It pays to take time to put a saddle on your horse. Spend a bit of time with her first, give her a groom, walk her around a bit to see how she feels. Take your time if you can and make a fuss of her.
So, first, you will need a saddle pad to go underneath the saddle. These are generally either cloth or fleece. On top of the saddle pad goes a back pad. If you are using both of these, make sure the seams of each lineup. Make sure the back pad goes no further than the end of the saddle pad, and check that the pads are even on both sides. Stand behind your horse to check this.
The saddle goes on top of the saddle and back pad – but don’t make it a surprise for your horse, or lump it on heavily. Approach your horse from the front with the saddle, so she knows what’s going to happen, stand close to her front leg, and swing the saddle up onto her back, swinging yourself as well to hug her with the saddle.
Once the saddle is on, you can attach the saddle pads to the saddle using the straps on the saddle pad.
Next comes the girth. There are different sorts of girth – you can get fleece covered ones for sensitive horses, and leather or a mixture of leather and elastic. Lots of girths are mostly leather, with elastic at one end. Attach the leather end first to the girth straps, then reach under the horse, and pull the girth to attach to the saddle on the other side. When you reach under your horse, use the hand that’s nearest to your horse to grab the girth. This will depend partly on if you left or right-handed, but it will keep you safer if your horse moves or spooks during the process.
In practice, the girth on my saddle stays attached to the saddle on one side all the time and I just tuck the loose end under when it’s not in use. If you do keep your girth attached when you put the saddle on, make sure it is tucked in somewhere when you go to put it on your horse and doesn’t dangle around and spook the horse!
Most people tighten the girth on the left side, as this is the side they mount from. Keep it loose, to begin with. Horses often puff themselves up with air to stop you from getting it too tight anyway, and it will need to be checked again before you ride, and again when you get on.
Usually, before I ride, I will either lunge or walk my horse around a bit – just to see what sort of mood she’s in. Lunging for a bit gets any possible bucks out of the way before I begin. It also gives her time to settle down a bit, and then I can tighten the girth before I get on. Sometimes you can tighten the girth a few times before actually getting on. This means it’s done before you get on. Tightening the girth on a horse once you’re on isn’t always easy if you are new to horses, so this is a way around it.