Training

On the Fence

Use a fence to practice your saddling technique.

From AQHA's "Fundamentals of Horsemanship"

Most horsemen have gone through the frustration that comes from trying to throw a saddle on your horse before it becomes rote muscle memory. Here, "Fundamentals of Horsemanship" offers a way to help you develop your saddling technique so that eventually you'll be spared the agony that can come with saddling. All you'll need for this lesson are a saddle and a fence.

While standing in front of a fence, place the inside of the saddle against your hip bone, the seat facing outward with the straps or D's at the girth or cinch almost touching your hip bone.

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The correct position of your hands on the saddle is very important to keep the saddle open and avoid folding one of the flaps or skirts underneath.

Try to develop a "1-2-3" rhythm, gathering a little momentum for a clean swing up onto the horse's back. In this way, the horse will be much less likely to move, become agitated or make a negative association with process of being saddled.

The initial training will not be on the horse but on you to develop the right technique. Saddle the fence several times from either side, always trying to place the saddle ever more smoothly and lightly onto the fence. Saddling in this manner will mean that you will not have to lift the saddle in both arms above the horse, a movement that can bother young horses.

Remember:

    • Clumsy saddling technique around young or complicated horses can lead to defensive reactions and occasionally to accidents; that's why this exercise can be so valuable.
    • Considerate and careful saddling technique is a characteristic of any true horseman. It is essential that the horse not associate the saddling process with discomfort.
    • This method will help you develop muscle memory so that these movements become automatic and are not hampered by the thinking process.
    • Keep in mind that this is not an exercise in strength but a question of technique; when the right technique is used, very little physical effort is required.
    • Do not hoist the saddle; it should be a swinging movement finished by careful positioning.
    • Do not make any noise as you place your saddle on the fence, whether metal or wooden; the effect will be the same on the horse.

Developing yourself as a great horseman is a lifelong journey. Let AQHA's "Fundamentals of Horsemanship" be your roadmap.