As a horse lover, I know just how EXCITING it is to get your own horse for the very first time. I mean this is what you’ve been waiting for!!!
Unfortunately, I also know how expensive horse equipment can be and how stressful it can be to sift through all the stuff out there to find something that suits the needs of you and your horse without breaking the bank.
So today I thought I would go through this process with you and guide you through some of the key points, which will hopefully answer how to buy horse tack for the first time and what to avoid.
Figure out when you need tack
Do you have a horse? Are you planning on maybe buying one in the next few years? If you don’t have a horse, then you do not need to be buying tack yet. Unless you have physically seen the horse and paid for the horse and you expect to receive the horse in the next few days or maybe weeks, then don’t even think about it.
Instead, you should focus budgeting for tack, which is the first thing to do before buying it anyways!
Just like anything else that’s expensive, budgeting is always the responsible thing to do before you start. You should set the following amounts before you start looking for horse equipment: ideal price and maximum price. Just like it sounds the ideal price is what you would love to pay for a piece of tack – let’s say a saddle – and the maximum price is how much you’ll be willing to go up to if the saddle is perfect.
For instance, you see a saddle that is made by a brand you recognize and has a guarantee on it and has leather work that’s so unique that you’re instantly drawn to it. That’s the kind of scenario where you forget your ideal price and you have to pull up your maximum price number.
Now, just be disciplined. The last thing you want to do is skimping on your saddle pad because you decided to buy a saddle that was way over your budget.
I talk about budgeting above. Ideally you’re budgeting per each individual piece of tack and this will add up to your overall budget. This can help keep everything in perspective rather than leave you wondering afterwards where all your money went after you’ve binge shopped in the excitement of having a new horse.
I mean it’s completely understandable but your parents or significant other may not be too happy with the bank account afterwards.
Horse first, tack after
The reason that I say don’t buy tack before you’ve actually bought your horse is because for some horses, the tack that they need is going to be different. Some will need an extra saddle pad and some will need boots or wraps.
I know you’re thinking that you can always go out and get those things after, but I would still say wait.
This is also because wherever you’re buying the horse from will have something to say about the horse, especially if you’re purchasing from a previous owner. They will tell you if there’s extra tack you need to purchase or if there are specifics about the bridle or bit type you should know about that’s particular to your horse.
Furthermore, they might even be willing to sell you the horse’s current tack along with the horse for a bargain price. I know you’ve been looking forward to buying your own horse equipment but this is actually ideal if the tack is still usable. It’s broken in, the horse is used to it and it smells like home to the horse so it will be comforted during his transition to your stable.
In order to budget per item, you need to make a complete list
If you do end up buying new, your horse tack list and your budget should be made after you have specifics about your horse. It may differ depending on what style of riding you plan on doing and if you plan on competing in events with your horse.
If you’re planning on doing competitive dressage, your horse tack list is going to differ greatly from your tack list if you’re more of a weekend cowboy and like going on relaxed trail rides Western style.
By making a horse tack list, you can keep track of your budget and easily tick items off when you’ve bought them.
Furthermore, if you’ve gone under budget for something because there was a deal, this frees up money to allocate to something else. But just remember, NEVER skimp on buying good quality in one piece of tack to buy something extravagant in another.
You want to make sure that everything you’re buying is at least good quality if not great quality. All the fancy stuff comes after if there’s room for it. And that includes horse hoof polish and sparkly spray ladies!
Know What You’ll Be Doing With Your Horse
This is such an important factor and sometimes it’s easy to forget when you’re looking at all the shiny new tack in the equipment store. It will be much easier for you to stick to your guns if you make a list beforehand.
So ask yourself, what is it exactly that you want to do with your horse? What sort of riding are you going to do?
If you are riding English, then get an English saddle, bridle and saddle pad for starters. Similarly, if you are riding Western, then you need to get a Western saddle, bridle and saddle pad. If you know you’ll be competing in dressage, then make sure your tack is dark, sleek and you may need some further accessories. Here’s a list of horse tack for your reference if you’d like to learn more about it.
Don’t try to do everything
There’s one pitfall that people make sometimes and that’s to want to do everything.
Some new horse owners think that they’re going to do dressage and roping and reining and even vaulting! I mean you finally have your very own horse – why stop at trail riding?
