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Riding Preparation



 1. Protect your head from the horse's head when bridling.  Stand in close
    just behind and to one side (preferably on the left side) of the horse's
    head.  Use caution when handling the horse's ears.

 2. Keep control of the horse when bridling by refastening the halter around
    the neck.

 3. Be certain the bridle is adjusted to fit the horse before you ride.  Three
     points to check are the placement of the bit, the adjustment of the curb
    strap, and the adjustment of the throat latch.


 1. Check your saddle blanket and all other equipment for foreign objects.  Be
     certain the horse's back and the cinch or girth areas are clean.

 2. When using a Western double-rigged saddle, remember to fasten the front
    cinch first, rear cinch last when saddling.  Unfasten the rear cinch
    first, front cinch last when unsaddling.  Be certain that the strap
    connecting the front and back cinches (along the horse's belly) is secure.

 3. Fasten accessory straps (tie-downs, breast collars, martingales, etc.)
    after the saddle is cinched on.  Unfasten them first, before loosening the

    On English equipment, it is sometimes necessary to thread the girth
    through the martingale loop before the girth is secured.

 4. The back cinch should not be so loose that your horse can get a hind leg
    caught between the cinch and its belly.

 5. When saddling, it is safest to keep the off cinches and stirrup secured
    over the saddle seats and ease them down when the saddle is on.  Don't let
     them swing wide and hit the horse on the off knee or belly that hurts.

 6. Swing the Western saddle into position easily not suddenly.  Dropping the
    saddle down too quickly or hard may scare the horse.  An English saddle is
     much lighter than a stock saddle.  You don't need to, and should not,
    swing the saddle into position.  Lift it and place it into position.

 7. Pull up slowly to tighten the cinch.  Check the cinch three times: a)
    after saddling; b) after walking a few steps (untracking); and c) after
    mounting and riding a short distance.


Never mount or dismount a horse in a bran, near fences, trees, or overhanging
projections.  Sidestepping and rearing mounts have injured riders who failed
to take these precautions.

A horse should stand quietly for mounting and dismounting.  To be certain of
this, you must have light control of its head through the reins.

Using English Equipment

 1. Immediately upon dismounting, the rider should "run up" the stirrups.  The
     dangling stirrup may startle or annoy the horse.  It is possible for the
    horse to catch a cheek of the bit or even a hind foot in a dangling
    stirrup iron when he is fighting flies.  The dangling stirrup can also
    catch on doorways and other projections while you are leading the horse.
 2. After running up the stirrups, immediately bring the reins forward over
    the horse's head.  In this position they can be used for leading.

Using Western Equipment

 1. Closed reins or a romal should be brought forward over the horse's head
    after dismounting


 1. Riding at night can be a pleasure, but must be recognized as being more
    hazardous than daytime riding.  Walk the horse; fast gaits are dangerous.

 2. If necessary to ride at night on roads or highways, ride on the side
    required by law.  State laws vary in regard to which side of the road you
    should ride.  Wear light-colored clothing and carry a flashlight and
    reflectors.  Check your State regulations for details.

 3. Select a location with care.  Choose controlled bridle paths or familiar,
    safe open areas.


 1. Learn to handle a rope before carrying one on a horse.  Always use caution
     when working with a rope if the horse is not "rope-broke."  Never tie the
     rope "hard and fast" to a saddle horn while roping from a green horse.

 2. Bridle reins, stirrup leathers, headstalls, curb straps, and cinch straps
    should be kept in the best possible condition; your safety depends on
    these straps.  Replace any of the straps when they begin to show signs of
    wear (cracking or checking).

 3. Be sure all tack fits the horse.  Adjust your tie-downs, etc., to a safe
    length that will not hinder the horse's balance.

 4. Spurs can trip you when working on the ground.  Take them off when not

 5. Wear neat, well-fitted clothing that will not snag on equipment.  Belts,
    jackets, and front chap straps can become hooked over the saddle horn.

 6. Wear boots or shoes with heels to keep your foot from slipping through the

 7. Keep the horse's feet properly trimmed and/or shod.

 8. Infectious organisms are prevalent around barns, corrals, and fences.
    Gloves are a safeguard against cuts, scratches, splinters, and rope burns.

            Extension Service, U.S.D.A.
            Washington, D.C. 20250
            Published in cooperation with the National
            Horse and Pony Youth Activities Council, the
            American Horse Council, and the National Safety Council   

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