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How To Unsaddle A Horse

If you have your technique for saddling a horse down right, then unsaddling should be a breeze. The approach is to just reverse the saddling process.

If your horse is going to be standing for a while without being ridden or unsaddled, then common courtesy is to loosen the front cinch a smidge to let your horse breathe and relax. This will help create a horse with the willing attitude we're all looking for.

Don't make the mistake, however, of loosening the cinch too much, or you could come back to a horse wearing a saddle on his side rather than his back, which can lead to a nasty wreck.

The straps on the saddle should be unfastened in the reverse order that they were fastened.

Photo 1
1. The breast collar comes off first. First the center strap is unclipped from the cinch center ring and then the near-side (left) rig strap is unfastened from the dee ring. The off-side (right) rig strap remains connected to the off-side dee ring. The breast collar should then be either laid over the seat from the off side or snapped around the offside stirrup.

2. Next, the flank cinch is unbuckled. [Photo 1]

Photo 2
3. The last strap unfastened is the front cinch. [Photo 2] It's very important that the other straps are unfastened prior to the front cinch. If something was to startle the horse, having only the flank cinch or breast collar attached can cause the saddle to slip off the horse's back onto his side - a definite recipe for a wreck.

Photo 4
mounting horse
Photo 3
4. Secure the latigo so that it's ready for your next ride. Thread the latigo back through the rigging ring nice and neatly. There are a number of ways to do this. We show two examples in Photo 3 &4.

Photo 5
5. Secure the cinches. With both cinches unfastened, go to the off side (right side) to secure them. While many folks will just throw both cinches over the saddle seat, we think this technique is rather sloppy and often ends up with the straps falling down when you're carrying the saddle. There's a better, more savvy way.

Hang your flank cinch buckle on the buckle tongue of your front cinch buckle as shown in Photo 5. Thread the saddle keeper under the cinch buckle and hook it on the buckle tongue as shown in Photo 6 and 7. The cinches will now hang securely and neatly and are ready for your next ride.

Photo 6
Photo 7

Photo 8
6. Remove the saddle and pad. Instead of just pulling the saddle off, lift the saddle up a bit and then take it off, making sure you clear the horse's back and don't hit him with the saddle or a stirrup as you remove it. Pulling the saddle off, without lifting it up, can sour a horse and it also isn't too healthy for your saddle.

It's usually easiest to remove the pad along with the saddle as it tends to stick to the saddle anyway. After removing the pad, brush off the underside to make sure there aren't any twigs, dirt, or other crud that will irritate your horse on your next ride.

7. Groom and check your horse. Your horse has worked for you. Don't just pull his saddle and put him away. Take the time to give him a nice grooming. He's earned it. Towel him off if he's wet. Give him a good brushing, especially in the saddle area. Check for any sores, bumps, or dry spots that may be an indication of a tack or saddle fit problem. Pick out his feet to make sure he hasn't picked up any rocks along the ride.

Consistently practicing good saddling and unsaddling techniques will do wonders for creating a willing attitude in our horses.

Check out the other Western Saddle How To's:


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