Tack & Gear
One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “What equipment do I need when I’m buying my first horse?” Luckily, I’ve got most of your answers already in a couple of videos :) And the rest I’ll cover in this blog!
First, watch my video on Riding Gear. This video covers the basics of what you as a rider need. Next, watch the video on Grooming, as it covers what you need in a basic grooming kit. To summarize, you will need a helmet, riding pants, boots (with half chaps or chaps if you use paddock boots) and possibly gloves. In the grooming kit, you need a dandy/body brush, a hard brush, a mane/tail comb or brush, a curry comb, a hoof pick, and sponges or a rag. A tack box to hold it all is also very helpful.
The basic grooming equipment
So, you need your equipment to ride, and then basic equipment to groom the horse. What else do you need? Well, you certainly need a halter, or you’ll have no way to catch and lead your horse! His halter should fit him properly, so make sure you get the right size for the size of your pony. Usually, if you talk to someone at the tack store about how tall your horse is and what breed, they can recommend what size halter. Halters can come in different kinds of sizes, but will usually be something like “small,” “average” and “large” or “pony,” (small) “cobb” (average) and “draft” (large).
Next, you need a way to ride your horse. So you’ll need a bridle and a saddle. Again, these must fit your horse. Bridles come in similar sizes to halters, usually with “pony” and “horse” options. The saddle will be much trickier to fit than the bridle–I would recommend using a professional saddle fitter. Also, you will need to decide what kind of riding you want to do before you buy any tack (hopefully you decided that before you got the horse, as that will impact what kind of horse you get! See my first blog about buying a horse). You’ll also need a saddle blanket or pad, and a girth. Again, the girth with have to be sized with the horse–girths are measured in inches (or centimeters).
Keep in mind that all this stuff won’t be cheap. (If you need an idea of how much it actually might cost, check out my cost summary on my Horse Care-Beware blog). A great way to reduce expenses is to buy things used–many local tack stores carry used items (the chain stores tend not to). You can also contact local riding schools to see if anyone is selling saddles, etc. Also, online at places like Craigslist in the US or other used-supplies selling sites are great places to look.
If you’re planning on keeping your horse in your own stable, that will require a whole other list of equipment and supplies, which I’ll cover in a later blog. However, having your own first aid kit isn’t a bad idea either. Check out the one I have packed up for going to a show here.
Lastly, there are lots of “extras” you can get, like blankets, coolers, boots, wraps, crops/whips and so on. These all depend on your horse and what kind of riding you are planning on doing. If you’ve got the basics listed here, that will get you started! And don’t worry, the rest will come—horse people have a way of developing quite the passion for perusing tack stores :)
If you’ve got a horse, you’ll probably want to take him somewhere at some point. And maybe you don’t want to ride him all that way! That means you’ll have to put your horse in a trailer. Getting a horse to willingly walk into a dark, closed, unnatural box can be a bit tricky. Check out this video on how to be safe with the trailer as well as with your horse, then look below for a checklist on what you should have in your trailer when you set out.
In this video, I show you how to put on a cooler (a light blanket used to keep a sweaty or wet horse warm while he dries off). You can do the same thing to put any kind of blanket on a horse. Blankets are very useful for lots of things, including keeping your horse warm and dry, keeping bugs off him or even keeping him from getting sunburned if he is a pink-skinned horse! Make sure that any blanket you put on a horse fits him properly and is correctly put on.
I’ve had some great questions about what to bring to a horse show. I’ve put together a list of all the stuff I manage to cram in our trailer and trusty Toyota Tundra. I’m sure other people or other types of riding may do things differently, but the following supplies and four pre-assembled kits have served me very well for the last ten years of showing.
This video shows how to properly put on a polo wrap. Polo wraps are a a simple wrap you can put around a horse’s cannon bone and fetlock joint to protect it against bumps and scrapes. There’s some argument as to whether polo warps also provide support for a horse’s lower leg, like an Ace wrap does for an athlete’s knee, elbow or wrist–I’ve always been taught this (which is why I say so in the video) but other trainers point out that the wraps may be too thin to really provide much in the way of support. Someone will just have to figure one of these days how to ask a horse if he feels supported ;)
If you haven’t already experienced the joy of breaking in new boots…well, let’s just say “joy” is a rather strong word to use. The problem with tall boots is this–they’re made of out fabulous stiff leather so they can survive whatever the horsey equivalent of a nuclear holocaust is. But that same stiff leather means that when you first put them on, it’s like trying to walk with folded steel around your feet, which, of course, folds and pokes you in all the wrong places.
So how do you go about breaking them in to that wonderful point of such suppleness they wrap perfectly around your leg? Unfortunately, you just have to wear them. Wear them around the house, walk up and down stairs in them, go to work in them, do squats and ankle rolls in them–I’ve even heard of people going on bike rides in their new boots! The more movement you can put the boots through, the faster they’ll soften up.
Leather conditioner and leather oil can help speed up this whole process. If you use straight oil (like neatsfoot oil, my favorite leather oil) lay it on thick and leave it to soak in for at least a few hours. Wipe off the excess oil before you put them back on. With a leather conditioner, put on as much as you can rub into the leather. Really focus on the ankle area, as this is where the most movement happens.
The only other thing you can do to ease the break-in is to protect your poor little feet. Moleskin and other similar products can protect against blistering and painful rubbing. Good socks especially meant for tall boots also help reduce awkward rubbing.
Bon voyage with your new boots!
Tack is just a fancy word for the equipment you put on a horse. And you can imagine that anything you strap onto a sweating, dusty horse is soon going to need to be cleaned! Cleaning your tack does three important things:
1. keeps you looking good!
2. keeps your tack strong and supple.
3. keeps your tack from rubbing your horse’s sensitive skin.
Dirt and sweat can make leather crack and break, not to mention giving your poor pony sores. So don’t be afraid to buckle down and scrub up. To help you out, here’s a two-part video of how to clean your tack. Let me know if you’ve got any questions. Happy sudsing!