Brush your horse’s back and girth area being
careful to remove any dirt or grit that may
cause chaffing under the saddle pad or girth.
Brush so all the hair lies flat. It is
traditional to saddle from the near side
(left side) but you should be able to saddle
from the right (off side) if necessary.
Check for any sores or wounds that may cause
discomfort under the saddle pads area. Don't
place a saddle pad over a wound.
If you are using a
Western Saddle blanket it
will be generally folded in half. The fold
should go to the front when the blanket is
on the horse.
A saddle pad may be shaped to fit neatly
under the saddle and may have ties or hook
and loop fastener tabs that attach to a
D-ring on the saddle and help keep it in
place while riding. These tabs or ties go on
the top side, not against the horse.
Place the saddle pads or blanket on the
horse’s back positioning it forward over the
withers and sliding it back into place. This
ensures that the hair on the horse’s back
lies flat beneath the saddle pad and saddle. Make
sure the blanket or saddle pads are even on both
The stirrups on an
Western Saddle should be
run up the leathers, and the offside stirrup
Western saddle should be hooked over
the horn or folded over the seat. The girth
or cinch, if they are attached should be
folded back over the saddle seat. With
stirrups and cinch out of the way, they
won’t hit the horse as you lift the saddle
over the horse’s back.
Lift the saddle high enough that it doesn’t
hit the horse or knock the saddle pad out of
position. The saddle should be placed
slightly forward and settled back. Be
careful to place the saddle gently on the
horse’s back. Letting a saddle fall heavily
onto your horse’s back may cause it to
spook, resent being saddled (become ‘cold
backed’) or over time cause injury.
Move to the offside to take the stirrup down
on a Western saddle and check the saddle pads or
blanket so there is no wrinkles beneath the
saddle on both sides. If the girth or cinch
is not already attached on the off side,
buckle or tie it. Be sure as you smooth the
blanket or saddle pad that the hair beneath stays
smooth and lying in the natural direction it
Move to the near side, reach beneath the
horse and pick up the free end of the girth
Either buckle the girth or tie the cinch up
loosely. Tighten the girth or cinch gently
in small increments. It’s common to girth a
horse up suddenly and tightly causing the
horse to kick or bite. This can cause the
horse to resent being girthed up and become
‘girthy’. Some horses may bloat themselves
in anticipation of discomfort. Ask the horse
to step forward, wait a moment for it to
exhale and tighten the girth gently again.
Only tighten the girth enough to hold the
saddle firmly in place. Some riders feel the
tighter the girth the more secure they will
be. There should be no need to make link
sausage out of your horse by over tightening
the girth—this can lead to injury and may
compromise your horse’s breathing. You
should be able to slide your fingers between
the girth or cinch and your horse.
If there are tabs at the front of your
saddle pads, loop them through the D-rings at
the front of the saddle and tie or fasten
As a last step, make sure there are no
wrinkles in the skin under the girth. Stand
at your horse’s head facing back. Pick up
one front leg by holding the pastern or low
on the canon and stretch it forward. Do this
for both front legs.
As a horse works you may find the girth
becomes looser. Always check the girth
before mounting and again after a few
minutes of riding.