Anyone who is knowledgeable in the horse riding industry knows that high-quality tack equates to amazing riding experiences—a good saddle, gel pad, bridle, or breast collar can go a long way for memorable adventures with your animal.
Everyone wants the best for their four-legged friends, right? One caveat you may encounter here, however, is that tack price tags can be a little steep for riding gear. It is essential that you make the right choice when you buy certain pieces because it doesn’t only benefit you in the present, but it improves the health of your horse in the long run, too. Keep reading to learn more about what you need to have in your arsenal:
Tack Every Rider Needs
Before we go into specifics, you need to know what are the pieces of tack that horse riders must own! Make sure to keep a copy of this handy checklist when going shopping online or in-store:
- Halter — Sometimes called headcollar, a halter is part of protective headgear used to lead or tie up your animal. It fits behind the ears and around the muzzle. To handle the animal, a handling rope is attached.
- Bridle — A piece of gear used to direct a horse where to look or go. It includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse and the reins that are attached.
- Breast Collar — Designed to help keep your saddle from sliding back on your horse. It comes in a variety of styles and fills a variety of riding needs, including barrel racing and trail riding.
- Saddle — The most common and basic need for riding horses, a saddle is a support structure for the rider or any other load fastened to the animal’s back by a girth.
- Saddle Pad — it is a form of lining placed under the saddle to deflect shock, resist twisting forces, and helps distribute weight on the back of your horse properly.
- Girth — A piece of gear used to keep the saddle in place. It passes under the barrel of the horse, usually attached to the saddle on both sides by leather straps called billets.
What It Does
The main purpose of a halter is to have a way to hold onto and direct your horse. It helps when you’re trying to control your horse when you need his cooperation. It merely tells your horse what you want or don’t want him to do.
With a proper fit, any halter should feel comfortable for any horse. Choosing a halter isn't only a matter of style, but it's how we use it that matters.
- Rope halters come in various thicknesses and stiffness. The thinner the rope, the more it bites into the horse when under pressure while softer ropes that lie against the head are a little harder to control as they tend to be limp.
- Web halters come in a variety of sizes, materials, and fit. There are those with adjustable nosebands, options for hardware, and color choices. Keep in mind that the more layers of webbing, the sturdier the halter is.
- Leather halters are the traditional show or stable halter. It requires regular maintenance to avoid drying out or cracking. Once it has cracked, it will lose integrity and is likely to break.
What It Does
The bridle is one of the most important parts of communication with the horse when it is being ridden. It allows the rider to be in full control of the horse's directional and forward movement during daily exercise or competitions.
- Decide on the type of material. Bridles vary in price based on the quality of the material. Consider the function of your horse when deciding how much to spend.
- Choose between one with a bit or bitless. A bit is the metal piece of the bridle that is placed in the horse's mouth that allows the rider to communicate with the horse. Keep in mind that if your horse is in less physical pain, it will be more willing to listen to you.
- Consider the thickness of the material. Your decision will be based on personal preference and your horse's conformation.
What It Does
Simply put, its purpose is to keep the saddle from sliding back. It also functions as a safety feature should a rider's girth break, as the rider will have enough time to stop the horse and dismount before the saddle slips off.
- Choose the material well. Though most materials (commonly mohair, fleece, and leather) provide a similar function, selection relies heavily upon preference and appropriateness to your riding needs.
- Get the right size. To measure appropriate breast-collar size, saddle your horse. Stretch a string, soft measuring tape, or existing breast collar across your horse’s chest, from front dee ring to front dee ring.
What It Does
A well-made saddle gives the horse rider the necessary support, security, and control over the animal. This makes it possible for the rider to keep in balance with the horse by allowing them to sit over the horse's point of balance.
- Look for saddles with the right shape for your body as no two riders have the same build.
- Take account of your flexibility and your position on the bike when riding.
- Measure the width of your sit bones. Saddles come in different widths so make sure it fits your horse well.
- Set the saddle to the right height where you and your horse will be comfortable.
- If possible, go for a test ride so you’ll have a better idea if it’s a keeper.
What It Does
Every horse is built differently, but no matter their structure, it’s vital that they have proper back support. A saddle pad adds extra lining to conform with your animal’s spine to prevent riding shock or impact which in turn ensures their comfort and health.
- Look for the right style. Remember, the type of riding you do will determine the style of your gel pad. For example, riders who perform dressage will typically use square pads, while the shaped pads are most popular among hunters and jumpers.
- Be particular about the size. Always match the type of gel pad with your saddle as they are typically made with different style saddles in mind. Check that the pad extends slightly beyond the saddle edge, but not beyond the horse's last rib.
- Choose the most comfortable material. Saddle pads come in a variety of material choices. A few of these include fleece and cotton because of their wicking capabilities. Meanwhile, wool pads are able to absorb up to three times its weight in water so they are a little more expensive.
What It Does
A girth is a very important addition to your saddle because, without it, your saddle is of little use. It’s a broad strap of material like webbing, leather, or cotton that goes around the horse to secure the saddle onto the horse’s back.
The girth is one of the few pieces of equipment that you probably want to invest a little research and cash in. Poor performing girths could cause problems for the fit of the saddle, even if the saddle itself is great!
- Invest in good quality girth. Cheap girths tend to slide around, making it hard for the saddle to stay in place. If your horse has sensitive skin, you might also want to look at different materials than nylon.
- Take your riding discipline into consideration. For example, a jumping girth will be problematic on a dressage saddle because the straps will be too long and are likely to bundle up.
Tack for Special Events
When you dress up for events well, you set yourself up for success with horse tack that performs. It’s important to dress your horse with our superior selection of accessories to make sure they make a lasting impression.
- Open-front Boots — This unique footwear provides protection to the back of the horse's cannon bone and fetlock along with the tendons and ligaments that run down the leg.
- Martingale — a strap, or set of straps, attached at one end to the noseband or reins of the animal and at the other end to the girth. It is used to prevent the horse from raising its head too high.
- Saddle Blanket — Primarily meant for comfort and protection of your horse from injury, it can double as an eye-catching accessory, too! Try going with subtle colors to avoid flashing the crowd with blinding hues.
Which of these do you have and which do you still need in your collection? We’re excited for you to get your hands on complete tack so you can experience your best rides ever!