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Saddle Up: Essential Horse Tack for Every Rider

Horseback riding has long been regarded as a popular hobby for many people around the world. Taking care of a horse and its equipment is an excellent way to stay active and create a special bond with these elegant animals.

However, this love for the sport can come with a price tag. Horse tack can be costly, and as with most investments, it is essential to know what you need and what you don’t.

In this article, we will discuss the need-to-have and nice-to-have tack items, as well as the factors affecting the costs of tack.

Need-to-Have Horse Tack

It is necessary to have some equipment to ride your horse safely. Here are some need-to-have horse tack items.

1) Saddle

A good saddle is arguably the most crucial piece of tack you will purchase. The saddle’s fit is essential, as it prevents pressure points and rubbing that can cause discomfort and pain for your horse.

There are two types of saddles: English and Western. English saddles are lightweight, have a narrow and straight seat, and have no horn.

Western saddles are heavy and provide maximum weight distribution across the horse’s back. Depending on your preferences and riding discipline, used saddles may be a cheaper alternative.

However, always ensure that you purchase from a reputable dealer, check for defects and signs of damage, and have the saddle fitted by a professional saddle fitter.

2) Saddle Pad/Blanket

Saddle pads or blankets go between the saddle and the horse’s back, protecting the horse from the saddle’s weight and pressure points.

Choose a pad or blanket that is the correct size and fits well to avoid chafing, and be sure to select one that is suitable for your saddle’s style and the riding discipline.

3) Girth/Cinch

The girth/cinch is used to secure the saddle onto the horse.

It is essential to pick a girth that is the correct size, comfortable, and will not cause any rubbing on the sensitive girth area. There are different types of girths, such as the anatomical girth and the contoured girth, which will distribute the pressure evenly.

4) Stirrups

Stirrups provide a place for your feet and legs while you ride, adding stabilization and support. Depending on the discipline, safety stirrups, jointed stirrups, or those with knee or ankle support can be selected.

5) Bridle/Headstall

A bridle/headstall is used to steer and control your horse. It is essential to choose the correct size and comfortable bridle that will not irritate your horse’s face.

Additionally, consider whether you want a leather or synthetic bridle.

6) Bit

Bits dictate the level of control and communication between the rider and the horse. It is essential to consider the right size of the bit and the style, such as snaffle vs. curb, which controls the horse in different ways.

7) Reins

Reins attach to the bit and provide the rider with a means of communication. Choose the type of reins that you feel comfortable with, such as flat laced reins, barrel reins, or split reins.

8) Halter

A halter is used to handle, lead, or tie up your horse. There are various halter types, such as rope, synthetic, or breakaway.

9) Lead Rope

Lead ropes are used to lead or tie the horse. Consider the design and matching color, as well as the snap preference, which can be either bull snap, panic snap, or quick-release snap.

Nice-to-Have Horse Tack

In addition to the need-to-have items above, there are several nice-to-have tack items that will make horseback riding more comfortable. Here are three such examples:

1) Horse Boots

Horse boots protect the horse’s legs, hooves, pasterns, and fetlocks, offering extra support while riding. There are specific types of boots for specific activities, so be sure to consult an experienced friend or instructor before purchasing.

2) Horse Polo Wraps

Wraps add to the horse’s support while riding by providing extra cushion on the lower legs. They should be chosen depending on the horse’s sensitivity, and the application technique should be performed correctly to avoid any discomfort.

3) Breast Collar or Martingale

Breast collars and martingales help prevent the saddle from slipping, especially during sudden turns at speed. They also provide additional control and leverage to the rider.

Select the desired type of collar or martingale based on the discipline and riding style.

Factors Affecting Tack Costs

Several factors affect the costs of tack equipment.

1) Maker and Quality

The maker of the tack and quality of materials significantly determine the price. Cheap leather or poorly constructed tack will wear out and damage faster than high-quality items.

2) Used or New

Used tack items will usually be cheaper than new ones, but extra caution should be exercised when selecting used items. Look for signs of damage, asymmetrical shape, and extensive wear, as these items may need to be replaced sooner than you expected.

3) Discipline-Specific

Different riding disciplines require different types of equipment. For instance, barrel racers may require a different type of reins and bit compared to dressage riders.

