MOUNTING & DISMOUNTING
|1. Horses should have already been brushed
(refer to Grooming to Show article if you have
questions about how to groom).
2. All tack should be in good working order
including: clean, oiled and free of wear and tear.
1. Check saddle pad for dirt, debris and anything that may potentially poke the horse
while they wear it. Turn pad over and with your hand, brush along the entire pad. (If you
find something that may turn into a problem, use a curry comb and brush pad until clean).
2. Place saddle pad on horse with front edge of pad an inch or two in front of where it
will ride and then slide it back towards hip until it is in place. Usually, I place my pad 2
inches in front of withers as a good rule of thumb. This prevents going against the grain of
the horse’s hair which could irritate them.
3. On off side of saddle (right side) place cinches over top of saddle and hook off-side
stirrup over horn. Prevents cinches and stirrup from banging horse’s sides potentially
spooking them and causing a wreck.
4. Lift saddle and place gently onto horse’s back. Make sure the saddle is centered
over the saddle pad. Pull pad up into gullet of saddle to create an air-flow pocket and
prevent the pad from rubbing on withers.
5. On off side of horse, pull stirrup and cinches down. Check that nothing is tangled
and that all the adjustments are correct for that horse.
a. Tip: with cinches that have breast collar and back cinch attachments
(rings), align the rings just to the right of middle of girth line. As the
cinch is tightened, the center rings of the cinch will sit in the center of
the girth line.
To far forward
To far back
6. On left side of horse, do up front cinch by reaching under horse with
right hand and grabbing cinch. This keeps your head facing forwards and
prevents you from getting kicked in the face. Run latigo through cinch and
back up to d-ring on saddle and fasten at cinch. Run end piece of latigo
through latigo keeper. You may need to take two wraps to get the cinch
tight enough, however, make sure that initially when saddling, you only
tighten the cinch tight enough to keep saddle on. Over tightening the cinch
when first saddling can lead to “cinchy” horses and that’s a whole other
7. Tighten Cinch: before mounting and riding, make sure you re-tighten
your cinch. Rule of thumb is to tighten 3 times before riding. 1) Initially
saddling, 2) After leading to arena and bridling, 3) Walk 2 to 3 circles and
re-tighten before mounting. Some horses may require more time before the
cinch is tight enough to mount.
a. Order of Cinching up a Horse (More than 1 cinch)
i. Front Cinch (ALWAYS!)
ii. Back Cinch (adjust so there is no more than 1
inch between belly & cinch) Note: the back cinch
MUST be hooked to the front cinch
iii. Breast Collar
|1. Make sure horse is untied before bridling
2. Bridle from the left side of horse
3. Horse will allow you to place hand on poll between ears
1. Undo halter and place around neck at throatlatch. Take right rein and
place over neck. Take left rein and drape over arm. (Do not wrap lead rope or
reins around arm).
2. Take the crownpiece in right hand and place hand on poll between
3. With left hand, spread bit open using thumb and pinky finger.
4. Position bit between horse’s lips and use thumb to assist in opening their
mouth. Note: there is a space in horse’s mouth between the incisors and
molars where no teeth are present. If you gently place you thumb in that space
and rub the top of the tongue, horses will generally open their mouths.
5. Once the horse opens there mouth, lift bit into corners of mouth with
right hand and change hands on crown piece.
6. With right hand push right ear forward and slide crown piece over the
ear into bridle path. Repeat step on left ear. Note: This prevents you from
pulling on the horse’s mouth because you do not have to take the crown piece
as far back as you would have to do if the ears are bent back.
7. Attach throatlatch strap if used.
BIT PLACEMENT: Bit placement in mouth is important and varies depending on discipline and trainer’
s personal preference. We prefer to have the bit sit just in the corner of the mouth showing only a
slight wrinkle or none at all. This prevents the bit from applying continuous pressure on corners of
mouth. Instead the pressure on corners of mouth is released when the hands release the reins. This
type of bit placement is more effective for training western horses that will be ridden on a drape of
rein as they learn to find their head and neck placement by the release of the rein (reward).
MOUNTING & DISMOUNTING
|1. Horse must be able to stand still while having head flexed around
towards the side you will be getting on.
2. Make sure your cinches are tightened.
BENDING HEAD: You already know that bending the horse’s head around is important for
gaining control and focus of horse so let’s discuss some important aspects. To teach the
horse this, you will be taking rein pressure up to bend horse’s head and releasing rein
pressure when they give their head. The horse’s head should come around to their shoulder
and they should put some slack in the rein. Once the horse puts slack in the rein, completely
release the rein and repeat process. Repetition is key to the horse understanding and
obeying the cue, therefore, you should repeat the process until the horse shows
improvement and continue testing the cue everyday as a pre-ride check. Our definition of
improvement for this exercise is that the horse begins to bend head around as soon as rein
pressure is applied and does not pull on hand.
• Horse moves when trying to mount: work on bending until they stand still
• Horse pulls on hand when bending: keep pressure applied and be very
quick to release when they create slack in rein. Reward the slightest try in the
beginning to encourage horse to find right answer faster the next time the cue
1. Bend horse’s head around and grab a handful of mane with left hand.
2. Kick right foot out of stirrup.
3. Grab saddle horn with right hand.
4. Swing right leg over hip and place on ground.
5. Kick left foot from stirrup.
6. If horse is standing still and not pulling on rein release pressure on rein and pet
horse before leading off.
1. Shorten rein and bend horse’s head around towards you with left rein in left hand. Note: The
reason for bending the horse’s head around towards you is to gain control. Bending the head puts
the horse’s focus on you and lets them know that you’re about to do something. It also prevents the
horse from injuring you if they are startled or spooked. In most cases where people are hung up in
stirrups, kicked or ran over, the horse was being mounted with the head straight ahead and the horse’
s mind on something other than the owner.
2. Grab a handful of mane or the crest of horse’s neck with left hand while keeping head bent
3. Place left foot in stirrup and point toe into girth to help prevent bumping horse in ribs when
mounting. Note: Do not run foot (behind ball of foot) into stirrup because you may get hung up if
horse decides to move around or worst yet, run away. Note: Do not position yourself back by flank to
mount. Again, this can lead to injury and causes you to not be able to hold onto and rein and mane.
4. Grab saddle horn or pommel of saddle with right hand. Do not grab back of saddle.
5. Bounce 2 to 3 times and swing up and over into saddle. Note: Make sure you do not kick
horse in flank or on top of hip with foot as you swing on. This could startle horse and cause them to
bolt or buck.
6. Place right foot in stirrup with ball of foot in contact with bottom of stirrup.
7. If or when horse is standing completely still and not pulling on the rein that is bending the head
around, release rein and stand for a few seconds before moving off and beginning work.
Article Written by: Pamila Thiel & Anne Sherwood
Pictures by: Kip and Pamila Thiel
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