I'm going back to some of the basics in this post..
For most of it I just had to be taught once and I had it down. In fact I feel like most of what I learn I can make a good habit of doing. But...I better learn the right thing too because I can make a bad habit fast and it's harder to get rid of.
I'm going to talk about saddling, grooming/care and some of the tack I use.
Grooming/Care: For the grooming I don't usually do a lot if I'm about to ride. The the winter it takes longer to groom because the horses are usually buddy, hoofs caked and tangling mane and tail. In the summer it's very dry here so they really only get dusty (which is very easy to clean compared to mud) and they're hoofs stay clean. I'll do a quick brush down on they're bodies depending on how dirty they are. If I'm in a hurry to start working I won't bother brushing they're manes and tails out. But if I do I brush all the knots out and spray it with this stuff (called Shine-On I think) where it detangles and gives it a shine. I like to use the same spray on their bodies too, to shine it up ;)
I'll clean their hoofs out either every time I ride or every other ride/work with them. Sometimes it just depends how caked they get with pebbles and mud. But like I said it get's caked in the winter and almost always stays clean in the summer. Although in the summer it's very dry so I'll paint they're hoofs with oil so it doesn't crack. Depending on how dry I'll do this once or twice a week. In the winter I don't need too of course since it's wet enough.
I also like to bathe them in the summer usually after a ride or groundwork session. If I bathe them before I ride I have to make sure they're dry enough so the pad and other tack doesn't rub.
In the winter the nights are colder and I ride mostly in the afternoons so I need to make sure they're dry from sweat before letting them go. Horses can get really sweaty and hot depending on how much you work them even in cold winter. I can do a cool down by riding them at a walk for about 10 minutes before getting off or I could lead them for the same time. When I untack them I'll rub them down as much as I can to dry them off. I'll use a beach towel or straw. After if they're still damp I'll throw a special kind of blanket that helps cool them down and dry them. I don't leave the blanket on, it comes off after awhile. So even though the horse may be very hot and sweaty it's bad for them to be exposed to the cold because they're temperature can change really fast and being wet and sweaty in the cold have bad results. I want to make sure they're dry after I'm done. Horses also like to roll in the mud where they have a they're own homemade coat on to keep them warm. But mud is SO annoying to get off in the winter because any brush hardily works and the best way is to wash it off...and I can't even do that because it's cold out!!
When I throw the saddle on the horse's back, I'll put it just where the front cinch will line up with the girth. Not too far forward where it can bother the horse in the shoulders, ,making movement hard and not too far back either.
I always (and I mean always) tighten the cinch 2-3 times. I make it a habit to tighten it at least twice (never once). Horses like to push they're stomaches out. So even if it feels tight enough after awhile it'll get loose and nothing's worse than having a loose saddle! The saddle can slip under the horse and usually he'll spook...A LOT!
For the bridle there is an old rule for how tight the bridle should be. If you pull back on the bit the mouth will make wrinkles. We judge how tight it is by the wrinkles. The more wrinkles, the tighter it is. The old rule was three wrinkles. But I agree with Clinton, and that is too tight because it's already adding pressure on the mouth when you don't want it. It'll have pressure on the horse's mouth all the time and it will make it that much harder when you want to add pressure. It doesn't help the horse get any lighter or softer in the mouth. It actually teaches the horse to push against the bit.
The bit should sit on the corner of the horse's mouth. Not any further or it will fall out or hang in a uncomfortable spot. When I pick up on the reins it should add pressure, but when I release it also releases any pressure on the horse's mouth.
There are also many different types of bits. I use what's called snaffle bits. I use a twisted snaffle which looks basically like this:
(Either with a D rind or a O ring)
or a smooth snaffle which looks basically like this:
Although this smooth bit has copper lining. We just got a whole bridle set that has the bit with copper lining but I also use the same smooth bit with no copper. (The copper is for a nice taste in the horse's mouth).
The twisted snaffle has more bite to it than the smooth. So sometimes depending on how the horse is behaving I'll use something that has more bite but most of the time I use either one. I always want to ask as lightly as I can to get the lightest results with either bit.
There are also shank bits which I don't use and personally don't like very much. I've used this bit in the past and compared it to a snaffle bit and I don't like it very much but especially for training horses. Snaffle bits encourage lateral flexion; To be able to turn easier where as the shank bits are more straight and forward. Although shank bits can help with vertical flexion and can teach a horse to tuck his head in, it's still harder to soften a horse's whole body. Where as the snaffle bit makes it easier and can do both lateral and vertical. I find that horses can be SO much softer and lighter in my hands.
Now for the reins..
I use Clinton's reins and overall tack.
These reins are different than the usual reins most people use because they can adjust in length. With what are called slobber straps I can change the length of the reins any time I want instead of having to buy different reins for a different length. They are made out of yachting rope instead of leather. (CA's halters are also made out yachting rope as well). For me I like either rope or leather but I prefer the affect of being able to change the length and have slobber straps which tells the horse I'm picking up on the reins earlier on. This is really helpful to get a horse lighter. But the rope reins does win me over more because it's also easier for me to slide my hands down the reins or lead than it is with leather.
Slobber straps: (Funny name for it XD)
(fuzzy picture of Sugar in my favorite bridle set)
There is a ton of other tack I use but I'll save that for another time..
Before I mount I always do a little groundwork to make sure the horse is using the thinking side of his brain. The last few rides I've only had to do short groundwork sessions. For more than one reason I make sure to do some groundwork even if it's just 5-10 mins. Sometimes it might be an hour, it all depends! I'll do short sessions of groundwork if I've worked the horse a lot for a couple days in a row and I'm wanting to work on something in the saddle. As long as I'm satisfied and the horse is using the thinking side of his brain.
When I get in the saddle I make it a rule and habit to always flex the horse's head around while I'm mounting. This is for my safety. If the horse happened to spook or bolt when I'm in the middle of mounting it can get ugly fast, especially if I already have a foot in the stirrup. It also helps the horse to focus on you and not be able to look around and get distracted. It makes it harder for the horse to start walking off when you're trying to get on.