Horseback riding is an exciting sport, a great choice for men and women of all ages. But getting ready to ride can also be complicated, and it is important to have the right horse tack before you step up in the saddle.
If you talk to horse people in your community, you will soon encounter a word you are not familiar with. That word is tack, and it has a very specific meaning for horse lovers and horseback riding aficionados. So what is horse tack, why is it so important and what do you need before you are ready to ride. Here are some of the basics every new rider will need.
Horse Tack You Will Need: Halters and Lead Ropes
Some people treat their horses as if they were oversized dogs, but handling a 1200-pound equine requires some specialized equipment. The halter and lead rope are perhaps the most basic type of horse tack, and it is important to choose these items with care.
The halter is a specialized device, one that fits over your horse's head and provides the control you need to lead the animal safely. The lead rope snaps or clips onto the bottom ring of the halter, allowing you to move your horse from place to place.
Horse Tack You Will Need: The Saddle and Bridle
If you want to ride, you will need a good saddle, and this basic type of attack is one of the essentials. Saddles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the two most basic are the English and Western varieties.
English saddles are smaller, and they do not have a horn. Western saddles are larger, and they do have that distinctive saddle horn. Australian saddles are kind of a hybrid; some have horns and some do not, and their size is typically larger than an English saddle yet smaller than a Western one.
The bridle is another essential piece of horse tack, and it provides the control you need to ride safely. Bridles are typically made of leather, although nylon varieties are also available. Standard bridles come with a bit, which is placed inside the horse's mouth. Some riders prefer a bosal, which replaces the bit with a braided piece that fits over the nose and replaces the bit; bosals are often found on young horses or animals in training.
Horse Tack You Will Need: A Good Helmet
You only have one head, and you need to protect it with a good helmet. When new riders ask what is horse tack, their fellow equestrians may or may not include a helmet, but this safety device should be part of your shopping list.
Even if you ride western and long to wear a cowboy hat, do yourself a favor and choose a helmet instead. You can even find helmets designed to look like Western hats, so you can live out your cowboy fantasies without putting your safety at risk.
Horse Tack You Will Need: Brushes and Grooming Supplies
Horse brushes are similar to the ones you use on your own hair, but larger and firmer to accommodate the horse's unique coat. A mane comb is also similar to the comb you are familiar with, but the device is larger and the teeth more widely spaced.
You can purchase additional grooming supplies as well, including special hair gels and potions that will make your horse's coat glisten and shine. These grooming supplies are a good idea if you plan to show your horse or compete and horse shows, but you can probably skip them if you only expect to ride the local trails.
Horse Tack You Will Need: Hoof Picks and Hoof Care
You may have heard the old saying "no hoof no horse" and that is certainly true. The horse's hoof is a miraculous structure, one that requires ongoing care and maintenance.
When you bring your horse home, you will want to contact a qualified farrier for advice and guidance, as regular hoof trimmings are essential to good equine health. You will also need a good hoof pick to clean those hooves between farrier visits.
If your horse has dry hooves, you may need special oil to soften and moisturize them. Your farrier can advise you on what you need, so you can keep your equine partner sound and healthy.
If you ask a typical rider what is horse tack, you may get a few different answers. Some horse owners use the term tack when referring to saddles, bridles, halters and other riding gear, while others use the term more broadly. In that broader context, tack can include things like brushes, hoof picks and even the helmet you wear every time you hop aboard your four-legged equine friend. But no matter how you use the term, knowing what is horse tack is important, and it should be a vital part of your horseback riding education.