At Equestrian Boots and Bridles, we like to produce content for every rider, at every stage in their riding career. Today’s post is for the newer riders. We’re going to answer your question: what is horse tack?
I know that when I first started riding, I wasn’t really sure what tack was. Did it include my grooming equipment? Or was it just what my horse wore riding?
I definitely felt a little unsure and embarrassed. I didn’t want to get it wrong in front of a more experienced rider!
Now I certainly don’t want you feeling that way. Starting your riding journey should be exciting, not nerve-wracking. So let’s learn together: what is horse tack?
What is Horse Tack: The Traditional Definition
If you search Wikipedia for ‘horse tack’ you’ll find a pretty long article. I found reading it a little overwhelming even now, as an experienced rider! It covers things from saddles to headgear to breastplates and martingales.
What’s important for you to remember as a new rider is that while there’s a lot of tack out there, you aren’t likely to use all of it all the time. A lot of tack is highly specialised, and only used in certain contexts.
Below, I’ve outlined the four major pieces of tack you’ll be using regularly (a saddle, headgear, reins and bits) and then put all the extra stuff in together.
That should answer all of your questions about what horse tack is!
A saddle is a seat for you, the rider, to sit on. The saddle sits atop the horse’s back, and is secured in place by a girth or cinch.
There are lots of different saddles available, but they generally fall into two categories: English, and Western saddles. To learn the differences between these, check out my post about English vs. Western riding here, or my deep dive on the differences here.
Finally, your stirrups are another piece of tack that you would associate with the saddle. Those are supports for your feet, that are attached to the sides of the saddle.
There are three main types of horse headgear: a halter, a bridle or a hackamore. Let’s discuss these in turn!
A halter is made up of a noseband and headstall. These buckle around the horse’s head, allowing the horse to be led or tied.
A bridle is what you would use for riding: they are a series of bands that attach the reins to the bits (see below!) and allow you to communicate with your horse while you’re seated in the saddle. These look a little different depending on whether you’re riding English or Western. English bridles usually have a noseband, while Western ones don’t. If you want to learn more about bridles, check out this post about fitting them.
Finally a hackamore is a piece of headgear that’s used for riding, but doesn’t involve bits. They’re more commonly used in Western riding, and rely on a heavy noseband.
You might also come across lungeing cavessons – those are headgear used for lungeing. Lungeing involves leading your horse around on a long rope, usually in a circle. It’s an example of groundwork.
After headgear, you’ll be pleased to learn that reins are pretty easy! They’re just the long straps connecting your horse’s bits (see below!) to your hands.
Some people might include bits as part of the horse’s headgear. That’s fine, and I can see why – but I thought that section was already a little crowded!
A bit is a device that rests in your horse’s mouth, attached to the reins. You as the rider will put pressure on the bit using the reins.
There are several types of bits, which I describe in this blog post, if you want to learn about them. I also have some recommendations about how to choose one for your horse, if you’re in the market for one.
There are a few fun extras worth mentioning here, even if you won’t use them all the time.
The first is a harness. Harnesses are a piece of tack that are used to attach your horse to something to pull – maybe a cart, for example. These were more commonly used when horses were used in industry for work.
A breastplate is a piece of tack that’s used in demanding, fast paced equestrian spots. The breastplate crosses the horse’s chest and connects to both sides of the saddle, basically adding more security for the rider.
A martingale is used to keep the horse from raising its head too high, and may be used in some competitions, like jumping.
Finally, some people (us included at EBB!) include horse blankets as a piece of tack. If you want to learn more about them, check out our articles explaining everything you need to know about them, how to choose one, and which ones are our favourites!
Now You’re a Horse Tack Pro!
With that, we’ve imparted all of our horse tack knowledge onto you.
Soon people will be asking you for your insights about horse tack!
The next step for you will be buying your own horse tack. If you think you might need some help, we have an article about how to buy horse tack for the first time. We also have an article that describes not only horse tack, but other equipment too – check it out here!
Got any last questions? Ask us below!
Happy riding 🙂
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