First Saddling – Part Dos

Okay, since this colt starting entry has spanned over several days, let’s go back to the beginning of Clay’s first saddling concept. Yesterday, my husband desensitized Mercedes to the saddle pad. Now, he’s going to throw his colt starting saddle (one that he doesn’t mind if it gets beat up a little bit), directly onto Mercedes’ back. He doesn’t pause or creep up to her with the saddle – Clay simply throws it over like it’s no big deal.

Of course, Mercedes is not sure what to make of the object but just the same, she allows it to remain on her back. Note the cinch is not done up at this point.

Clay moves Mercedes around, so she feels the weight of the pad and the saddle on her back.

Next, Clay drops the cinches on the near side and walks around to the horse’s left side to do them up.

Very carefully, Clay begins doing up the front cinch. Notice, he has moved Mercedes closer to the fence in case Clay needs to jump up on it quickly to get out of harm’s way…

Then Clay slips the rope halter off Mercedes’ head and places it around her neck instead. This is because Clay will now – carefully – do up the back cinch. And it’s likely that once the filly feels the back cinch for the first time she will be outta there…


The lesson isn’t done for today, Clay will continue to do some roundpen reasoning with Mercedes until she responds correctly to him, while still wearing the saddle. Then, he find a good note to end the lesson on. Clay will halter Mercedes and safely remove the saddle (by undoing the back cinch first). And the filly will be allowed an extensive cool-down period, followed by a good grooming session. Finally, she is returned to her stall.

In all, Mercedes has handled Clay’s first saddling lessons extremely well. There was a little excitement, but nothing out of the ordinary. Neither Clay, nor Mercedes was hurt and a lot was accomplished in terms of the filly’s training in a very short time.

Please let me reiterate – Clay is a professional horse trainer. Therefore, he has a tonne of experience in the colt starting department. He also has specific roundpen equipment that he uses. The blog entries appearing in My Stable Life are by no means, a recipe for DIYers… They are merely an inside view into the art of training young horses. I hope you enjoyed these sessions and we will be back with more “Insider Training” very soon.



  1. I don’t want to criticize a recognized master, as Clay obviously has tremendous success with his methods and deserves our respect. However, my own experience starting colts has been that if I do anything that causes them to feel like they need to be “outta there”, I have skipped or missed something along the way.

    Personally, I like to get them used to the feel of cinches somewhat using desensitizing techniques (touching and adding pressure to the areas with flags, soft ropes, etc.) before doing either cinch up the first time. This doesn’t take much time and seems to work for me at least, as they don’t typically feel the need to leave. I generally do this work with the horse unhaltered completely, so they can leave if they want to. By the time we get to that point, they are so used to a variety of stuff that they generally stand there half asleep.

    Once again, I’m not saying Clay’s methods aren’t good — just that I’m more comfortable if the horse doesn’t feel alarmed enough by anything that I do to choose to leave.