HIDEAWAY TRAINING TIP
FIRST SADDLE UP AND MOUNTING
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OK, so you have done all the round pen work, sacked your horse out so that he is bomb proof, taught him to lower his head and pick up his feet. It's time for that really big leap of faith to put a rider on his back for the first time.
This lesson presumes that you have worked through all
the previous lesson well and feel confident that your horse is a willing
partner. You should not try this if you are not confident in your ability
to work with horses. Remember the old saying "Green on green equals
black and blue!" If you are the green rider attempting to climb on
a green horse, you are likely the one to become black and blue (or worse).
At all times, you must be prepared for the
unexpected. Pay attention to your horse. If at any point he starts to
get upset, back up to earlier in the lesson, to a point at which he is
comfortable, and pick up from there. The biggest mistake people make is
to move through the steps too fast. The time you spend here is an investment.
You can spend some time now doing it right or you can spend a lot of time
later to fix problems (and maybe yourself).
We begin with the horse in the middle of the round
pen with a halter and lead. We calmly introduce the horse to the saddle
blanket and take the time to make him feel comfortable with it as we rub
it all over him. Then gently place it on his back. Next we introduce him
to the saddle by carrying it to his front and just letting him look at
it and smell it until he is comfortable.
It's time to take the lead rope off and move the horse
around the pen on his own. Try to get him to move off slowly and walk
around the pen a few times. If he moves off into a trot or canter, that
is OK too, I just like to keep things moving slowly and incrementally
if I can. Don't worry if he bucks a few times either, Just keep him moving.
If he walks off, keep him moving around the pen a few times and then ask
him to trot. Again, if he goes right to a canter, this is OK. Now keep
him moving around the pen at a trot for a few laps and then move him into
a canter. Keep him moving at the canter until he seem comfortable and
not overly upset at the saddle.
Most horses will feel pretty comfortable at the walk
& trot and generally don't buck. However, when we move the horse to
a canter, most horses will buck a few times as they get used to the restrictive
feeling of the cinch. I've come to believe that it is the pressure of
the cinch that concerns horses much more than the weight of a saddle on
Now put the lead rope back on and hold the end. Go
to the horse's near side and put the palm of one hand in the stirrup and
slowly press downward applying some pressure to begin to accustom the
horse to weight in the stirrup. Release and repeat a few times. Go to
the off side of the horse and do the same thing. Repeat, alternating sides
until the horse is completely comfortable with significant pressure in
the stirrups on both sides.
Next, while standing on the horses left side, near
his shoulder, turn the stirrup towards you and place your RIGHT FOOT gently
in the stirrup. We use the right foot because it will keep our body closer
to the front of the horse while we accustom him to bearing weight. This
is a safe place to be incase the horse would kick with a back foot. It
also seems a little easier for the horse to get used to bearing the weight
when it is a little more forward. Hold the lead rope with lots of slack
and the saddle horn with your left hand and grasp the cantle with your
right hand. Gently step in the stirrup enough to lift your left foot about
a foot off the ground and immediately step back down. Repeat this on both
sides until the horse is comfortable with the action. Use your LEFT FOOT
on the off side. Slowly increase the height that you are stepping until
you can stand straight up in the stirrup with the horse remaining calm.
Remember to work both sides.
Remember to praise and pet your horse often to keep
him calm and confident in you.
Give the horse a pat on the neck and yourself a pat
on the back. You both have taken a very big step.
At all times, you must be prepared for the unexpected. Pay attention to your horse. If at any point he starts to get upset, back up to earlier in the lesson, to a point at which he is comfortable, and pick up from there. The biggest mistake people make is to move through the steps too fast. The time you spend here is an investment. You can spend some time now doing it right or you can spend a lot of time later to fix problems (and maybe yourself).