After you finish riding, you'll want to make sure your horse is put away clean and comfortable. This is also a time when you can check for saddle or girth sores, and make sure you horse has cooled out so it doesn't get chilled. Removing all saddle marks and making sure your horse is comfortable is good horsemanship. And checking hooves can ensure there are not stones or other debris caught in them that could cause bruising.
Time Required: 20 minutes
Loosen the Girth or Cinch
As soon as you get off slightly loosen the girth or cinch.
If you and your horse have been working hard walk until the horse's respiration and pulse return close to normal values. Generally the horse is cooled down if he is no longer puffing.
Run the Stirrups Up
On an English saddle run the stirrups up the leathers. The stirrups hang from a long loop. Draw the stirrup up the back strap of the loop. Now take the bottom of the loop and pull it through the stirrup.
Work in a Safe Place
Take your horse to where you groomed and tacked up (put the saddle and bridle on). Unbridle your horse and put on its halter. Never tie a horse by the bridle.
Undo the Cinch or Girth
With the horse safely tied undo the girth or cinch. Walk around the horse to the offside and put the girth or cinch up over the seat of the saddle. You may choose to take the girth or cinch off completely, especially if it is wet and dirty.
Take Off the Saddle
It's traditional to work from the nearside but you could take the saddle off from either side. Just be sure to lift it high enough not to hit the horse's back.
Remove the Pad or Blanket
Again it's traditional to work on the nearside, but from which ever side, pull off the pad. This is a good time to check if your blanket or pads need laundering. Most can be thrown in the washing machine (follow manufacturer's instructions) and a dirty blanket built up with sweat, dirt and hair could cause chaffing. Clean fabric also lasts longer.
Remove Saddle Marks
If the weather is warm, clean way sweaty dirty saddle marks on your horse's back with a damp sponge. If the weather is cold, do your best with toweling to clean and dry your horse's back. Your horse's face may need cleaning too, especially around the mouth and over the poll. Finish off by brushing the hair flat.
Even though you cleaned hooves before riding do another cleaning to make sure your horse hasn't picked up any rocks.
Lead Your Horse to Its Stall or Pasture
Lead your horse and put it in its stall or pasture. I prefer to take halters off as I know of horses that have become entangled in gate latches or put their foot through the halter when scratching their ears with a hind foot. Make sure your horse is well cooled out before feeding concentrates. I like to wait about an hour after a ride.
- Some riders like to walk the last 1/2 mile home so their horse is cooled out and ready to unsaddle when they arrive.
- If for some reason you get back on don't forget to tighten the girth or cinch.
- Give bridles, bits and saddles a quick wipe with a damp cloth to remove sweat and dirt.
- Help stengthen your horse's back after a ride by doing back lifts. Place your fingers just behind the girth area and press upwards. The horse should arch its back slightly. You may have to dig in slightly with your fingernails until he learns what you want him to do.
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