Horse Tack and Tacking Up

Horse tack is a very important part of the equestrian world. When I was first introduced to my pony when I was only two years old, my dad didn't own any pony riding gear what-so-ever. We had to improvise by using a rope bridle and a sack for a saddle, that had no stirrups.

Now I have access to a much larger choice of modern equipment, that gives me more control over my pony and allows me to enjoy the ride more.

Horse tack and tacking up, has come a long way since the “ancient times” when rope bridles and cloth saddles without stirrups were used.

Now when the novice rider walks into a modern day equestrian shop, the choices of sophisticated equipment, can be mind boggling.

This page is for the novice to first of all, understand the terminology and learn the basics of “whats the best equipment", how to fit tack correctly and just as important, how to care for your investment in quality horse riding equipment.

It's essential that we understand the terminology and learn the basics of, “whats the best equine equipment, how to fit it correctly and just as important, how to care for the horse tack.

Putting the tack on a horse or pony is called tacking up. It is a good idea to watch an experienced horseman tack up before you try yourself, if you're still a beginner. Here are some tips if you need to know.

Putting on the saddle

1. Hold the saddle on your left arm with the pommel near the crook of your elbow.

2. Approach the pony on its left (near) side. Lift the saddle onto the pony's back, just in front of the withers. Slide it back into position.

3. Go to the other side of the saddle and let the girth down. Return to the near side and pull the end of the girth under the pony's stomach. Buckle the girth to the straps under the saddle flap.

Putting on the bridle

1. Stand on the pony's left side. Put the reins over the pony's neck then take off the headcollar.

2. Holding the top of the bridle in your right hand, slip it over the pony's nose. Open its mouth by pressing your thumb in the corner of the mouth.

3. Slide the bit into its mouth and lift the top of the bridle over its ears.

4. Do up the throatlash and fasten the noseband. Tuck any loose straps into their loops (keepers).

5. To take off the bridle, undo the throatlash and noseband, then gently lift the bridle over the pony's ears. Put your hand under the bit as you slide it out of the pony's mouth so that it doesn't bash against its teeth.

Cleaning Tack

Cleaning horse tack might not seem like much fun, but its a very important job. It helps the gear to last longer and gets rid of any nasty bits of dirt that might otherwise rub against the horse or pony.

Cleaning the bridle

1. Hang the bridle on a bridle hook, with the throatlash and noseband unbuckled.

2. Use lukewarm water and a sponge to clean any dirt from the bit and all the leather parts of the bridle, then dry the leather with a soft cloth.

3. Rub saddle soap onto all the leather bits, using a slightly damp sponge.

Cleaning the saddle

1. Put the saddle on a saddle horse. Unbuckle the girth, stirrup leathers and irons. Soak non leather girths.

2. Use lukewarm water and a sponge to clean the saddle, stirrup leathers and leather girths. Dry the leather with a soft cloth.

3. Rub saddle soap all over the saddle and stirrups using a damp sponge.

4. Clean the stirrup irons in warm water, then polish with a soft cloth.

5. Bridles should be taken apart at least once a month, so that they can be checked for wear and thoroughly cleaned.


Your tack essentials will include a saddle, bridle, a bit, reins, a girth, stirrup leathers, stirrups, boots, blankets, halters and a saddle pad.

Beyond these basic items, there is a huge range of other horsey equipment, such as: martingales, schooling pads, leg quilts, nosebands, neckstraps, and breast plates etc.

Horse tack can be very expensive, but if you maintain and keep it clean, then the leather can last much longer. It also keeps you aware of the condition of the gear, avoiding any un-pleasant surprises.

It's good to be equipped with all the necessary gear that can make life easier for you and your horse. But don't go overboard. Avoid buying stuff, because it looks pretty, or someone else has one.

Remember: riders who ride cross country with a matching purple shirt, safety vest, helmet cover, pad, overgirth and polo wraps, look very posh, but the horses don't care and neither do the fence judges. Its the performance that counts.

Tack and grooming items need not be purchased new. There's some great second hand bargains to to be snapped up, especially from TRADE ME if you're from NZ, or even auctions, if you know what you're buying.

But never ever compromise on a good quality bit or reins, which can affect your safety.

Tack Cleaning Tips:

  • Always clean regularly - dirty, muddy tack is uncomfortable for the horse and can cause sores. After every use, give your gear a good wipe down and at least once a week, strip down and clean thoroughly.
  • Before cleaning - strip down tack, take the bridle completely apart and remove stirrups, leathers and girth from the saddle. Soak and wash the bit in clean water. All other metal work can be cleaned with metal polish.
  • Clean the leatherwork by removing any dirt and sweat with a large sponge and clean water. Avoid getting leather too wet, using a circular movement, apply saddle soap or glycerin with a sponge and dry with soft cloth.
  • Saddle cloths and saddle pads must be cleaned too.
  • Always keep tack room tidy, clean, well ventilated, dry and dust free.
  • Bridles and saddles should be hung on purpose built racks and hangers.
  • Keep all tack off the floor and store blankets away in containers.
  • Before storing winter blankets, have them properly cleaned and reproofed.
  • Do not store any horse feed near tack room, to avoid attracting rodents.