Walden Farm & Ranch

How To Saddle A Horse - Western Riding

Tacking up your horse for Western riding can be done in a few steps. Tacking up means putting any equipment on your horse that you need to ride. Doing it right will keep you and your horse safe and comfortable.

This article explains how to tack up in 6 steps, how to put on a horse saddle in 8 steps, and how to bridle your horse in 9 steps. Plus tips to help you along the way.

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How To Tack Up in 6 Steps

Tacking up your horse includes putting on a saddle, saddle pad or blanket, and other equipment, like a bridle, girth or cinch, and any other gear necessary for riding. 

  1. Groom your horse: Before tacking up, you should groom the horse to remove any dirt or debris from its coat. Use a curry comb to loosen dirt, a stiff brush to remove it, and a soft brush to finish cleaning. Also, check the hooves to make sure they are free of debris and clean.

  2. Get your horse tack ready: Get all the equipment you need to tack up the horse, including a saddle, saddle pad, saddle blanket, bridle, a girth, reins, bridle, bit, martingale or breastplate, and any other gear you are using. 

  3. Put on the saddle: Start by placing the saddle pad or blanket on the horse's back, then position the saddle on top of it. Make sure the saddle sits evenly on the horse's back and the gullet clears the spine. Tighten the girth until it's snug but not too tight. Follow the steps below for more details. 

  4. Put on the bridle: Hold the bridle in one hand and the reins in the other. Position the bit in the horse's mouth, then slide the bridle over the horse's ears. Adjust the cheekpieces so the bit sits comfortably in the horse's mouth. Follow the steps below for more details. 

  5. Adjust the equipment: Check all the equipment to make sure it's adjusted correctly and fits the horse comfortably. Make sure the stirrups are even, the reins are the correct length, and the horse can move freely.

  6. Finish up: Once the horse is tacked up, you're almost ready to ride. Double-check all the equipment to make sure it's secure, then lead the horse to the mounting block or prepare to mount from the ground.

How To Put On A Horse Saddle in 8 Steps

We are focusing on tacking up for Western riding. These are the steps:

  1. Brush your horse's back and girth area to remove any dirt or grit that might cause chaffing under the saddle or girth. While grooming, use this as an opportunity to check for any sore spots or chaffing.

    Horse Pad Without Wrinkles
  2. Position the saddle pad or blanket over the horse's withers and slide it back into place, making sure it's even on both sides and not folded, wrinkled, or curling.

    Lift Saddle High When Placing On Your Horse
  3. Lift the saddle onto your horse's back and make sure it’s high enough not to push the saddle pad out of position. The offside stirrup of a Western saddle should be hooked over the horn or folded over the seat. The girth buckle or cinch (if you have them) should be folded back over the saddle seat. The saddle should be placed slightly forward and settled back. Make sure to place it as gently as possible so you don’t spook your horse or cause your the horse to resent being saddled or "cold backed."

  4. Check the pad or blanket for any wrinkles beneath the saddle on both sides. Buckle or tie the girth or cinch on the offside and check again that the pad or blanket is flat and the horse's hair beneath it stays smooth and lies in the natural direction it grows.

    Tighten Cinch or Girth Slowly and Gently
  5. Tighten the girth or cinch gently in small increments, waiting for your horse to exhale before tightening again. This prevents it from being too tight which can injure your horse. Make sure you can slide your fingers between the girth or cinch and your horse's body. If you cinch up too fast or too tight, your horse might bite or buck. It may also become “girthy” and resent having a girth. 

  6. Loop the tabs at the front of the saddle pad, if there are any, through the D-rings at the front of your saddle to prevent the pad from slipping back.

  7. Double-check everything, making sure the saddle is centered and level and the girth or cinch is tightened just right.

  8. Take a quick walk with your horse to make sure everything feels good before you start your ride.

Make Sure Your Saddle Fits Properly

Tips for Saddling A Horse - Before You Saddle Up

How To Bridle A Horse In 9 Steps

Putting on a bridle on a horse can seem a bit intimidating at first, but with practice, it can become a quick and easy process. Here are the basic steps to follow:

  1. Approach your horse calmly and stand on its left side.

  2. Hold the bridle by the cheekpieces with your right hand, making sure the reins are untangled and facing upwards.

  3. With your left hand, grasp the horse's halter at the noseband and lift it slightly.

  4. Slide the bit into the horse's mouth from the front, making sure it's centered and not too high or too low.

  5. Reach over the horse's head with your right hand and guide the crownpiece (the top strap of the bridle) over the horse's ears, making sure the forelock is not caught underneath.

  6. Check that the throatlatch (the strap under the horse's throat) is adjusted so that you can fit one or two fingers between it and the horse's throat.

  7. Adjust the cheekpieces on both sides of the horse's head so that the bit is in the correct position in the horse's mouth, and the bridle is not too loose or too tight.

  8. Connect the reins to the bit on both sides of the horse's head, making sure they are even in length.

  9. Finally, remove the horse's halter, being sure to keep one hand on the horse at all times to prevent it from moving away before you're ready.

Remember to approach the horse calmly and with confidence, and always check that the bridle is adjusted correctly and the horse is comfortable before riding.

Final Thoughts

Properly saddling up a horse is essential for a safe and enjoyable ride. Taking the time to check for any injuries or sore spots, using the correct saddle for your horse, and cleaning the horse's back and girth area are all important steps to ensure the horse's comfort. 

Following the steps outlined in this article for positioning the saddle pad, lifting the saddle, and tightening the girth or cinch will also help prevent discomfort and injury for the horse. 

By taking these simple steps, you can bond with your horse before hitting the trail and enjoy a successful ride. Remember to approach your horse calmly and gently, and always double-check everything before starting your ride.