk to the horse and stay in contact with him.
Main photo: Mikayla Storms/unsplash.com