How to Saddle a Horse Western

Three Parts:Preparing Your HorseSecuring the SaddleMaking Final Preparations

Western saddles are typically made of leather, built for riding over long periods of time while herding cattle. They tend to be heavier than English saddles, due to the materials used, and the Western rider can hold both of the reins in one hand, instead of holding one in each hand with the English model. But perhaps the biggest difference is that the Western saddle is designed to distribute the rider's weight more evenly. This makes it more comfortable for horses to carry riders over long distances for prolonged periods of time.[1] Knowing how to properly saddle a horse is important, both for the rider's safety and for the comfort of the horse.

Part 1
Preparing Your Horse

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    Groom your horse. Before you strap a saddle on your horse, it's important to ensure that your horse's hair is clean, and that he does not have any sores on his skin.
    • Use a curry comb to detangle dirt, mud, and any other debris that might be matted in your horse's hair. Do not use the curry comb over any bony parts of the horse's body, as these may be more sensitive and could be injured by aggressive combing. Do not curry comb the neck and face. [2]
    • Use a stiff-bristled body brush, also called the dandy brush, to continue dislodging hard-to-remove debris and remove the debris you've already dislodged. You can use this brush on the neck, chest, and legs. [3]
    • Use a soft brush to gently flick away the debris removed by the curry comb and the body brush. Use this brush to do the face and legs.[4]
    • Finish things off by gently wiping down your horse's face and body with a clean grooming cloth.[5]
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    Check your gear. Inspect the saddle and pad for any foreign objects that could cause irritation to your horse.[6]
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    Set the saddle pad on your horse. It's important to position the saddle pad properly, as this will be the barrier between your saddle and the horse's skin.
    • Put the saddle pad on the withers (shoulders), slightly forward of where you want it to end up. The saddling process will inevitably drag the saddle pad back, so starting slightly forward should allow the saddle and pad to end up where you want them. Never slide the saddle pad forward on your horse's back for you will cause the hair to go against the grain and make it uncomfortable for the horse.[7]

Part 2
Securing the Saddle

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    Grab the cinches, straps, and stirrups. Lift the saddle in such a way that none of these attachments will get caught under the saddle.[8]
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    Lift the saddle onto your horse. If you have a hard time lifting the saddle, you may need to request assistance during this step.
    • Stand next to your horse's left shoulder.
    • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, with your left foot near the horse's left hoof and your right foot slightly behind your left.[9]
    • Swing your torso and hoist the saddle up, so that your right arm ends up draped across the horse's back. This should land the saddle right on the saddle pad, on your horse's back.[10]
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    Lower the cinches and stirrups. Allow them to hang down across your horse.
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    Make the horse put his front hoof forward to avoid causing sores in the girth area on your horse where there are wrinkles in the horse's skin. Snug the front cinch (also called a girth). This should be done on your horse's left side, and should snug your saddle into place.[11]
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    Tighten the back cinch. It's important to keep the back cinch tight, as this will keep the saddle from lifting up during riding. (Some saddles do not have a back cinch. Despite what the picture depicts, please assure that the girth is hooked on before you start with the other cinches)[12]
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    Attach the breast collar (if you use one). There are a number of different types of breast plate, and each one will require different assembly instructions.
    • Ensure that the breast collar's center cinch strip is aligned with the center of your horse's stomach.
    • Thread the latigo from the left side through the ring on the end of the cinch and D ring twice.
    • Pull tightly, then thread the latigo around the back of the D ring to the left, around front then back through. The end should then come through the middle of the D ring, and thread down behind the loop made (like tying a tie), pulling tightly again.

Part 3
Making Final Preparations

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    Pull out any skin that may have gotten trapped under the cinches. One way of doing this is by gently bending your horse's front two legs at the knees, stretching out the belly and freeing any flesh that may have been caught in the cinches.[13]
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    Untie your horse. Be sure that your saddle is properly attached before you untie your horse.
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    Remember to mount from your horse's left side. Most horses are accustomed to being mounted from the left, and may become frightened if you attempt to mount from the right. Before mounting, ALWAYS check the tightness of the cinch (or girth).[14]


  • Before saddling, always brush the horse thoroughly to remove dirt and loose hair. Don't forget to pick out the hooves, too.
  • Before mounting, test the saddle to make sure it's tight and won't slip.
  • One of the most important parts of the horse to check before saddling is the girth path. Make sure there is no mud or dirt that will rub and irritate the horse.
  • If you give treats before and after, it may help build trust between you and your horse.
  • After you're done putting on the saddle, check to make sure you did everything right.
  • After tightening the cinch, walk the horse forward a step or two and re-tighten the cinch. Some horses will do something called bloating where they hold their breath when the cinch is first tightened to make the saddle loose.
  • Adjust the girth as needed while you are riding so you don't fall off.
  • Make sure the horse is properly tied before saddling.


  • Place the saddle gently on the horse's back, trying not to drop it down too hard.
  • When mounting afterwards, don't plop down in the saddle; you can hurt your horse's back this way. You can use a mounting block, to take away some of the stress.
  • Be sure there is a strap connecting the rear cinch to the front cinch, so that the rear cinch doesn't slide back, causing the horse discomfort. It can turn into a bucking strap real fast!

Things You'll Need

  • Western saddle
  • Horse
  • Halter
  • Lead Rope
  • Saddle pad/blanket
  • Grooming tools

Article Info

Categories: Tack (Saddles and Bridles)