6 steps for saddlefitting with a green horse

It should be clear to anyone that a well fitted saddle is a must have for starting a young horse under saddle. Even when starting them on the ground (getting them used to a saddle on their backs and just the weight of the rider) it is of importance, especially with a saddle with a pommel, headplate or hard tree. These tough parts will be pulled tighter onto your horses back when cinched up and will put pressure points on there if they don’t fit, even without a rider.

But how do you deal with this when your horse is still green?

During my years as a coltstarter (read more about my work at: Eager Ears Coltstarting) working with both flexible and treed saddles I developed the following steps and would advice you to use them when dealing with your young horses:

1. Semi-saddlebroke during movement

Before letting your saddlefitter come by it is advisable to make sure your green horse isn’t as green anymore. Use pads, lunging girths and barebackpads to have your understand what it means to carry something on his back and be cinched up. Horses are flight animals and a tight band around their tummy can easily call for some claustrofobic tendencies.

Help him with these now.

2. Saddling

The next step is to use a saddle to teach him to be saddled. I prefer to use an old saddle for this so that I can put it on the ground in case of an emergency and let my horse sniff and maybe even nibble on it but if you’ll take care of it you could always ask a friend to borrow their saddle. Since you’re not really going to cinch it up to move him in it or put a rider on him, this saddle doesn’t necessarily have to fit all too perfectly. You are only going to use it to get your horse accepting you throwing the saddle on his back and pulling it off.

Do make sure there are no old nails or broken parts sticking out anyway that could hurt him.

3. Carrying a passenger

Prepare your horse for saddlefitting by practising carrying someone on his back in standstill and, if possible, ask a friend to walk him a bit with you on his back if he is ready for it. If you’ve prepared him well then this shouldn’t be a problem. Rub him in standstill with your legs before walking off to make sure your dangling legs don’t spook him.

4. First Saddlefitting

Now it’s finally time for a saddlefitting consultation. Let your saddlefitter know, on time, that you’re dealing with a green horse, and hów green he is. Also share your plans to buy a saddle or what your budget can handle so he/she can help you with finding a solution.

5. Starting under saddle

Ideally you can ride in a lease or borrowed saddle when really starting your horse under saddle for the first few rides. Ask your saddlefitter for help: some fitters offer options for leasing or they might know where it’s possible. This way you won’t be stuck with a saddle that you haven’t even been able to properly ride in yet.

6. Full Consultation

When your horse knows the basic gaits under saddle it’s advisable to invite your saddlefitter for a second, full consultation to really fit a saddle in detail, after which you’ll have two options:

  • If the fitting saddle if a regular treed saddle that isn’t really adjustable and your horse is not only lacking muscle but also young then there’s a big chance he is going to grow out of his saddle soon. In this case you might want to look for a secondhand saddle for a good price or find someone to lease you the saddle temporarily.
  • Especially when you’re dealing with a flexible (depending on what way it’s flexible) or adjustable saddle buying a saddle can sometimes be a good choice. One of the reasons that we work with flexible or treeless saddles is that they are more easily adjustable to horses when they change shape. Learn more about this by watching our selection video on the Brands page. 

Ask your saddlefitter for advice about your situation and how big the chance is that your horse is going to outgrow this specific saddle soon.

If you would like to put a saddle up for lease or find someone that offers the exact saddle you are looking for, have a look the ‘Saddle for lease’ facebook group HERE —> Saddle for lease

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