Horse Tack: All the Items Horse Owners Need.


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One evening, a friend and I were having a discussion about horse tack when a guest at our party curiously asked, “What exactly is ‘horse tack’?” My friend answered, “it’s everything you need to ride a horse.” Was his definition of horse tack correct?

Horse tack is equipment that you use for horses. You usually hear it in the context of riding gear, so “tacking up” means putting everything on a horse that it needs for riding. But, the term ‘tack’ also includes items used to care for and handle horses.

It’s not always easy to pick out the right equipment for your horse. You’ll find a wide array of choices, and all these options tend to overwhelm new riders. The sheer variety in tack can make it hard for you to choose what works best – that is, if anything does at all!

Picture of horse tack.

Horse tack in general

The most important pieces of riding tack are the saddle, bridle, and reins. But tack also encompasses many other items such as stirrups, cinches, bits, blankets, bell boots, horseshoes, and halters.

When humans first began horseback riding, the only piece of equipment they used was a bridle. A long time passed until man started using saddles and longer still until the arrival of the stirrup.

If you have never bought tack for a horse before, it may seem like your options are endless. Because of this, you should research each item of tack thoroughly and talk to experienced equestrians before buying a product.

There is much more that goes into getting set up properly than just selecting what looks good or seems cool to try out! Having the right horse tack and equipment and using it correctly can play an important role in you and your horse’s safety and enjoyment.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to buy the wrong piece of equipment. In this post, I provide basic information about the different types of tack so that when going out shopping next time-you’ll be an informed shopper.

Basic Horse Riding Tack

Tack and equipment are what you need when you want to ride a horse. There is a wide variety in horse tack today, and it is an ever-changing market.

Every horse activity has a particular type of horse tack, so you need to know what events you intend to participate in before you start shopping for tack.

You will find a lot of variety and styles in horse bridles, saddles, and other horse equipment. A bridle you’d use for western pleasure riding differs from the one you’d use for eventing. That’s why you must consult a competent professional if you aren’t absolutely sure what you need.

Click on the following link to get an understanding of what basic horse tack comprises.

Halters

What it is:

Halters are made of nylon, leather, or rope. It has a metal ring to which you attach the lead rope. Halters are the most basic head gears worn by a horse. They are used for training and leading horses.

Horse halters-Choosing the best type for your needs

How to buy

  • Horse halters are sized in various ways, such as Mini, Foal, Pony, small, average, medium, large, draft horse, warmblood, etc.
  • Measure your horse before you buy its halter. You might also have to estimate where its noseband might sit.
  • Also, measure from cheek ring to cheek ring. Halters can be adjusted at the crown with the buckle provided.

Bridles

What is it

A bridle is a combination piece that includes a headpiece, bit, and reins. These items work together so you can communicate with your horse. They come in a variety of materials.

Picture of a woman putting a bridle on her horse.

Bridles- Purpose, Costs, and Best Types

When properly fitted, they exert pressure on the horse’s mouth and help the rider control their mount. People often confuse the bridle and halter, but they are different and have different functions too.

The bridle features a bit that goes in the mount’s mouth, and the rider uses it for controlling the horse while riding. On the other hand, the halter comes without a bit. It goes over the horse’s head, and you can use it to tie your horse or even walk it.

How to buy

  • Choose the material. Leather bridles last long.
  • Next, choose the bridle’s thickness which will decide its weight.
  • Select a bridle based on the discipline you want it for – pleasure riding, show, dressage, events, etc.

Hackamores

What is it

A hackamore is a type of bridle but without a bit. It exerts pressure through the noseband for you to communicate with your horse while riding. They are often used in Western disciplines for training.

Picture of a horse in a hackamore.

Horse Riding Tack: Hackamores – A Guide

A soft, supple, and flexible hackamore can help you get your horse to obey rather than resist.

How to buy

  • You can choose between a bosal hackamore (leather training device for young horses) or a mechanical one.
  • Avoid stiff hackamores. Choose flexible ones.

Saddle

The saddle is the big-ticket item that forms an integral part of horse equipment. Check out how to saddle train your young horse step-by-step.

Western Horse Saddle: Its parts and how long one should last.

How to buy

  • Try out saddles made for various disciplines.
  • Take an experienced person when you go saddle shopping.
  • Make sure the saddle fits the horse you ride.
  • Spend some money on the highest-quality saddle – it will be a worthy investment.

