English Horse Tack Essentials: You Can’t Leave the Barn Without Them

English horse tack: It all starts with the saddle

You may have a little familiarity with horse tack, or perhaps your are brand new to the world of riding altogether. Either way, it’s likely that you may be wondering what kind of English horse tack you’ll need to begin participating in dressage, eventing, polo, show jumping, or one of the many other disciplines that call for its use.

English Saddles and Accessories

To begin, you’ll need an English saddle. There are many different types, all designed for specific tasks. If you’re interested in a variety of disciplines, you’ll probably find that an all-purpose English saddle works best. Later, you may decide that you enjoy jumping or dressage, at which point you’ll need to add another saddle to your rack.

Visit an English tack shop, and you’ll notice that  many saddles come without leathers or stirrup irons. These items are available in different configurations to suit different-sized riders, and are often sold separately. Some English horse tack packages come complete with almost everything you need to get started. Just keep in mind that leathers wear out over time and need to be replaced when signs of wear accumulate.

You’ll need to add a saddle pad to your list of horse tack essentials, too. These pads are designed specifically to fit beneath an English saddle, and feature straps that help prevent slipping.

The English girth, which features four buckles that allow you to create a snug, custom fit, is the next item you’ll need. There are many different types available, and they come in a variety of sizes to fit equines ranging from small ponies to extra-large drafts. Some horse tack packages come with girths, while others do not.

Next comes the breastplate, also known as the breastcollar or breastgirth. This crucial piece of safety equipment attaches to the front of each side of the saddle, and most also include a strap that runs between the horse’s front legs and attaches to a ring located on the center of the girth. The breastplate’s job is to keep the saddle from sliding sideways or back.

Some riders also choose to add a martingale to their English horse tack collection. Martingales help to control how high a horse can raise his head, with different degrees of severity. Many are used primarily as training aids, and some are either not show legal or are not safe to use in fast-paced sports because they put limits on the horse’s freedom of movement. The use of a martingale depends largely on what you plan to do, how green your horse is, and what rules are involved in the activities you take part in. It’s best to get advice from an expert before adding one to your kit.

Finally, you’ll need an English bridle. There are several different configurations to choose from, but in general, they include cavesson style nosebands and simple designs. The reins are either configured as a single seamless unit, or buckle together to prevent dropping. The bit you use will depend largely on your needs as well as the needs of your horse. There are several different styles to choose from, and you’ll find some advice about selecting the right one in this article.

While there are other types of English horse tack, these are all the basics you’ll need to get started. Have fun, and stay safe!