This is the first of several posts on introducing a young horse to a saddle.
Sebastian and I have been playing a lot with saddle blankets, cinches, bareback pads and saddles over the past month. He’s done great and accepted all of this in stride. In fact, the first time I saddled him, he stood calmly at liberty like a pro and then walked off quietly at liberty as if he had done it a million times before.
Maybe he’s just an awesome horse. (which he is, of course!) However, our success with this so far is because we’ve taken the time it takes. By making sure he was prepared and ready for each step of the process, we now have a horse who’s easy to saddle. He still needs lots of practice, of course, but if you take the proper steps in the beginning, it usually takes less time in the end!
I’ll post several posts over the next week of preparing Sebastian to be saddled and then his first time wearing a saddle. They’re relatively boring, in some respect, but in many cases, good training, especially at the beginning, looks pretty boring. If the horse is wide eyed and bucking, tearing around the pen, the trainer probably skipped a step or two (or maybe ten!) somewhere along the way.
This video is from a little over a month ago. The first thing I do is let him touch the pad with his nose–investigate it on his own. Sebastian is a horse who for a long time was pretty skeptical about being touched and about encountering new objects. He seems relaxed and unbothered about the saddle blanket being near him, so I move on to gently rubbing his shoulder with the pad. By doing this, he can feel the text of the blanket. Also, this isn’t too different from something he’s already familiar with, being groomed with a brush.
Next I move on to actually placing the pad on his back. Watch his body language–he’s not completely comfortable with this. He raises his head a bit when the saddle blanket goes on and he moves his away at one point.
What’s most important for tasks like this is repetition. Just because a horse does something once does not mean he understands the task or will readily consent to it again. Practicing at a level the horse is comfortable is what will make a solid horse over time.
I often like to train at liberty. If the horse isn’t tied, he’s always free to leave. And if the horse is repeatedly trying to leave, he’s trying to tell you something!
However, Sebastian remained relatively calm and relaxed for most of this short session. It wasn’t perfect, but he did great for his first time having something funny flapping around above him.