Under Saddle: Day 1

Today is the day. I didn’t wake up thinking I’d back Wiley for the first time today, but all the planets aligned. I knew he was ready from a training standpoint. Plus, it was a warm 70 degree day right smack in the middle of winter (gotta love Southern California). Wiley had a couple of really big turnouts during the previous week, so I was confident he wouldn’t be overly excitable. And, most importantly, I had a friend with excellent riding skills that wanted to assist. When a day like this comes along, you just have to go for it!

Special Note: Wiley is only 2 1/2, so I am not planning on really riding him. Because Wiley is already so large, I am going to get him used to a rider on his back before he gets to full dinosaur size. I will putz around on him a few times and then stay off him until he is 3.

Getting Ready for the Big Day

A bit of prep work needs to happen to make sure day 1 in the saddle is as stress free as possible. Wiley has lunged lightly in the saddle a few times with no reaction. I have also worked with him a few days prior to make sure that mounting up would go smoothly. All the steps I went over with him are shown below. There is nothing earth shattering here. All of this is pretty basic stuff.

Horse’s First Day Under Saddle: Step 1

After a brief lunging session, I pulled down on the stirrup with my hand to get Wiley used to the feel of weight being put in the stirrup. I rewarded Wiley for standing quietly. I did this a few times to make sure he was good and relaxed. (Note: all the pictures actually show Amy demonstrating how I performed each step. I practiced steps 1-5 with Wiley before this day as part of the prep. All of these photos were taken the day Wiley walked with a rider on his back for the first time. When backing a horse for the first time, it is great if you have a friend to help you, but it can also be done without help. Amy is an excellent rider, so I know she will stay relaxed even if Wiley doesn’t. I stayed on the ground to handle (and comfort if needed) Wiley as he goes through this part of training.

Pulling down on the stirrup.
Pulling down on the stirrup.

Horse’s First Day Under Saddle: Step 2

After Wiley was thoroughly bored with pulling on the stirrup, I began to put my foot in the stirrup (as Amy is doing here). I made sure my toe made contact with his belly and moved it around a bit to get Wiley used to the feeling. Let’s face it, you are going to end up bumping your toe on your horse’s side while mounting sooner or later….might as well get that over with before you do it accidentally!

Putting the toe in the stirrup and letting Wiley feel it on his belly.
Putting the toe in the stirrup and letting Wiley feel it on his belly.

Horse’s First Day Under Saddle: Step 3

Wiley is good with the foot in the stirrup, so it is time to start bouncing up and down a bit. After each bounce session, Wiley is rewarded for standing still. Wiley needs to see the movement and feel the tug on the saddle to get comfortable.

Bouncing in the stirrups.
Bouncing in the stirrups.

Horse’s First Day Under Saddle: Step 4

Time to stand in the stirrup. Wiley takes a good look back, but doesn’t offer to move. Good boy!

Standing in the stirrups.
Standing in the stirrups.

Horse’s First Day Under Saddle: Step 5

Time to put the belly on the saddle. Sometimes the horse can get nervous when he sees you cross over the middle, and Wiley did give it a good look the first time I put my belly on him. He didn’t try to move away though. I slowly started petting him on his shoulder and hind end to get him used to movement and the feeling of being touched while on him.

Amy with her belly on Wiley.
Amy with her belly on Wiley.

These 5 steps were repeated for a few days until Wiley was completely comfortable. I performed them on both sides, so Wiley can be mounted from either side. Now he is ready for the big day. Just because Wiley is comfortable with me performing the steps above, doesn’t always mean it carries over to another person. Horses don’t always generalize well, so Amy repeated all the steps above (and that’s how I got pix!).

Horse’s First Day Under Saddle: Step 6

Finally time to get all the way on! Amy does this slowly but with confidence, making sure she doesn’t bump him on his rump while putting her leg over. At first, Amy maintains a low profile as she is doing here.

Staying low while giving Wiley a comforting pet.
Staying low while giving Wiley a comforting pet.

But soon, Amy can sit up and pet Wiley. He even stops paying attention to her- a sure sign he is ready for the next step.

Wiley is showing signs he is ready to move on.
Wiley is showing signs he is ready to move on.

Horse’s First Day Under Saddle: Step 7

Time to move the feet. This is sometimes a strange feeling for a horse. Wiley doesn’t seem overly bothered by it…although he is going to keep an eye on Amy just in case.

Wiley Under Saddle

Wiley was just a bit tentative at first, but it wasn’t because of the rider.  Wiley was trying to figure out what I wanted him to do, so he started offering up an alternative…the maneuver we worked on yesterday seemed to be a good choice. Check out the video below for his first steps under saddle. See if you can guess what we worked on the day before.

As always, when training Wiley to do something new, the session is really short. I know Amy is going to get off Wiley’s back in a few minutes, but Wiley doesn’t know that! The session needs to be short enough that Wiley doesn’t decide it is his job to get Amy off his back. Wiley gives Amy a short pony ride and then he is done for the day. What a good boy!

DelMarHorseGirl.com

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