KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

Filly's First Saddle

We're constantly getting email asking us how we start horses under saddle for the first time. In going through some old videotapes, we discovered one we took of starting a Belgian Draft Filly, Marcy, back in 1991. We've scanned in some images from this tape to illustrate the sequence of events.

At age 18 months Marcy was approaching 17HH and 1800 pounds. After a couple of good days' work in the round corral, we decided to start her under saddle. She was doing her round corral maneuvers well and with her size, doing some light saddle work would do her no harm.

These images were taken in 1991 when I rode in a leather hat, which at the time was considered acceptable safety gear. We handle young horses and ride using an approved helmet nowadays and this is what we recommend to others.


We warmed Marcy up in the round corral and observed that she was paying attention and responding to our cues to move forward, speed up, slow down stop, back and yield us her hindquarters and forehand. (Details on all of this can be found in the training section.)

We saddled Marcy in the round corral unrestrained. We wanted her to be comfortable with the weight on her back. We tightened the cinch and flapped the stirrups and flexed other parts of it until she paid no attention to it. Had she been worried about the saddle or moved away, we would have reinforced the process using "Learn-Learn."

Next we went through some basic maneuvers with the saddle on. Marcy did not let the saddle distract her so we could move on. Had the saddle caused her some anxiety, we would have continued to work her on the ground until she was completely used to it. In this photo I am "backing her down the rope;" shaking the 12 foot leadrope and sending her straight back with my energy. I want to make sure she has "whoa" and "back" well oiled as I want the first ride to be a smooth and comfortable one... for her more than for me!

In this photo I am setting up a transition from ground work to saddle work. I am working her on the ground with a rope halter and 12 ft. long, 5/8 in. thick maritime grade kernmantle braid rope. When I ride her I will be using the same equipment. In this case I am bending Marcy to the right as a "set-up" for a more riding like maneuver.

After executing a couple of bends, I feed the rope through a saddle stirrup and ask her to bend from the contact on the rope. The angle of pull is different and I am no longer beside her, but she understands the transition from my bending her while alongside her to bending from a point behind her driveline (which will be more like the feel when I bend her from the saddle). Notice I'm standing more than a "kick away" behind her.

Continue to: "In the Saddle!"

Important Note: If you take on the project of developing an untrained horse, everybody will want to give you advice. Don't act on any advice, including the ideas offered in this site, unless it makes sense to you and fits your individual situation. Your abilities and the sensitivities of your horse(s) may differ from the examples given. Be alert and rational with your actions so neither you nor your horse will get hurt. This information is offered as illustrations of what we do and the reader must apply common sense since he or she is solely responsible for his or her actions.

Happy trails!

Press "Back" to return to the page that brought you here

Go to Case Study Section

Return to Training Section

Return to Wild Horse Mentors

Return to KBR World of Wild Horses and Burros

Go To KBR Horse Net

KBR Horse Training Information, 1997 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
Email us to submit comments or request reproduction permission.