As with any horse that you climb aboard, making sure that the saddle fits well on the green horse is an absolute necessity. Refer to our recent article discussing saddle fit to learn how to check the measurements and angles of the saddles that you ask your horse to wear.
As far as choosing a saddle for your desired discipline, that is generally irrelevant in the initial stages. You’re at least a year away (or more) from directing the green horse in any particular direction.
Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, an internationally acclaimed equine veterinarian and author of “Tug of War: Classical vs Modern Dressage” reminds us to pay attention not only to the horse’s conformation, but also to their movement. A young horse with a great deal of suspension, such as a Warmblood, is going to have a special requirement for the rider to get up off the back and to let that natural elevation flow through the animal without interference. Dr. Heuschmann recommends an Eventing saddle in this circumstance.
What about a typical young Quarter Horse? A popular breed amongst Utah horse owners, this versatile and athletic animal is often croup-high before reaching full maturity. Additional well-planned groundwork is always beneficial for conditioning the musculo-skeletal system prior to adding the burden of rider weight. For these horses, Dr. Heuschmann reminds trainers to tack them with a pad and a properly fitted saddle that will not extend beyond the last rib. Doing so will ensure that you are not injuring the horse’s loins or interfering with their movement.
To gain additional understanding of your horse’s anatomy and learn helpful methods for assisting the unnatural task of bearing the rider, we recommend that you view the popular DVD “If Horses Could Speak.”
Local Salt Lake trainer and respected barefoot hoof practitioner, Meisja Wagner, states that those who take on the education of newly-started equines must do everything possible to “NEVER come off” the green horse. “Some horses, once they learn they can unseat a rider, may never stop trying” adds Wagner. We should note, too, that most horses find the experience of their rider falling off to be quite unsettling. The resulting fear can be especially traumatic on recently-mounted babies.
This brings us to the point that most trainers, regardless of their chosen discipline or area of expertise, advocate riding in the type of saddle that is most comfortable and familiar to you, providing of course that it offers a correct and non-restrictive fit for the horse.
Lani Homan-Taylor, a jumping and hunt seat instructor at Keystone Equestrian in Bluffdale, Utah, chooses to start her young mounts in a close-contact saddle because that is what she is personally most comfortable riding in. The light weight and small footprint of most English saddles are going to make them a good choice for the majority of horses, regardless of breed and conformation, but the rider’s balance and familiarity are also essential.
No matter what the saddle choice, it’s of utmost importance that any person atop a horse that’s just starting out is calm and confident, well-balanced and entirely capable of managing the typical baby horse issues (spooking, bolting, over-reacting to new stimulus, bucking, shying, rearing, etc.).
Even the horse with the most naturally calm demeanor and willing mind can be ruined in the blink of an eye if mishandled by a rider who is not able to extend the patient guidance and experienced confidence that is mandatory for each and every green horse. This is NOT the place for beginners, nervous or inexperienced handlers, or children. Never take advantage of the good horse by forcing him to deal with poor riders.
If you are experienced enough, and possess the timing required, to start your own green horses, your saddle selection will first take into consideration the horse’s conformation, current anatomical development and natural movement. It’s also vital that the training saddle be something you personally feel secure riding in, with a design that lets you stay with the horse when they may be a bit off balance for any reason. The best choice will encompass a culmination of factors that will allow you and your horses to work together in harmony, balance and comfort.