Knowing how to properly saddle a horse is the very first thing that every horseback rider should learn before jumping in the saddle and riding off into the sunset. First, I am hoping you’re familiar with the horse you are about to saddle. It is a good idea to let the horse know who you are by giving a few friendly scratches on his or her head and neck. Next, brush the horse with a medium bristle body brush to get any loose hair and dirt off of the back of the horse. Then you should clean the horse’s hooves with a hoof pick.
Typically all saddling should be done on the left side of the horse. Place the saddle pad on the back of the horse and pay attention to how the horse reacts to this. The horses reaction will tell you a little about the horses mood and or how broke/disciplined the horse actually is.
A saddle pad provides a cushion between the saddle and the horses back. This prevents uneven saddle pressure and saddle sores, which are produced by excessive rubbing during the walking/loping motion of the horse.
The saddle pad should be placed so that the opening in the pad roughly fits onto the withers of the horses shoulders. The withers are found at the end of the horse’s mane. Make sure the saddle pad is evenly placed on the horses back and place the saddle on top leaving about 1-2 inches from the front of the saddle to the front of the saddle pad.
Now that you have the pad and the saddle in a position that looks comfortable, locate the cinch and the cinch strap. Place the strap in the cinch loop and through the saddle loop so that the cinch wraps under the belly of the horse. Wrap the strap through the saddle loop and cinch loop one more time and place the cinch belt buckle in a hole on the cinch strap. The cinch should be tight enough to secure the saddle, but not too tight.
You should be able to place 2-3 fingers between the cinch and the horse’s belly. Wrap the remaining end of the cinch strap within the saddle loop. Check the saddle and make sure it is fitting the horse properly. There should be about 4 fingers in width from the horse’s front leg to the side of the cinch.
Also check the lengths of the saddle stirrups. You should be able to stand in the saddle and fit a single fist between you and the saddle in the standing position.
After riding for a bit, check your cinch again to make sure it is tight. Horses tend to breath in while you tighten the cinch the first time. They are smarter than they look! Now the horse is saddled and you are ready to put the bridle on the horse.