How to Calm Nervous Horse Under Saddle? (Try Our 7 Steps!)

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 02/23/23 •  7 min read

Think about this for a moment……

You are ready to take the plunge on the road but seeing your pony is a little bit nervous.

This is a common scenario, especially with the horse wearing a saddle for the first time. It could happen for several reasons. But remember one thing: 

Pain manifests as anxiety!

So, first, figure out the reason for your horse’s anxiety. Like human beings, horses also get nervous when approaching a new activity or situation. 

It’s pretty normal!

Are you in the same situation and thinking How do I get my horse to relax under the saddle?

We come up with the technique of how to calm a nervous horse under saddle for those who might be saddling up their horse for the first time.

Let’s see horse anxiety symptoms 

anxiety symptoms

Saddling a horse comes with its own challenges.

No doubt about it!

That’s why it’s essential to be aware of your horse’s anxiety signs. Pay attention to the following indicators that your horse may be feeling anxious:

  1. Pawing the ground(most common).
  2. Shaking the head or neck.
  3. Whinnying or neighing loudly.
  4. Becoming agitated.
  5. Sweating heavily.
  6. Rolling eyes.
  7. stall walking.

Related: Find the perfect saddle brand for your horse with our comprehensive guide to western and English saddles. Get expert advice on comfort, fit, and more!

Causes of anxiety symptoms 

There could be many things that are causing your horse to become anxious when saddling up. Some common causes of anxiety symptoms under saddle include:

So, How do you calm an anxious horse under a saddle?

Calming an anxious horse under the saddle requires patience and understanding. Just follow this to calm both the horse and the riders.

How do you calm an anxious horse under a saddle

Related: Don’t miss out! Learn the tips and tricks to riding a horse without a saddle or bridle. Discover the basics of bareback riding safely and confidently!

#1. Get the horse used to being touched

Touch is always powerful!

Like humans, It gives comfort and safety to horses too.

This can be done by simply rubbing its neck, back, and legs with a soft brush or cloth. The more you do this, the more comfortable the horse will become with you.

#2. Take your time while saddling

Taking your time when saddling up a horse is essential.


Well, it allows the horse to become comfortable with the process. Be gentle and focus on giving the horse positive reinforcement. 

Talk softly and calmly to it, touch it gently, and provide treats throughout the process. This will help create a sense of trust between you and your horse and make them feel more relaxed when being saddled up.

#3. Make sure everything fits correctly

To keep a horse composed while mounted, please ensure the equipment fits properly. 

If the saddle is too tight or loose, it could result in discomfort for your animal companion, which can cause agitation and even pain. Therefore be sure everything is adjusted correctly so it remains snug without overly constricting.

Related: Compare the purpose, weight, and seat type of ranch and roping saddles. Learn which one is the best fit for your riding needs.

#4. Use desensitization techniques

Using desensitization can be a great way to help your horse become used to the process of saddling up. 

Why are we doing this?

Gradually expose them to different aspects of the saddle, such as the buckles or straps that help your horse to get familiar with it before you put it on their back. It will help reduce their anxiety when they are finally ready for the full saddle.

#5. Calming aids are also great

Sometimes a horse may need extra help calming down during an anxious moment. 

Natural stress relievers such as herbal supplements or pheromone sprays can help reduce tension and allow the horse to relax. Calming wraps or equine massage therapy also help a lot to soothe your horse’s nerves.

#6. Ride with a buddy

Having another person there can provide extra reassurance and security for your horse and make them feel more relaxed. It will also help to ensure that your horse is safe if anything goes wrong during the ride.

#7. Go for an exercise

Before saddling your horse, performing a few light exercises with them is beneficial.

Doing this will help the animal feel less anxious and let it calm down before you put the saddle on its back. Taking a walk or trot around the paddock can reduce tension and tire out your horse, making them easier to work with when you finally do saddle up.

horse anxiety symptoms

Related: This ultimate guide provides a comprehensive glossary of horse saddle accessories and their functions. Learn all you need to know.

How to approach the saddle on your horse?

  1. Put the saddle on your horse’s back, one piece at a time.
  2. Tighten the straps to a comfortable level.
  3. Talk to your horse in a gentle and calming voice and use positive reinforcement throughout the process.
  4. Securely fasten all the buckles and ensure nothing is too loose or tight.
  5. Gradually increase pressure as you tighten each buckle and speak reassuring words to your horse throughout.
  6. When finished, reward your horse with praise and treats for staying calm during the procedure. 
  7. Surcingles can be used when saddling up a nervous horse as they help keep the saddle secure and provide extra support for the animal. This will also give your horse more stability and comfort, making them less anxious.

Tips to make your horse feel more confident in the saddle

#1. Start Small – When introducing a horse to being saddled, it is crucial to take your time and start with small steps. Don’t rush your horse into using the new equipment without ensuring it’s comfortable first.

#2. Use positive reinforcement – Positive reinforcement is always encouraging when training or working with horses. If a horse does something correctly with the saddle, reward it for its efforts with a treat or pat. 

#3. Show affection- Affection goes a long way with horses, so take the time to give them lots of treats and petting to help make them feel more at ease.

#4. Reward their progress– Rewarding your horse for small successes can help keep them motivated and feeling confident in what they are learning.
#5. Be aware of their behavior– Pay attention to your horse’s body language and try to identify if they are uncomfortable or scared. If so, take a break and reassess the situation.

Related: Explore the different types of horse saddles available and find the perfect one for you and your horse. Get expert advice.

Final verdict

Riding a horse can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it is important to ensure that the horse feels safe and comfortable during the process. 

Following these tips on how to calm a nervous horse under saddle can help ensure that both you and your horse have a positive riding experience. With patience, kindness, and understanding, hopefully, you will be well on your way to creating a strong bond with your equine friend. 

If all else fails, you should consult a professional trainer who can offer more tailored advice on calming your horse.

Good luck!

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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