Horse Tack: The Basics

Basic horse tack offers safety and comfort while allowing horse and rider to communicate.

Take a look at almost any rider on nearly any horse, and you’ll notice that there is quite a bit of equipment involved. Saddles, bridles, harnesses, halters, and other accessories are all part of the broader category known as horse tack. All of this may appear complicated to someone who is completely new to the world of riding, but the opposite is true: horse tack is fairly simple and straightforward once you learn a few basics and know what each piece is used for.

A Head to Tail Look at Basic Horse Tack

It’s true that some riders use specialized accessories, which we won’t be addressing here. Instead, we’re going to take a quick head to tail tour of a horse that’s all tacked up and ready to ride.

Halter: Sometimes called a headcollar or headstall, the halter is a simple piece of equipment that buckles onto the horse’s face, allowing him to be tied or led. While some riders use a lightweight underhalter during riding, others opt to go without.

Bridle: The bridle fits onto the horse’s face, and provides a connection to the rider via the reins. Most riders use bits with their bridles. These metal pieces go into the horse’s mouth and are used as a means of communication. Bitless bridles are becoming more popular, with options including bosals, hackamores, and side pull designs.

Breast collar: This horse tack essential helps to keep the saddle from slipping sideways or back. It fits across the horse’s chest, attaching to both sides of the saddle. Many designs also feature a central strap that runs between the horse’s forelegs and connects to the girth or cinch. When the breast collar matches the bridle and reins, it makes the entire horse tack ensemble look more attractive.

Saddle: The saddle serves as a safe, comfortable platform for the rider to sit in. There are many different types of saddles, each with its own use or purpose. Besides serving as a seat for the rider, the saddle helps to distribute the rider’s weight evenly on the horse’s back, preventing stress injuries and helping to maximize his efficiency. All horse tack must fit the animal correctly; when it comes to the saddle, it must fit the rider as well.  

Saddle Pad: A saddle pad or saddle blanket helps keep the horse comfortable while helping to prevent strained muscles, chafed spots, and other injuries. Saddle pads are available in an array of colors and styles, and there are plenty of specialty models designed for performance as well as comfort. When you choose your saddle pad, be sure that it is designed to work with your saddle.

Girth / Cinch: This strap holds everything together! It goes under the horse’s belly and prevents the saddle from slipping off. Some saddles are designed for use with a single girth, while others are intended to be used with one cinch in front and another in back.

You can find horse tack for sale, including wholesale horse tack, in a tack catalog, in online tack shops, and at tack auctions. Be sure to purchase from a reputable dealer, and always remember to measure your horse before making your selection!