Remember, you should never tack up a horse unless you are ready to ride. Brush off any stable or sweat marks, as well as dried mud, especially where the saddle and girth will be. Put the saddle on first; some horses tend to expand their chest when the saddle is first put on, but will relax later, leaving the girth loose. By the time you have put on the bridle, the horse will have relaxed and you can then tighten the girth before you mount. Don’t leave a horse standing with its saddle on when you have finished riding. If it wants to roll, it will do so even with the saddle in place; this will not only damage the saddle, but can also hurt the horse’s back. Practice the following steps when putting the saddle on.
1) Approach the horse slowly, talking to it all the time. Smooth down the hair on the back, then lay the saddle pads over the withers and saddle area. Put the pad further forward than the final position of the saddle to allow you to move it and the saddle back together later, in the direction of the lie of the coat.
2) Check that the stirrups are run up, and that the girth is fastened on one side and folded over the saddle. Place the saddle on the pad, lowering it vertically so that you do not move the pad. Do not pull the saddle or pad forward because this will rub the horse’s hair the wrong way.
3) Hold the saddle pad well up in the arch and gullet of the saddle, then move the saddle and saddle pad backward together until the saddle sits in its correct position behind the withers. Attach the saddle pad to the saddle by threading the middle girth strap through the loop provided on the pad.
4) Walk around the front of the horse to the other side, going under the neck if necessary. Hang the girth down, and then check that everything is lying flat. Bring the girth down gently; do not throw it over from the other side.
5) Walk back around the horse and fasten the girth. Attach one buckle to the front strap. This strap is attached to the saddle separately so that if it breaks, the other one will hold the girth, and vice versa. Pull the girth tight without wrinkling the skin. You must use the same two straps on both sides of the saddle.
6) Pull the buckle guards down over the buckles of the girth. This stops the buckles from moving around or digging into your legs while you are riding, and prevents them from rubbing and damaging the saddle.
7) After you have checked and tightened the girth, pull each foreleg forward to make sure that no skin is wrinkled under the girth. If the horse reacts as you tighten the girth, it may be a bad habit but could also be because of a back problem or a painful saddle. The girth should lie in front of an imaginary vertical line drawn through the center of the saddle.
When you’re done riding, undo the girth on one side and cross it over the saddle to remove it. Take hold of both the saddle and the saddle pad and lift them off together, moving them slightly backward as you go.