Begin with halter, short rope, not tying. Hold him so he can move if he needs to. (Modified Playground of Safety)
Start tapping with your belly button energy, progressing to the stick, and establish the connection and relaxation responses in the saddling/mounting spot. Sometimes the saddling/mounting spot creates huge anxiety even without the saddle.
Present and use the pad to ‘tap’, using approach and retreat when you get a positive response. Retreat means take the pad off. You will end up putting it on and taking it off many many times. The retreat is the initial reward. Once the horse is confident the retreat is coming, and feels it, endorphins will start flowing.
Repeat Step 3 technique, approach and retreat with the saddle next. Find a lighter saddle to use if yours is too heavy. The retreat is key to reward and relaxation.
Again use approach and retreat with the girth too. Touch, take it off, touch, take it off when you get a positive response. The more time you take, touch, wait for a positive response (vs bucking or biting you), then remove. After repetition, the girth tightening will trigger relaxation.
Everyone wins when your horse is completely relaxed, yawning and yawning.
This will absolutely change your horse’s response to the saddle.