Nobody wants their horse to be restless and squirmy when saddling. You therefore need to know why she is behaving like this. Maybe she is trying to pass some message to you or she believes that this is what you expect from her. Rather than punishing her behavior or unwittingly rewarding it by stopping the saddling process, investigate what is causing her to act this way and then help her change how she views saddling.
A Horse’s Instincts
Naturally, the saddling concept goes against her instincts. Since a horse is a prey animal, the feeling of having something on her back portrays danger and she thus tries to avoid it. You therefore need to properly “sack out” your horse before you ever bring a saddle to touch her back. You can achieve this by rubbing her body using your hands or objects like ropes, tarps, blankets or sacks. If she responds by moving, you direct her to do so in a different manner, for instance backing up if she tries moving forward. This way, she will learn to pay her attention to you even when something is on her back. Remove the object when she stands still. Also, remember to rub her girth area since this is where the cinch will go. A horse that has not gone through this saddling familiarization experience can still instinctively move.
Having Saddling Pain
A saddle needs to be professionally fitted to avoid the pain and longer-term physical issues associated with ill-fitting. Otherwise, if she attaches saddling with pain, she will try to communicate this to you by moving when saddling. But if she is moving only during the tightening of the cinch, it could be that the pressure being increased from the saddle is causing some discomfort or maybe her ribs are hurting. Always avoid tightening the cinch too fast or too tight.
Her Past Career
If your horse was a racehorse in her past career, her mind may be accustomed to the notion of “hurrying up and going” most of the time she feels a saddle on her back. Such a mindset takes some retraining to change. If you acquired the horse from a non-racer, then that owner may have failed to correct the horse’s past habit. Rather than punishing the horse for doing what she believes is perfectly acceptable, you therefore need to train her to be still by always praising and rewarding her whenever she stands calm. This way, she will eventually learn that being still is what you expect her to do during saddling.
Having Issues with Riding
Though sometimes it may be difficult for one to admit, there could be something about how you ride your horse that may be causing her to be apprehensive. Whenever she feels the saddle on her back and knowing that you are about to ride her, if this is an experience she never enjoys, then she will definitely resist it. Among the most common issues that may be causing your horse to abhor your riding her include tensing of your hands or pulling on the reins too hard, hitting on her back when sitting trot or canter and pushing your knees too hard against her sides. Or she may not really like her job. Rather than dressage, perhaps she would prefer jumping in this case. It is for this reason that you sometimes just need to take her out of the arena, and onto the trail in a bid to train her to keep from behaving restlessly when being handled.
Image source: flickr.com
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