THE 10-STEP GUIDE
ON HOW TO TACK UP A HORSE
Tacking up 101 for the beginner rider
Being a new rider is scary and overwhelming and surprisingly there is little information online on how to approach this area.
So we were thrilled when
Toni Anderson behind the Instagram account @toni.tack.tips agreed to give us a run-down of how to tack up.
1. Pick the Hooves
Use a hoof pick with both the metal hook and brush. Facing towards the horse’s tail, gently run your hand down the back of the horse’s leg to ask them to pick it up. If the horse doesn’t lift it right away, try squeezing the top of the fetlock, or leaning slightly into the horse’s shoulder to make them shift their weight.
Carefully pick out all the dirt, shavings and manure from the hoof. Always move the pick from heel to toe to avoid hurting the frog (the v-shaped part in the middle), the most sensitive part of the hoof.
Once you’ve picked out the all the dirt and manure, brush the inside of the hoof out with the hoof pick brush and put it back down. Repeat this with each hoof, being especially careful with the hind feet, as the horse may to try to kick.
Rub the rubber curry comb (pictured) in small circles all over your horse’s neck, back and flanks, with medium pressure. If your horse starts to swish its rail and pin its ears back, you are probably pushing too hard.
Avoid the legs, belly, and face, (unless the curry comb is very mild) as those areas are too sensitive for the curry comb. This will loosen dirt, sweat, and dead hairs from the horse’s coat to make it easier to brush. It also helps to spread natural oil throughout the horse’s coat to keep it shiny and healthy.
3. Dandy Brush
The Dandy brush is the one with long, stiff bristles. Use this brush in short, powerful flicks in the direction of the horse’s coat to sweep off the dirt and hair loosened by the curry comb. As with the curry, use only on the neck, back, and flanks, as this brush is too stiff for the horse’s sensitive legs, face, and belly.
Use a comb or tail brush to gently comb any shavings and tangles out of the mane and forelock. Try not to pull too hard, and if there are any really big knots that the comb can’t handle, untangle them with you fingers.
Be especially careful with the forelock, as that part of the mane is much more sensitive than the rest. If the horse throws its head in the air or won’t let you touch its face, let it smell the brush then slowly try start brushing again, or ask someone for help.
5. Soft Brush
Also called a body brush, this is the brush with the very soft, shorter bristles, and is used to help get the horse shiny and clean. Use this brush on the entire horse, but be extra gentle on their legs and face.
Gently brush down the horse’s body in direction with the hair. Shorter, flicky strokes will help get dust off, while longer strokes will help to smooth and shine the coat.
Spray the tail with a detangler (like Show Sheen) before you brush it to help minimize knots and make to easier to brush. Start brushing (with a comb or tail brush) at the very end of the tail and gently work out the knots and shavings stuck in the tail.
Untangle any bigger knots with your fingers, as a brush or comb will pull out the hairs instead of untangling them. As the bottom untangles, move slowly up the tail until you have brushed the whole thing. Try to pull to as few hairs as possible both because it is painful for the horse, and the hairs take a very long time to grow and are essential for swatting flies.
7. Saddle Pads
Now that the horse is clean, it is time to tack up. Always put on pads and tack from the left side. Lay the square pad over the horse’s back, so the front of the pad just covers the withers. If it is too far forward, slide it back. If it is too far forward, take it off and start again.
Pulling the pad forward will rub the hairs the wrong way, which will be uncomfortable for the horse. Next, put on the half-pad if you are using one. The hard pad should be more or less even with the front of the square pad, and sit about where the saddle should go.
Before you put the saddle on, drape the girth over your shoulder or over the saddle, that way it is in reach and you can put it on as fast as possible. Once you’ve done that, VERY gently place the saddle on top of the pads. So not thump the saddle on the horse’s back like a sack of potatoes!
Wiggle the saddle around a bit until it sits nicely on the horses back, the attach the girth on the first or second hole (you can always tighten it later). Move to the right side and attach the girth there - tightening up until it sits snugly under the horse. A well-fitting girth should reach the third or fourth holes on both sides of the saddle, depending on the length of the billet straps.
Always stand slightly in front of the shoulder when putting on a bridle. It can be dangerous to stand on stools or crates when bridling, so if you are too short for the horse, ask someone to help you. Untie the horse or undo the cross-ties, leaving the halter on. Put the reins over the horse's head first, that way you still have control over the horse in case it spooks or tries to run away.
Once the reins are over it's head, pull off the halter and either fasten it around the horse’s neck or hang it up out of the way. Put your right arm under the horse’s jaw (Your should should under their neck) and gather up the bridle in that hand, resting the bit flat in your left hand. Be sure that none of the straps are tangled or incorrectly fastened. Gently guide the bridle up the horse’s face. If the horse doesn’t willingly open their mouth for the bit, stick your thumb in the corner of their mouth and press gently on their gums to encourage them to open their mouth. Don’t let the bit bang on its teeth when it opens its mouth.
Once the bit is in, pull the crownpiece up and over the horse’s ears and adjust the browband so it doesn’t pinch. Untwist and fasten the throatlatch first, making sure you can fit four fingers in-between
the throatlatch and the horse’s cheek. Finally, fasten the nose band, making sure you can fit two fingers in between the horse’s jaw and the noseband. Now you can unfasten and and hang up the halter if you haven’t
done so already.
10. Double Check!
This is the most important step. Keep holding onto the reins, as the horse is no longer tied up, and check the fit of your tack. Make sure there are no creases in the saddle pads or twisted straps in the bridle. Check to make sure all the pieces of the tack are fitted correctly, and adjust them if you need to.
Most importantly, check your girth. Many horse’s will suck in air and make themselves rounder when you are putting on the girth so you can’t fasten it as tight (this is called bloating). After a few minutes, they will let out the air, and the girth will be much looser. It is very important to check the girth in the crosswise and just before you get on to prevent the saddle from slipping around.
Ok! Does your tack fit? Do you have boots and a helmet? Are all your brushes put away? Is your grooming area clean? Yes? Then you are all ready to go!
Enjoy your ride!
Thank you for putting this together, Toni! Follow her on Instagram at @tonis.tack.tips for even more grooming tips, how-to's and tack reviews! Her advice and insights as a working student and braider with Hayes Training/Team McAllister is great for horse lovers on all levels.
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