Tack is the equipment used to get a horse ready for riding unless you are riding bareback. For English riding, it usually consists of a saddle blanket, a saddle, bridle, a girth, and possibly a martingale and boots. Learn the perfect way to get your horse ready to ride if you are a beginner or novice.
- Tie your horse with cross ties, or if you have to, on a hitching post. Always use quick release “slip knots” if tying, and quick release snaps. It is always better to have to chase your horse down than to have the horse get hurt if it gets hung up in the rope.
Brush the horse. This can be a full groom, or just brush where the tack is going to go, and pick out the feet. When you groom, check the horse for lumps, bumps, swelling and heat that could mean your horse is unsound.
Put on the saddle pad/blanket/cloth (really, it’s whatever you want to call it). Place it on the horse’s withers, a bit higher up than normal. Slide it down a bit, so all the fur on the horse’s body is going in the direction of the saddle and the pad under it.
Place the saddle gently on the horse’s back. It should sit in the middle of the saddle pad. Again, make sure it doesn’t interfere with the horse’s shoulder. If it is sitting correctly, most of the time there will be a thin strip on the saddle pad that the saddle sits straight above, and should be coming out from directly underneath the pommel. Take note to also lift the top of the blanket (pad) into place, where the pommel on the saddle is. It’s easiest to lift both blanket AND saddle up, so they can come down gently from a few centimetres above the withers.
Put on his cinch or girth. Some horse bloat, so take this into account, if he is known to do this, tighten it gradually on both sides when he exhales so he can’t do this and tighten it again prior to mounting. Ideally, you should have the girth about 3/4 as tight as you prefer it. If using breast strap, or rear cinch, now is the time to position them. Move your horse at least three steps, forward or back. Tighten the cinch or girth again and do so gradually.
Put on the horse’s boots. If you ride English then you will either need boots or polos.
Unbuckle the cross ties. Put the reins over the horse’s head. This is so they don’t get tangled in all the other straps on the bridle.
Put the bit in the horses mouth. Put a finger on each side of the bit and gently push against the horse’s mouth. It’s also a good idea to put your thumbs in the very corner of the horse’s mouth, where he has no teeth.
Put the crown/headpiece of the bridle over the horse’s ears (some put in the farthest ear first, so the ear nearest to you can easily slide over, in comparison to doing it the other way around).
Buckle the throat latch/throatlash. When you buckle it you should be able to put four fingers in between the throat and the throat latch.
Buckle the chinstrap. You should be able to fit onsnug.
Make sure you put the saddle and bridle on from the left side.
- When approaching your horse with an item, always walk slowly so your horse won’t get spooked. Never walk directly behind or in front of the horse and place your hand on the horse’s shoulder when on reach.
- Martingales are designed to keep the horse from raising its head too high. Opinions on the need for martingales differ, and depend on the trainer.
- When you go to pick your horse’s hooves, bring the horses hoof to you so you won’t get kicked.
- Keep emergency contact information close by.
- To find instructors and trainers in your area, ask your local tack stores. They usually have an inside scoop on who the best trainers are.
- In the winter, be sure to warm up the bit so the horse will not become bit-shy.
- Make sure that when putting the bit in the horses mouth, you do not hit the horses teeth, or they will become sour to the bit.
- With some headcollars, you can slip it around the neck by unbuckling the noseband. This way there is less chance of the horse getting away.
- Always tighten the girth again once you have warmed up as horses tend to puff their stomach out when you tighten their girth before mounting. If after you’ve warmed up your horse still puffs his stomach out when you tighten his girth then tighten it as you walk, he cannot puff his stomach out and walk at the same time. Be careful they can kick you!
- To help a shy horse take the bit, put a little honey or peppermint oil on it. Then praise them each time they take the bit to help them get used to it.
Always wear a helmet when riding. Your helmet should never have had an impact or been stored improperly. It should be under 5 years old.
- Make sure the girth or bridle isn’t too small for the horse.
- Take lessons from a qualified instructor.
- Riding is a potentially dangerous sport, but the risks can be greatly reduced by learning from an experienced instructor, and using common sense.
- When carrying a saddle over your arm make sure your sleeve covers your watch and other jewelery or remove them to prevent scratching the saddle.
- Don’t drop the saddle. It is breakable and very expensive.
- Avoid putting the saddle down on the floor. Put it over a fence, door, a special rack or the horses back. If you must put the saddle down on the floor, put it on top of a rug or coat, leaning against a wall with the seat facing the wall, the pommel down and the cantle (back of the saddle) resting against the wall with the girth over it to protect it from scratches.
- If the stirrup bar is an old type it may be hinged to lock the stirrup in place. Always keep it down, to help prevent being dragged.
- Some horses are “girthy”, that is, they don’t like their girth being tightened. They may attempt to bite you if you tighten their girth, so if your horse is like this, simply be wary. (Tip: When you first put the girth on; keep it loose at first. After leading your horse around for a few minutes tighten the girth again because the horse will have let out air. Gradual tightening the girth instead of tightening it all the way at once can help girthy horses.)
- Some horses are also “cross-tie phobic”, meaning they do not like being in cross-ties. The solution is to clip the lead rope to the bottom ring of the horse’s halter, under her muzzle, and loop it around the cross-ties, which should be connected to each other. Or just don’t use a cross tie in the first place. Unless it’s a particularly spunky Thoroughbred or a rowdy stallion, a lead rope tied in a quick-release knot to a sturdy ring on the wall should be all you need.
- Always talk to him before you walk up behind your horse, just to let him know you are there.
- Make sure your saddle fits your horse as it can cause discomfort.
- While tacking up, never kneel down! Crouch if you need to, but never sit or kneel next to a horse, as they can accidentally or purposefully kick or step on you.