Join Date: May 2009
Location: Manitoba, Canada
If they're only "fairly well behaved" on the ground it sounds like they're not yet ready for saddles and bits...get them round penning, lunging, leading and respecting your space at all times. Yielding their hindquarters and shoulders every time you ask, being respectful when you work around them in the barn and pick out their feet - if they don't respect you FULLY on the ground, they'll have no respect for you on their backs.
I see no reason why used tack cannot be found - for 3 year old drafts you'll probably want to look for a wide tree. I'd find someone willing to let you try the saddle on your horses and have someone with experience in fitting saddles come over to approve the fit. VERY important that the saddle doesn't pinch or push on any nerves or make sore spots or it'll cause bad behavior that might be misinterpreted as baby shinanigans instead of ill fitting tack.
To measure the mouth I first borrowed a bit from someone, put it in, and decided if it was too big/small. For Percherons I'd say between a 5" and 6" for now, might have to buy bigger as they age. I have a 1/2 Clyde and she's a 5 1/4" as a 4 year old.
As for the tying...I'm old school. I'd rather have a horse/foal haul back and step up not getting free than have them break a twine and learn that hauling back means they're free every time. Granted there is POTENTIAL for the horse to injure themselves by doing this (pull a muscle or strain something) but I'd rather give a week/month off to heal and not deal with it again than constantly worry about when they're going to haul back on me.
To teach my 1/2 Clyde to tie I picked a nice, SOLID Oak tree with no low branches, single trunk. Tied a rope just above eye level for her so even when she hauled back she couldn't get leverage on it, and tied her short - maybe 3 feet long? I called it my patience post. We worked at tying in intervals, starting with short amounts of time til she stood still and didn't pull on it, increasing the amount of time each time. That being said, I NEVER left her unattended and always had a knife in hand incase of emergency. She had her moments of don't wanna be here anymore and hauled back on it, gave a couple good wrenches and stepped up like a respectable member of equine society. Once she was still and calm, I unclipped her and lots of pets and grooming and such...
Have to weigh the pro's and con's on this one I think and each to their own. I know some members here would prefer to tie with twine and if they haul back and get free, so be it - go catch them and tie them again with twine. I prefer to know my horse will be where I tied her when I get back from wherever I needed to go.
Crossties are tougher...work on the tying period and work off of that. Crossties, ironically, I always have up with twine. A horse in crossties should know how to tie and not be a threat to haul back - but when tied from both sides of the face, if they spook forward or whatnot, it's possible for them to flip themselves on their backs and that's just dangerous for everyone...
Good luck with your babies though and let us know how you do with tying and saddle fitting.
Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly