Now that Indy lunges well, the next logical step seemed to be to add tack. He’s already used to wearing blankets, a surcingle, and a saddle pad. One night, after a good grooming, I casually put on his saddle pad and a saddle. A friend loaned me a small kids saddle, older and well used, just in case of incident. While it doesn’t fit him well, there will be no weight in it and it isn’t tight enough to cause any discomfort. When he is further along he will get his own saddle!
I tightened the girth as normal, acting like this was a regular occurrence. Indy remained calm, resting a hoof and staying relaxed. Once in the indoor I tightened the girth a little more, just about one hole looser than if I were going to ride. I don’t want it loose enough that it could slide or move at all.
He lunged completely normal, seemingly not noticing the saddle. At the trot, the saddle flaps began to bounce a little, making a flapping noise. I had taken the stirrups off for now. His ears flicked back and I could see him tense his back a little in response. I encouraged him to trot on, telling him he was a good boy in a soothing voice. He relaxed.
When we changed direction I tightened the girth one more hole. He then lunged well in the opposite direction. As he was so good and attentive, I checked the girth one more time and let him loose. It is a good reward for him as well as a good opportunity to let him figure out the saddle on his own. There was some bucking and leaping around, but not more than I would say is normal. When he really got going the saddle flaps were louder but he accepted the noise readily.
I knew adding the bridle would take more getting used to. While young horses are generally happy to take the bit, confusion takes over when they cannot eat it or spit it out. I put it on in his stall first, without his halter, and let him figure it out on his own for a few minutes. I had taken his hay out of his stall as I didn’t want him to try and eat with it in. I then took it off, patted him profusely, and groomed him.
A few days later we put the bridle on again, this time with the halter over it, and went for a walk. He chomped and played with it, occasionally tried to rub it off on me, but quieted down as we walked on, becoming more distracted by his surroundings.
For the third time, we wore the bridle while being groomed, then added our saddle and headed out to the ring. As you can see in the video, he was great. He didn’t get the chance to run around first so there was a little bit of inattentiveness. He is infatuated with the horse in the mirror (you can see him constantly looking toward the left side of the video). He had a few moments leaping around (which I found hilarious) but was overall very, very good. We went for about 8 minutes total, then I untacked him right in the ring and let him go as a reward.
We haven’t lunged since then as the weather has been either too cold, or nice enough that we can go for a walk outside instead. I have been spending time taking the bridle off and on, walking with it or grooming with it on. Eventually we will start leading of the bridle as he will be wearing the bridle in his in hand shows this year. By that time, it will be old hat!