Clay intends to saddle Mercedes today, for the first time in her life. But for the purposes of breaking the concept up into easy-to understand portions, I will separate the steps into two more blog entries (today and tomorrow). To get Mercedes used to the sensation of a front or back cinch (since she has never worn one before), Clay tosses a lead rope around her barrel. Mercedes is not tied, she is allowed to move around the roundpen as she pleases. However, the goal is for Clay to apply light pressure to her barrel with the rope and when she yields, Clay releases the pressure.
If at any time, Mercedes decides to run off, Clay releases his grip on the lead rope and lets her go. There’s no sense in either of them getting hurt or Mercedes becoming scared. In this case, Clay would simply re-catch Mercedes and try again.
Today, Mercedes stays put and really puts a lot of effort into trying to comprehend what Clay is asking.
Here, she investigates the rope and even tries relieving the pressure by biting it. Although biting is never desirable, Mercedes is clearly curious.
Mercedes yields to the pressure and Clay releases the pressure by putting slack in the rope.
Next, Clay will introduce the saddle pad to our filly. Note he has now put a rope halter on Mercedes.
Clay presses the blanket to Mercedes’ sides, an attempt to desensitize her to it.
Then he quickly and assertively throws the blanket on her back. At this point, Clay always says “Don’t mess around here. Just throw the blanket up there like she’s had it done numerous times.” Otherwise, if Clay had tried throwing the pad on Mercedes in a fashion that implied she should be afraid of it, she probably would spook away.
He lets the pad rest on Mercedes’ back.
Clay moves the pad all over Mercedes’ body and desensitizes her to it. He wants her to realize she has nothing to fear in the saddle pad.
Repeating the process over and over, Clay throws the pad over Mercedes’ back until she is comfortable and relaxes with the concept.
He will even move her around a bit and let Mercedes feel the pad on her back in motion. If it falls off, that’s okay. It simply gives Clay another chance to throw the pad on her again. When Mercedes relaxes her body and displays such body language as lowering her head, licking her lips and relaxing her tail, he is confident with her progress. This concludes the first portion of the first saddling lesson.