If you feel satisfied you have completed your ground training work with your three year old…it is now time to consider the next steps to the saddle.
I would suggest that you take an inventory on all the skills you have developed from the ground training to make the smoothest transition possible.
You may ask yourself some of the following questions to check off the list…does the horse follow the rein left and right without bracing against the rein? Is the stop and back understood? Are there any areas sensitive or reactive to touch such as the area where the riders leg touches and is it understood to move away from the pressure? Can you turn your horse with the rein to move the hind quarters laterally into neutral (i.e., not pushing forward and therefore stopping as a safety tool)?
These are just a few questions to go over in your mind before mounting for the first time. It is important to be careful and wear a helmet and proper boots as well as having proper tack for the horse.
I first like to lay over the horses back to let the horse experience the weight of the rider for the first time. And it should be done on both sides. I also like to rub my leg and foot over the top of the hind quarters to desensitize the horse for an accidental brush of the riders leg or foot while mounting.
You can put some weight in the stirrups with your hand to give the feel of the pull on the saddle from the riders weight. And there are many exercises such as these to accustom the horse to new weight pressures. Be creative with these types of exercises as you know the disposition of the horse you are working with.
It is always best to mount astride for the first time in a small area. Many people mount in a stall or in a round pen. Make sure all obstacles are removed for safety such as buckets, etc. and never do this alone. Most horses have no idea about taking the first few steps forward when a person has left the ground and moved to their back. It is an interesting feeling to say the least!
Many horse owners have a person with experience in starting horses to make these early rides. I think it is an excellent idea to do so. The first 20 rides are setting the stage for future riding of your mount. Always use common sense and a safety first motto to avoid any unwanted situations and be honest with yourself about your capability for this task.
Merriewold Morgans Trainer