It is essential to understand the requirements of your discipline before selecting a lot of tack.

4) Material and Comfort

The material the tack is made from can significantly affect its price. Moreover, it is crucial to consider your horse’s comfort, as well as pressure point discomfort and chafing.

5) Fit and Sizing

A perfect fit is essential for comfortable and safe riding for both horse and rider. Professional saddle fitters can ensure that the saddle and other pieces of tack are appropriately sized to prevent circulation and sliding issues.


In conclusion, there are many things to consider when purchasing horse tack. It is essential to make a careful evaluation of your needs and budget before purchasing any items.

Do not be afraid to seek advice from experienced friends, instructors, or a professional saddle fitter. Always ensure that the fit and comfort of your horse are a top priority when selecting equipment, as it will not only be more enjoyable for your horse but also safer for you.

With the right piece of tack and attention to detail, you can create a fantastic bond and enjoy horseback riding to the fullest. Horseback riding is a rewarding activity, but it can also be expensive.

When it comes to purchasing horse tack, it’s essential to find the right balance of quality and affordability. Here are some tips for buying tack on a budget.

Research and Compare Prices

One of the best ways to save money is by doing your homework first. Research what you need from online marketplaces, tack shops, and recommendations from horse-people.

Look around to compare prices and find the best deal. Keep in mind that sometimes spending a bit more on a high-quality product can save you money in the long run as it will last longer and not need frequent replacement.

Furthermore, if you plan on purchasing used tack, be extra careful, and ensure that you are satisfied with the product before purchasing.

Invest in Quality and Comfort

While it’s tempting to buy the cheapest tack on the market, sometimes opting for the more expensive and higher-quality option can save money in the long run. Cheap leather tends to be stiff and uncomfortable, leading to chafing, rubbing, and discomfort for both horse and rider.

Investing in quality tack that is built for comfort and to last, through generations of use, can save you money in the long term. Quality leather will hold up better and can be conditioned to maintain its softness and comfortability over time.

Be sure to thoroughly research any care instructions to ensure that your tack lasts for years.

Consider Alternative Options

There are other options besides leather that may fit your budget while still providing comfort and safety for you and your horse. When considering alternative options, keep in mind that synthetic tack, braided nylon, BioThane, or similar materials can be more affordable.

These options can still provide all the necessary functions of leather tack and may be more durable, easier to clean and maintain, and provide more comfort and flexibility. Bell boots, for instance, are made from synthetic materials such as neoprene or rubber, rather than leather, and aim to protect the horse’s hooves from the impact of walking and running.

When shopping for horse tack on a budget, it is important to remember that quality and comfort should always be a top priority. Researching and comparing prices, investing in quality and comfort, and considering alternative options can help you save money while still providing your horse with everything they need for an enjoyable and safe ride.

With these tips in mind, you can find the perfect tack for you and your horse, making the time you spend together more enjoyable and memorable. In conclusion, purchasing horse tack can be expensive, but with careful research and consideration of alternative options, you can find the right balance of quality and affordability.

Investing in quality and comfort is crucial for your horse’s well-being, and alternative options such as synthetic or biothane tack can be more budget-friendly. By following these tips, you can ensure that your horse is well-equipped for a safe and enjoyable ride.

Remember to prioritize what your horse needs over what is just the cheapest option. List of FAQs:

1. What is the most important piece of tack?

A. The saddle is arguably the most crucial piece of tack you will purchase.

2. Why is it important to invest in quality and comfort?

A. Quality tack will last longer and not need frequent replacement, and comfort is essential to prevent chafing, rubbing, and discomfort for both horse and rider.

3. Can I purchase quality tack on a budget?

A. Yes, it is possible to find quality tack on a budget by researching and comparing prices and considering alternative options such as synthetic or BioThane tack.

4. Is it safe to purchase used tack?

A. It can be safe to purchase used tack, but always ensure that you are satisfied with the product before purchasing and check for signs of damage and wear.

5. Which alternative options could fit my budget?

A. Synthetic tack, braided nylon, BioThane, and materials such as neoprene or rubber for bell boots are more affordable alternatives to leather tack that can still provide the necessary functions and comfort.

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