everybody has different ways of starting a horse under saddle. Different approaches and different views, what are YOUR BEST STEPS to starting a horse under saddle? Let's see the different answers we get!
I so rarely get a green bean (I normally get rescued/neglected horses, horses with problems, or off the track horses) but I do a lot of work on the ground for what I call my "Trail horse 101" program.
1) learning to disengage the hindend - I put my hand on their ribcage roughly where my leg would go and push and say "over". As soon as they move their hindend over, I say good boy/girl and lots of either pets or treats (depending on whether they are food motivated or attention motivated) If they do not move off within 3 secs I put more pressure on until I use the heel of my palm and by then they are moving away from pressure. I do this on both sides until the horse responds within 3 secs consistently from both sides.
2) moving the shoulder over - with their halter on (I have flat halters and regular cotton leads) I move the head (grab the halter by the cheek piece) gently towards me with pressure from my hand near their shoulder (where my leg would go for a shoulder in) and say "over" and when they cross their front legs over they get rewarded, repeat on both sides until response becomes within 3 secs consistently.
This disengaging the hindend and crossover of the front is the introduction to the emergency "one rein stop" brakes. Also sets up the groundwork for more advanced work later on.
3) I have a "confidence course" just simple things like logs/rails for poles on ground, pool noodles, flags (like at used car lots) blue tarps, mail boxes, balloons, etc. I start out with walking over 4 poles, then a star pattern, this helps with bending and using their body and coordination with feet. I have pool noodles, balloons tied to mail boxes, walking over tarp, picking up tarp, etc. Have horse walk through alley of flags. Once they are confident, and listening to me I add a light saddle and redo all exercises again.
4) Introduction to bridle, I start out in either a French Link or a mullen mouth (especially restarting gaited horses used to long shanks) and work on ground to have slight give of nose with rein pressure. I graduate to long lining (with aid of a side walker) and I ground drive over poles and my obstacle course.
5) I start lightly riding for 15 mins at a walk in the arena, just looking for ease of walk, attention to reins and leg/seat cues.
6) keep lessons short and simple. Keep goals easily attainable and after the horse can walk, whoa, turn with 2 finger pressure I give them a week or two off to decompress.
7) After vacation we do refresher course over confidence course, and then I work only at the walk for 2-3 months. I'm looking for good gait, 1-2-3-4 rhythm, straightness, and suppleness. I introduce large circles, figure 8's, serpentines, and various cone patterns to keep the horse thinking.
I don't introduce the intermediate gaits (ie trot, running walk, rack, foxtrot etc) until the muscles are built up at a walk, the horse has power steering and power brakes, relatively straightness at the walk, suppleness, and understanding of leg and seat cues.
I know I'm missing a few things but this is a good rough overview of our 101 course.
I can't say very much, as I have only started 2 horses... and even though they were very similar in age and temperment, they required very different techniques =/
In general, the principal was the same; get the horse calm, relaxed and willing to be your partner. Introduce him to your equipment slowly and help him to build his strength to carry himself correctly, and to carry additional weight on his back. When he can effectively carry himself and some added weights, you can back him and practice everything you've taught him from the ground so far.