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How to Tack up a Horse

Tack refers to the equipment that are used when riding and handling a horse. This would include the saddle, bits, bridle, saddle, girth, boots, saddle pad, cinches and other equipment. Whatever saddle is being used be it English or Western there are a number of things that need to be done to ensure that the horse is well prepared.

Step 1 - Prepare the Horse

First, the horse needs to be tied securely before you start tacking it up. This is quite important so that the horse does not run away from you in any manner. Use a halter and tie the horse to a secure spot. A lot of horse riders use baling twine looped onto a fence or pole or stable and then make a knot of the lead rope onto the baling twine. As horses are flight animals this will assist to not injuring the horse if it gets spooked and tries to break free, then the baling twine will break (and not the horse).


Photo: Horse Sports

Next one should groom the horse and ensure it is clean and have not sustained any injuries in the paddock. The grooming ought to be done in full and no part left dirty as it may rub under the saddle. The horse ought to be well brushed, then the feet picked out with a hoof pick for any dirt. If there is no opportunity to do all this then the area, where the saddle goes should at least be thoroughly groomed to avoid any irritation and bruises on the horse. The right form of grooming will certainly ensure that the horse does not end up with unnecessary sores or pain that would be caused by excess and loose hair and other forms of dirt.

Bring all the equipment needed for tacking to close proximity with where you are. This will avoid any unnecessary searching and will make the whole process much faster, and you can stay close to your horse at all times.

Step 2 - Put the Saddle On

Depending on what saddle you use, this process is a bit different. For an english saddle, the stirrup and the girth should be done up and lying on top of the horse before you put the saddle on the horse's back. This will make it easy to place the saddle on top of the horse and prevent you from hitting it unnecessarily. You can easily cross the stirrups and keep them from the way to avoid any interference until the moment when you are now ready to mount up the horse. You then put the saddle on the horse standing on the horse's left side. Make sure you use a saddle pad underneath the saddle to avoid discomfort or rubbing on the horse's back. Ensure you use either a blanket, saddle pad, foam pad or a cloth depending on the tack that is being used. The pad’s front should face the front of the horse withers. These are to be found next to the animal’s shoulder blades just as they met the neck. This is usually at the bottom where the mane stops growing. In case you are opted to buy an English saddle, you might have to place both the English pad and regular saddle blanket on the horse to enhance the cushioning. 


Photo: The Spruce

Place the saddle on top of the wither, and slide it back until the gullet sits slightly behind the wither. When you pickup the girth, it should end up just behind (about 2 fingers) away from the horse's armpit.  Place the saddle and the pad on from same direction that you will mount the horse, which is normally the left side. The horse will tend to be more used to activities on that side. Make sure you do the girth up tight, to avoid the saddle from slipping to the side.

Step 3 - Putting The Bridle On


Photo: Ridsport

 The bridle is the last step of the process. Take the halter off and attach it to around the horse's neck instead. This will give you free access to the horse's head and it won't be able to run away. As per the picture above, hold the neck piece of the bridle and the bit with the other hand. Make sure you don't just jank it in there, horse's teeths are sensitive so take it nice and slow. Once the bridle is on the head, you need to do the noseband and cheek strap up. The cheek strap needs to be loose with at least space for one fist. The noseband is usually attached with 2 fingers underneath the strap. And off you go, enjoy your ride!