Training ~ In The Saddle - When To Go... ("Printer Friendly" version of this page)
In order to successfully saddle up and ask your horse to carry weight, you have to expose the horse to everything that they are going to need for this experience.
Can you yield your horse? Have you exposed your horse to the tools; tarp, bag, balls, etc.? Can you longe your horse? Can you ground drive your horse? How is your horses posture? Can your horse stand still and calm? If you answered no to any of these then youre not ready to get on. But, you should be getting ready.
do you know when youre ready to get on? The horse is going to tell you.
By this we mean that the horse will have been exposed to enough situations that
this will just be another exercise. Our belief is that you do things on the
horse's time. When they are ready, you'll know. Your horse will yield
softly, he will have a soft eye, you can touch him anywhere, and you will not
have any resistance when you lead, longe or round pen. Your horse must
have a good posture, be calm and relaxed. Can you bring your horse up to you
while you are above them and practice throwing a leg over without having the
horse run off? Dont put a time limit on this. Dont wake up tomorrow
and say "Well, my horse is two. I better get on today". Some
horses are ready at two, some at four. There's nothing that says you definitely
have to start a horse and be on them by a certain age. If a trainer tells
you this, question them!
Use your lead rope or longe line to simulate a girth around the horse's belly.
Rub the horse all over their belly and girth area with the rope.
Use the approach/retreat method of introducing
this to the horse and remember to reward the horse for appropriate behavior.
If you have a 22 foot longe line and a 12 foot lead rope, put the longe line
around the horses midsection and ask the horse to longe with the rope (Longe
Line) around it's belly. Move the rope around while the horse is moving.
Don't be afraid to let go of the rope if things aren't going like you had planned.
You should move the horse until it is desensitized and able to move "softly".
By that, I mean the horse should be relaxed and not head high or scared.
You should also longe your horse off your 12 foot lead rope and 22 foot longe line with the saddle on. You will find that this will focus their energy and thoughts on the task at hand rather than the new saddle on their back.
Ask the horse to plant it's feet correctly by pushing/pulling on the saddle horn. You want to teach the horse that when you are getting ready to mount, they need to have their feet under them and ready to carry your weight.
There's much more to it than this. You also need to prepare your horse for you being on their back. Another helpful exercise is longeing from above the horse on the rail of a fence or arena. This gets the horse used to your body being higher than they've been used to seeing you.
After you feel that things are going well, put one foot in the stirrup and practice adding weight to the saddle. Hold onto the mane and the lead rope at the same time. If things aren't going well, all you have to do is step back off the horse. Bounce up off the ground and stand in the stirrup on each side of the horse. Don't throw a leg over yet. Reach back and pet your horse's rear all over. If you are clumsy, you are going to get this area with your leg when you finally get on. Work it out this way first. Get the horse used to the idea that your leg is going to come over their back by moving your arms in this area.
Be careful not to kick or gouge the horse with your foot in the stirrup. You can ruin days of good work by not paying attention here.
Do this from both sides of the horse. Remember, don't rush it -- the horse will tell you when it's time to throw a leg over by being calm and quiet. Learn to read their body language and posture. When it feels right, all you have to do is bring your leg over and sit like a sack of potatoes -- don't be an active rider at first. Let the horse find its feet and walk around with your weight. Don't restrict forward movement.
If you get into trouble all you have to do is use the emergency brake -- the one rein stop. Don't even consider getting on the horse unless you can do this on the ground.
With a young horse, we don't do anything other than get on and off until they are soft and can deal with this without moving their feet.
The most important thing to remember is to reward the horse for appropriate behavior.
There is some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Horses can cause serious injury. Be sensible and dont attempt anything that is outside your comfort level. This information is intended to illustrate how we apply our training techniques, you are responsible for using this information wisely. If you dont feel comfortable with your abilities or an exercise, dont do it! Seek advice or assistance from a professional horse trainer. Stay on the "high side of trouble".
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Updated Sept. 2012