Being a beginner in horse riding can be daunting. There are many things to remember, a lot of lessons to retain, the effort, and time put into training and riding can take its toll. However, as what every equestrian will tell you, being in the saddle is always worth it—the fun you have with your horse is exhilarating, and for most of you in the horse world, once you get your first taste of horseback riding, you’re never the same again!
Since you are deep into your riding journey, you may have perhaps wondered if it is time to invest in pieces you can own, rather than always borrowing from your nearby stable. When training properly, you have probably noticed that you cannot be without a proper tack for your four-legged friend. Tack is not just for the rider’s comfort, but it is for the health and comfort of your equine partner. With people riding horses, it should go without saying that equines experience a lot of pressure on their back and on their legs and hooves—and that is why a proper tack is so important because it helps horses stay healthier, for longer.
By now, even if you are still a beginner, you know that when it comes to horse riding, doing things correctly early on will not only save you a lot of time and effort undoing bad habits along the way, but it will also help lengthen your horse’s career. How is that? When you do things correctly, it means that it is also to your equine partner’s benefit, because your cues or gaits are within the bounds of what they have been trained to do, and you will know when it is time to train, and when it is time for both you and your equine to rest. Knowing these will benefit your riding journey in the long run.
The Talk About Tack: Why the proper tack is a good investment for both equestrians and equines
When horse riders talk about tack or tacking up, it refers to all the equipment you need to ride your equine, and preparing your horse to go on a ride. Horse equipment is called tack because it comes from the word “tackle”, which is exactly what you think it is—meaning these pieces are to control how your equine moves or how you train them. The equipment is designed to not just handle your horse and ride your four-legged pal, but also take care of them and protect them during the ride.
Several pieces are included in tacking up a horse, but you’re probably familiar with the saddle with girth or cinch, saddle pads, stirrups, reins, bridle, and bit. There are some items that you may have already seen in some equines that you might not have been aware are also part of a horse tack, such as bell boots and horse leg wraps. For a quick guide on horse saddles, click here.
The most associated piece of equipment when you mention horse tack is the saddle and the bridle, which are also the costliest out of the rest of the horse equipment. These may be costly, but for good reason: They not only keep you safe while riding, but it also protects your equine. An ill-fitting saddle can cause unnecessary pressure on your equine partner’s back, leading to uneasy rides for you and your four-legged pal, possible accidents and injuries for you and your horse, or shortening the career or lifespan of your well-loved equine.
Time to Shop! What You Need for Your First High-Quality Tack
Focus on the fundamentals.
The choices and the sheer number of horse tack are overwhelming, even for seasoned equestrians. Entering a tack shop or the tack room can be daunting for a beginner. Before purchasing anything, do your research thoroughly and focus on the pieces that you need-- saddle with girth or cinch, saddle pads, stirrups, reins, bridle, and bit. Talk to your instructor, equestrian friends, do your online research—whatever it takes to narrow down your choices and gain clarity over the difference between the need to have, and nice to have.
The horse comes first before the tack.
For a horse tack to fit properly, you need the actual equine first to be there so that a custom-fitted tack can be created for them. Once your horse is with you, then you can have their saddle fitted properly, and you can go on and get other necessities, such as gel pads, leg wraps, and the like. Remember that the equipment is made for the horse to stay healthy and pain-free, so each piece should serve a specific purpose, and be made especially for your equine.
Put your equine’s needs and conditions first.
Your riding partner is a hard worker, and they deserve the horse tack that will work as hard as they do. Meaning, it needs to last longer, be sturdy and be tailor-fit to your horse’s needs. For example, if you are adopting a rescue with a back condition, they will need a better fitting saddle and a saddle pad that will help alleviate their pain and not worsen their condition. Each equine partner is different, and their needs must be addressed accordingly through the horse tack they will use.
Invest in the best saddle and bridle that your money can buy.
As a beginner, the amount it takes to invest in good tack might be a hard pill to swallow. After all, aren’t you just starting, so why can’t you purchase more affordable alternatives to horse tack?
The reason why a saddle, bridle, and other items that comprise a quality tack are costly is that you are paying not just for the workmanship and science behind each piece, you are paying for the safety, health, and comfort of you and your horse—and you can’t put a price on that!
Often, you can fit a used saddle on a different horse, but one saddle can only do so many refittings and re-stuffings. That’s why investing in the best tack possible is essential, because only quality saddles can withstand the refitting to other equines.
Also known as a saddle blanket, the saddle pad protects both the saddle from getting too dirty, absorbs sweat and moisture from your horse, and, when you choose correctly, adds extra cushion and comfort to your equine partner. A simple saddle pad made out of woven fabric won’t do, and it might cause an accident if it slips from under your saddle. A gel pad is ideal because it absorbs shock and also has a breathable, cooling function, making your ride more comfortable. To know more about horse riding essentials, click here.
Choose your materials well.
Most horse tack will fall under two categories when it comes to material: Leather and synthetic. Of course, leather is more expensive compared to synthetic materials, the latter was created precisely to give a more affordable option. But don’t be fooled—not just because it’s made out of leather, it automatically means that it’s quality leather. Some experts would suggest that rather than buying low-quality leather, you would be better off buying a saddle made from synthetic leather.
Add style with function for that extra confidence boost!
Due to the nature of horse shows and their strict requirements, you would notice that most horse tacks are in black, brown, or beige. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t add some style into your horse tack! Saddle blankets often come in other designs, and the design of a perfectly sheepskin-lined saddle pad can add that bit of fashion into your functional tack.
Shopping for horse tack is always exciting for any equestrian, and it knows no age or level. Even seasoned equestrians will perhaps tell you how thrilling it still feels to get a new saddle or the hunt for that perfect saddle pad for their aging horse. As a beginner, you may be unsure or worried about mistakenly buying the wrong thing. It’s best to focus on the end goal, which is not to buy every shiny new thing that comes your way.