How to put a saddle on a horse

Maybe it’s your first time saddling a horse, or perhaps you haven’t saddled a horse in a while and you need a refresher. Whatever your situation, it’s crucial to get the process right so that your horse feels comfortable wearing the saddle

The term “saddling” can be used to refer to simply putting a saddle on a horse or as a catch-all term for “tacking up” a horse, which is when you put on both the saddle and bridle. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to saddle a horse like a seasoned equestrian. 

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How to saddle a horse

Getting the saddling process right prevents a well-fitting saddle from pinching, rubbing, or generally feeling uncomfortable on the horse’s back, which is imperative. 

Secure your horse

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There are a couple of things to do before you start to saddle your horse. The first is to make sure they’re properly secured. Your horse should be wearing a halter with a lead rope attached to the lead and tie them. Use a quick-release knot to secure your horse to an appropriate location. You can either tie a single lead rope to a fence post or use a crosstie setup. Assuming your horse is at an equestrian facility, there’ll be dedicated spots for tying horses.

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Groom your horse

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Wahl Professional Soft Body Brush

The second step before saddling up is to groom your ride to remove mud, dust and dried sweat. All-over grooming is ideal, but at the very least, groom the areas where the saddle and girth sit since dirt in these areas could cause the saddle to rub. The Wahl Professional Soft Body Brush is an excellent choice for this.

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Put on the saddle pad

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Saddle pad

A saddle pad, also known as a numnah, is a pad that sits underneath the saddle to prevent chafing and increase a horse’s comfort. Position the saddle pad a short way up the neck, then slide it back into position, so the front of the pad sits around the point of the withers or where the mane ends. Sliding the saddle pad back in this way makes sure the hair below the pad is smoothed in the correct direction, so your horse is more comfortable.

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Put on the saddle

Now it’s time to put the saddle on your horse. Although Western saddles and English saddles are different in their construction, placing the saddle on is much the same for both types. Stand on the left side of your horse and gently place the saddle on top of the saddle pad, making sure the girth and stirrups are out of the way, so they don’t hit your horse as you put the saddle on them. The saddle’s horn or pommel should sit just over the highest point of your horse’s withers. 

Do up the girth or cinch



With the saddle in place, you must do up the girth or cinch. This is the strap that fits around your horse’s underside from one side of the saddle to the other, keeping the saddle in place. Types of girths can vary slightly, but they generally have buckles that attach to straps on the saddle. Make sure to buckle the girth tightly enough so the saddle won’t slip but not so tight that it hurts your horse. You should be able to fit a flat hand between your horse and the girth. 

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How to bridle a horse

If you want to know how to put a saddle on a horse, you’ll probably also need to put a bridle on them, too, as this is the piece that guides your horse when you’re riding. Although the process is simple in theory, it can be trickier than putting on a saddle, depending on how willing the horse is to take a bit. 

Put the reins over the neck

Start by putting the bridle’s reins over your horse’s neck to give you some control of them should they start to wander off, and then remove the halter since they will need to come off before you can put the bridle on your horse. 

Get into position

Once you’re in the proper position and holding the rest of the bridle correctly, it will be much simpler to put it on your horse. With the reins still over your horse’s neck, stand to their left-hand side, just behind their head, and face forward in the same direction your horse is looking. Hold the bridle in your left hand around halfway up the cheekpieces, with the bit hanging down. Take your right arm and put it under your horse’s neck, and gently place your hand on your horse’s nose.

Introduce the bit

Once you’re in position, transfer the bridle into your right hand, which should be on the right side of your horse’s face with the right arm under the neck. This position allows you to keep your horse from raising its nose too high while holding the bridle in the same hand. Lift the bridle slowly and gently bring the bit to your horse’s mouth. 

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Horse treat

Most horses won’t open right up, but you can use your free left hand to gently massage the gums until your horse gets the idea and opens their mouth. You can also try using a horse treat to encourage their mouth to open. Once they open up, quickly but gently raise the bit, so it’s sitting in your horse’s mouth. Finally, position the headpiece over the ears to keep the bridle in place.  

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Buckle the straps

The final step is to buckle up the noseband and the throat latch. These shouldn’t be too tight. You should be able to get a fist between your horse’s jaw and the throat latch and two fingers between the noseband and your horse’s muzzle. With both the saddle and bridle on your horse, you’re now ready to ride. 

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