There are a few problems with this. First of all, most of these things aren’t learned overnight. You can’t just do them so there is no sense buying everything for everything right away. Even if you do want to learn several things, start with ONE and then go from there.
If you want to learn dressage for instance, buy some English tack and stick with that for a while. Then if you decide you want to learn reining later on – you can always get Western tack then.
You don’t need to buy it all at once!
Remember that tack gets old and if you don’t take care of it, it won’t last. Might as well use it right away if you’re going to buy it. You’ll be more likely to take care of it and it won’t be cracked by the time you finally put it on your horse for the first time!
The second problem with this is that your horse may actually not be suited for some of these things. Some horses are extremely adaptable to different things and can pretty much do anything at an okay level. But some horses simply don’t like doing some things. For instance, some horses are just no good with high jumps, while others are no good with the coordination it takes to do advanced dressage or reining.
So make sure you know your horse and don’t plan to enter them into show jumping competitions if they really just like to barrel race!
How to Factor in the Opinion of Sales People
Again, this is where you go back to your list and your budget. This way you can’t be tempted to buying more than you really need. Tell the sales person your ideal price. Trust me, they won’t hesitate to also point out the more expensive options while they’re at it.
If you tell them your ideal price then most likely they’ll end up giving you tack in the range between your ideal price and your maximum price anyways while they’re at it. It will be casual. Like “Oh well this saddle is great because it’s breathable and durable, and we also have a similar one by so-and-so brand that has this great finish but that’s just a little out of your price range.”
Never forget that the job of the sales people is to sell you stuff. That’s what they get paid to do, so take everything they say with a grain of salt.
A smart strategy is actually to go to the tack store, find some things that you like, take note of the prices and then head home. Next, start looking up the tack you found on the internet. Is it cheaper to buy on the site of the brand or on Amazon or Ebay? Usually it is and there’s some money saved right there.
Maybe you’ll even be able to go for a saddle that was above your maximum price at the tack store or splurge on that pink sparkly horse hoof polish you’ve been thinking about!
Avoid Buying The First Thing You See
The last tip I mentioned about going home and then looking things up online is actually a great way of going this. But the same rule applies here as well. If you go online before heading over to the tack store, don’t buy the first thing you see either.
The point of this is so that you start LEARNING. You want to get a feel for what reasonable prices are for saddles, for bridles and what different brands are charging.
There may also be more than one tack store around your area. Simply Google Maps it by typing in ‘horse tack’ and see how many there are. If there are a few, go visit them! Obviously don’t drive 3 hours – you might as well go online. But if it’s 20 minutes away, make the trip.
There’s something about seeing tack in person, feeling the leather and talking to the people that helps you get a real sense of what you’re buying. The more stuff you see, the better you’ll get at developing your own judgement. Also, if you’re not sure how to measure for a saddle or bridle yet, then they’ll be able to tell you. You can also read my guide on how to measure for a saddle, and my guide on how to measure for a bridle.
This is extremely important because ill-fitting tack can lead to health problems for your horse in the future!
Sometimes tack stores and even online stores will have return policies so you can try the saddle out on your horse and return it if it doesn’t fit correctly.
Educate Yourself And Ask Friends
So the take away messages here I would say are:
- Stay disciplined by using a list and a budget.
- Learn about your horse from sellers or previous owners.
- Don’t impulse buy.
- Get familiar with horse tack and the associated prices.
I would strongly advise to get in touch with friends or anyone that you trust in the horse community! They’ll know more about where is best to go locally and they’ll also be able to give you great tips about how to measure your horse and how to measure yourself for your seat.
Learning as much as you can from the experiences of others is always very helpful as well. Always read the reviews online before you buy anything! Also, you can check out horse tack forums like this one and see what’s being recommended and what brands or products people have had problems with.
Maintaining your Tack
After you buy your tack you have to be able to maintain it. That means you should invest in some saddle soap in order to keep the leather in good condition.
My top recommendation for saddle soap is Fiebing’s Hard Saddle Soap. I also recommend Farnham’s as a liquid soap. And once you’ve got a soap, you can learn how to use it in my tutorial here. And click here for even more info on how to clean your tack.
Best of luck in buying your new tack! And congratulations on the new horse, I am sooooo excited for you. Please do not hesitate to comment below and tell me about your experiences!
Happy riding 🙂
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