If you have saddling down, unsaddling should be relatively easy. After all, it’s just reversing the process. However, if things are still a little tricky, here’s a quick guide to removing your horse’s saddle, and a few helpful tips. Remember – good unsaddling techniques keep your horse happy and healthy.
If your horse will be standing for a while without being either unsaddled or ridden, it’s a good idea and common practice to loosen the front cinch just a little. This allows the horse to relax and breathe more easily and keeps him from getting uncomfortable. When you’re ready to ride, that’ll result in a happier horse. Just don’t go overboard. Loosen the cinch too much and the saddle will slip to the side!
When taking the saddle off entirely, unfasten straps in the reverse order of the one in which they were fastened. That means removing the breast collar first. Unclip the center strap from the cinch center ring. Then unfasten the near-side rig strap from the D-ring. The off-side strap should stay connected. Now, lay the breast collar over the seat from the offside, or snap it around the offside stirrup. Then unbuckle the flank cinch.
Unfasten the front cinch last, making sure that every other strap has been unfastened first. That’s because if your horse is startled, having only the breast collar attached or the flank cinch fastened could allow the saddle to slip from his back onto his side – a recipe for disaster.
Be sure to secure the latigo so that it’s ready for the next ride you take. It should be tightly threaded back through the rigging ring. There are quite a few ways to do this – ask someone with more experience to teach you one or two.
Make sure to secure the cinches. When both are unfastened, go to the offside, then secure them. You might see some people simply throwing the cinches over the seat of the saddle, but this is a sloppy technique. It can also result in straps falling and getting in the way while you’re carrying the saddle.
Securing them is a lot more convenient and takes only a little time. Hang the front cinch buckle on its own buckle tongue, then thread the saddle keeper under the buckle and hook it on the tongue. The cinches now hang neatly and securely, and everything is ready for the next ride.
Don’t just pull the saddle off when you remove it and the pad. Lift it up a little instead and take it off. Be sure to clear your horse’s back, and make sure you don’t hit him with a stirrup or the saddle itself. If you pull the saddle off without lifting it, you can damage it, as well as making your horse uncomfortable and unhappy.
Usually, it’s easiest to take the pad off at the same time as the saddle, since it tends to stick to the saddle on its own. After you take it off, brush the underside of the pad off to make sure there’s no dirt, sticks, or other foreign objects that could hurt your horse the next time you ride.
After unsaddling, don’t forget to check your horse over and groom him. He’s just been working and will need grooming, toweling if he’s wet, and a good brush in the saddle area. Make sure you look for dry spots, bumps or sores that indicate a problem with the saddle fitting, and pick out your horse’s feet to remove rocks that could cause problems later.