1. Prepare your horse for receiving the saddle.
Begin by tying your horse securely to a hitching post, stall ring or trailer. The use of a quick release knot or a metal tie ring can help in the event your horse is spooked or feels the need to pull back. Then use good quality horse supplies like grooming brushes, curry combs and hoof picks to clean and remove any dirt, mud, or wood shavings from the horses coat and feet. Pay special attention to cleaning your horse’s back and belly. This will ensure that the saddle and cinches will not cause any irritations when placed on the horse.
2. Inspect your saddle and saddle pad.
Make sure your saddle and saddle pad are clean and in good working order. Remove any dirt or debris from padding (or fleece) beneath the saddle. Also cleaning your saddle pad or blanket will provide greater comfort to your horse and help to prevent sores or bruising by the saddle. Inspect your saddle for any missing parts (like Conchos, stirrup hobble straps, metal D-rings, screws, etc.)
3. Place your saddle pad on the horse.
Place your saddle pad or blanket onto the horse’s back. I like to place it a bit forward and upon the horse’s withers to start and then side it back a little to where is appears to be centered. Make sure the horse’s mane or wither hairs are not tangled or being pulled on beneath the pad.
4. Place your saddle on the saddle pad and horse.
Position on yourself with the saddle being held by both hands on either side of your horse. I like to saddle my horses from either side of them. I feel always saddling from the same side may cause the horse to become one-sided. I think it’s also good to step up on your horse from either side. I like my horses to feel comfortable when I am on either side of them. I then rest the saddle on my hip and then use a swinging and lifting motion, I raise the saddle up to the horse’s back. Center the saddle on the saddle pad. Make sure that your saddle pad extends at least one inch from the front and back of your saddle. Then lift the front of your saddle pad up and away from the horse’s withers. Once again, check to make sure that the horse’s mane or wither hairs are not tangle or being pulled on by the pad or saddle. I like to stand off to the side of the horse and visually see if the saddle is lying level on his back. Another way to check for proper saddle placement is to make sure you have one hand’s width of distance between the horse’s elbow and the front cinch. Placing the front cinch too close or next to his elbow can cause pinching or too much pressure from the saddle onto his shoulders.
5. Secure your saddle onto the horse.
When I’m not using my saddles, I like to tie my cinches, latigo, and breast collar on top of my saddles. I usually leave them tied up on top of my saddle even when I go to lift and place my saddle on the horse. After saddle placement, then I untie these items and let them hang down from the saddle. I always start by securing the front cinch. Exercise caution when reaching underneath your horse to grab any cinches (front or back) from the off or left side of the horse. I recommend standing next to his left front leg facing backwards and then using your left arm to reach under the horse. This allows you to look at his hind leg in case he decides to kick or jump. I thread the latigo (leather front strap on the saddle) through the front cinch buckle several times. Pull and tighten the latigo/cinch until the saddle doesn’t slide from side to side. Use either a “T” cross knot or use the tongue of the front cinch buckle to lock the cinch. If you are using a back cinch, make sure the front and back cinches are connected with a connecting strap. I like to leave about an inch of spacing between the back cinch and the horses belly when I’ve buckled and locked the back cinch into place. Having the back cinch too loose may allow a horse to get his hind foot tangled in it and having it too tight may cause him to be uncomfortable.
6. Relax your horse and perform final inspection.
I find relaxing my horse by walking him around for a few minutes helps to ensure a well fit and properly cinched saddle. I will usually rock the saddle from side to side while still standing on the ground to make sure it’s secure and that it’s going to stay in place when I get up into the saddle. I find that I usually have to tighten the front cinch a bit more before stepping up into the saddle. The end of your latigo should now be inserted into its keeper. All buckles should be locked and secured.
Having a properly fitting saddle will help ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience. If you have further questions regarding this article, please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit your local western tack shop for advice and help.
BY RON CALDWELL (TACKGUY)
A.A. CALLISTER CORPORATION (www.callisters.com)