As a former professional horse trainer and riding instructor, I used some of the easiest methods to prepare a horse for later saddle training. One of simplest and pain-free methods is to have your horse get use to wearing a horse blanket or sheet. There are many advantages to this method.
Having your horse get use to wearing a blanket, also known as a “rug” in other countries, will cut your saddle training time in half compared to not using any type of blanket or sheet earlier on. This is because a horse that is use to wearing a blanket, especially a turnout type of blanket, will be use to the feel of something over its back and around its chest. Leaving the blanket on the horse during turnouts will let the horse get use to the movement of the blanket around its body. The sight of the fabric flapping up as a breeze moves it will also help the horse not to spook at moving objects close to its body. Basically the blanket acts like a long term sacking out for the young horse.
To get your horse use to wearing a blanket I suggest the following steps:
* Pick out a cheap light weight blanket that you do not mind getting ripped to shreds. I use the type of blanket that has a girth type of strap and leg straps that go around each hind end leg. The feel of the leg straps gets the horse use to having something around its legs.
* Have someone hold your horse while you put the blanket on your horse for the first time.
*Put the blanket on then take it off several times before letting the horse wear it for about an hour.
*The first time the horse wears the blanket, the horse should be confined to a stall or small enclosed area.
*Slowly introduce the horse to wearing the blanket in larger areas before allowing the horse to wear the blanket all day long while turned out in pasture with other horses.
*If you use a blanket prior to saddle training, be sure to be able to not only put the blanket on with all of the straps undone, but also be able to put the blanket on the horse by, having the chest straps tied, and putting the blanket on the horse over the horse’s head. This will get the horse use to having objects around its head and learn not to shy away.
The whole process should not take more than a few days.
When saddle training time comes, you will find that your horse will accept the saddle, saddle pad and the associated movement of the equipment much better than if you just started out with regular sacking out methods. The big plus is that you can start a young foal wearing a blanket as early as the weather allows.