Saddle blanket or blanket

What’s the difference between a saddle blanket and saddle pad?

Horseback riders with a western background commonly refer to the pad under their saddle as a “saddle blanket.” Meanwhile, those who ride English style expect it to be called by its more technical name of “Saddle Pad”.

What is a saddle blanket used for?

Saddle pads are essential for providing cushioning and preventing chafing and rubbing of the saddle on the horse’s back. It also prevents sweat from damaging the saddle. Both English and western riders should use saddle pads.

How to buy

Reins

Reins are the straps that hook to your bridle and are used to guide your horse. Western bridles come with reins, so you don’t need to buy them separately.

Horse Reins- Types and How They Work

How to buy

  • For a pony, select full-size reins of 1.5m in length. For jumping or flat-racing, choose shorter reins. Other sizes in reins are cob, full, and extra-full.
  • You can also choose from closed reins, loop reins, or double reins like curb reins and snaffle reins.

Bits

What are they

Horse bits and biting bits are of different types- racing dee, Dexter snaffle, Springsteen, regulator half-cheek, chifney, etc. They basically fall into three categories: snaffle, double, and Pelham.

Picture of a horse with a bit.

Bits-Types and How to Choose the Right One

Snaffle bits are the mildest as they distribute the pressure evenly over the horse’s mouth. The word comes from the German word Schnabel, meaning beak or nose. A double bit is ideal for gaited horses as it takes advantage of the nodding action of the horse and enhances it. The Pelham bit combines the action of a double bit and a snaffle.

How to select

  • Select the bit based on the style of riding, discipline, and your horse’s conformation
  • Also, based on the horse’s training and your ability.
  • Your budget.

Horse Tack Accessories

Bell boots

Horses often strike the back hooves into the rear of their front feet and lower legs while running or playing around too aggressively- resulting in injuries such as lacerated fetlocks. You can prevent these types of injuries with bell boot protection!

Picture of a horse wearing bell boots.
Bell Boots

Bell Boots: Why, When and How to Use Them on Your Horses

How to select

  • Seek the help of the vet or farrier.
  • Measure the hooves correctly.

Leg boots

Leg boots serve various purposes. Some provide support during shipping, while other protect legs from interference injuries. They are also used for protecting a jumping horse’s legs.

How to select

  • Choose one that is closed from the front and back to protect the legs from all sides.
  • Your saddlery shop can help you select.

9 Best Leg Boots for Horses and Why You Need Them.

Martingales

Martingales are either running (rings) or standing types. A running martingale is useful when jumping or riding cross-country to prevent a horse from evading the rider’s reins. Standing martingales are handy for nervous horses.

How to select

  • When the girth part is attached for running martingales, the ring should fit just up the mount’s throat.

Tie-downs

These complement the bit and provide security and balance to the horse during turns and stops.

How to select

  • There are many types like nylon, braided, rawhide, chain, steel, etc.
  • When adjusting tie-down, the piece that goes in the front should hang just above the eye.

 Horseshoes

Check my guide on Horseshoes, where I have discussed this accessory in detail.

Miscellaneous

  • Blinders – also called blinkers, protect the horse’s eyes, improve its concentration, and prevent it from getting spooked or shy due to objects. There are many different types like a full cup, cheater cup, French cup, and standard.
  • Shadow rolls – Racing horses use this; it’s a piece of soft foam or fleece placed over the horse’s nose. The shadow roll prevents the horse from seeing the ground or track directly in front of it.
  • Tongues ties – Tongue ties keep a horse’s airway unobstructed when running and protect the horse’s tongue from being bit. It also protects your horse’s mouth from chafing from the bit.
  • Polo wrapsLeg wraps provide additional support and padding to the horse’s legs. They need an expert to wrap them as very high pressure during wrapping can be painful and uncomfortable to your horse.

For further reading, please check out this section on this website.

Conclusion

When it comes to selecting horse tack, things can get overwhelming for new horse owners. The above is just a basic premise, and there is a lot more tack and equipment based on different riding styles and disciplines.  So keep checking this website for the latest information on horse tack!

FAQs

Why is horse ‘stuff’ called tack?

The word tack stands for tackle – a term used since ancient times to direct a horse and use it for riding or work.

Why is horse tack so important?

Horse tack is essential to establish control over your horse. It can also play a role in your horse’s health and longevity and also your (and your horse’s) safety.

What are horse tack makers called?

Horse tack makers are called saddlers and shapers.

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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