Before you ride, unless you’re riding bareback, you’ll have to put on a saddle. There are many different kinds of saddles, but this post will address tacking up with a Western saddle specifically. Here’s a step-by-step guide on saddling your horse:
1. Either hook your girth to the saddle or place the girth over the seat with the right stirrup and fender so that they don’t smack your horse as you lift or swing the saddle over their back.
2. Next, place the saddle pad or blanket on your horse’s back, being sure that it’s in the correct position. I like to place my pad slightly over the withers and slowly start pushing it back towards the horse’s rear end, stopping when I feel some resistance. This is generally a good place for your pad. Make sure that the pad is even on both sides. Note: I like to use a Western pad with a cutout for the withers as I find this is more comfortable for the horse.
3. Now it’s time to put your saddle on. Step to your horse’s left side (or on-side), gripping the saddle with your left hand on the horn or pommel and your right hand on the cantle (the back of the seat). Depending on the height of your horse, you may be able to place the saddle on your horse’s back, but if you have a tall horse like I do you’ll probably have to swing it up over the hindquarters and onto the back. Either way, be sure that you place the saddle gently.
4. Go to the other side of your horse and take down your cinch and stirrup. Be sure to do this from the right side instead of pushing it all down from the left side because that can scare your horse.
5. Reach underneath your horse’s belly and grab the cinch so that you can make your latigo knot. Don’t tighten your girth all the way yet; we’re not done!
6. If you have any other equipment such as a breast collar or tie-down, now would be the time to hook that up. Breast collars generally have two pieces coming off of the center that attach to D-rings on your saddle and one piece that goes between the horse’s front legs and attaches to a D-ring on the girth.
7. Now is the time to tighten up your cinch a little. I don’t tighten mine all the way until I’m ready to get on my horse because I like to give him some time to let his barrel relax, which will make the girth loosen up.
It’s good to make sure that your saddle is clean before you put it on. (See how you can keep your saddle in tip-top shape here). Always check all of your tack before you mount, just in case. Now you’re ready for the next step!