All horse equipment can look a little complicated at first but if it’s broken down to its basic parts, it is much easier to learn and use. Let’s begin with the tack, or basic riding equipment, used for English riding. Tack can be made of leather or synthetic materials. Although tack can come in a variety of colors depending on the style of riding that you choose, the basic parts are the same.
There are three basic pieces of tack that are used to ride a horse:
- Saddle – This piece of tack sits on the back of the horse and is where the rider sits. Typically a saddle pad is placed under the saddle to keep it clean and can add cushion to the horse’s back. Saddle pads can be made of wool, synthetic fleece, or cotton and are either square in shape or shaped in the outline of a saddle. Saddles themselves are usually made of leather but can also be made from synthetic materials as well.
- Girth – A long piece of leather or synthetic material that has buckles on either end. It holds the saddle in place and runs under the belly of the horse just behind the front legs.
- Bridle – This piece of tack is part of the steering and controls the horse’s direction. It is the piece of tack that is attached to a horse’s head and has the bit (metal piece in the horse’s mouth), and reins (what the rider holds onto). Not all bridles have bits, some bridles are bitless and work on pressure points on the horse’s face.
Additional Specific English Equipment:
- Stirrups– The stirrups are made up of the leathers and the irons and these two pieces attach to either side of the saddle. The leathers are the thin leather (or synthetic) pieces that attach the irons to the saddle. They can be adjusted to different lengths depending on the person. The irons are where the foot rests. Together they help provide support and balance for the rider.
- Bit – The bit is attached to the bridle and rests in the horse’s mouth in the space between the front teeth and back teeth. It can be made of several different types of metal like Aurigon, stainless steel, sweet iron, or copper. Bits can also be made of rubber or plastic. The choice of which bit to use depends on the horse experience, discipline regulations, rider’s ability, and personal preference.
- Reins – The reins are a part of the bridle and run from the bit or bridle to the rider’s hands. They are thin pieces of leather or synthetic material and come in a variety of different designs to choose from.
English Tack can vary depending on its function and the standards within each discipline. For example, Dressage riders tend to use black tack and Dressage saddles are shaped differently to accommodate that style of riding. Talk to your trainer or local tack shop for the exact English tack you will be using for your discipline.