How to Tack a Horse

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A good brushing keeps foreign matter from under the saddle.
A good brushing keeps foreign matter from under the saddle. (Image: Frank Merfort/iStock/Getty Images)

Tacking your horse involves a grooming session coupled with a full dress in riding gear. Whether you are tacking for English or Western style, the routine is the same and the equipment varies. Tacking your horse properly is essential for both of you to enjoy a safe and comfortable ride.

Getting Started

Tacking your horse is part of the riding experience. Not tacking your horse properly can result in injuries or discomfort for your animal. Horses react erratically when uncomfortable or hurt, which can cause a dangerous situation for the rider. To tack your horse, approach him from the left side and halter him including a lead rope. Secure him in either his paddock, tack room or grooming and tie station.

Groom Before Tack

Using both a curry comb and body brush, groom your horse all over. The brushing session prior to tacking up your horse ensures no dirt or foreign objects get caught up under his cinches or saddle. A full brushing also gives you a chance to inspect your horse for possible nicks, cuts or injuries. A hoof injury can be one of the most detrimental wounds your horse can experience. Clean each of his hooves with a hoof pick. Sliding your hand down your horse's leg, lift his foot until the bottom is face up. Working from heel to toe, gently scrape in an upside down V formation. Using a wet sponge, wash his hoof clean to ensure no debris is left.

Bridling Your Horse

Keep your horse's bridle in a warm place, as he may reject it if it's cold. Your horse's bridle must fit right; proper placement will eliminate the chance of mouth sores, teeth damage or oral injuries. Hold the crown piece in your right hand. With your right elbow between his ears and arm down his nose, use your left hand to guide the bridle bit gently into your horse's mouth. Slip the crown piece over his ears and poll. The bridle and bit should fit snug, but not tight in the corners of his mouth. Latch the cavesson nose band under his chin and fasten the throat strap hasp. Using the two finger rule, the bridle straps should be loose enough for you to fit two fingers under.

Saddling Up

Place the saddle pad or blanket high on the withers and slide it backward even with the withers. Always place the blanket fold toward the horse's front. With the right cinch and stirrup lying over the saddle seat, lift the saddle by the gullet and cantle onto your horse's back. The saddle should be placed about 3 inches behind the blanket fold. From the right side, toss the cinch and stirrup back over the saddle seat. Make certain the pad is not wrinkled and the cinch is not twisted. From the left side, gently lay the stirrup over the saddle and pull the cinch strap snug under your horse. Buckle the cinch into the latigo strap or tie with a latigo knot.

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