Tacking Up a Horse: Everything You Need to Know

 how to tack up a horse

So you're interested in getting started with horseback riding, or just love horses and want to know everything you can? Well, you've come to the right place! Today we're going to learn how to tack up a horse. First, however, there are some things you should know before jumping in that will make working with horses a lot easier. With that said, let's get started! Stay tuned for everything you'll need to know in order to start tacking up your horse like a pro.


Horses: A History

The Equus caballas – a.k.a the modern horse we know and love – was not always the way we see it today. In fact, there were many different types of horses that we have never had the pleasure of meeting, as most of them went extinct approximately 10,000 years ago. These species included: the Hyracotherium, a roughly dog-sized forest dweller who stakes claim as the first member of the horse family; the Hypohippus, a three-toed forest dweller who eats leaves; the Nannippus, a smaller three-toed animal who ate both leaves and grass; the Dinohippus, a larger species similar to the modern horse that ate grass and had one toe on each hoof; among others.

Horse species have also widely varied in size throughout their existence and evolution. Although, their size changes have not seemed to follow any specific pattern. With time, they grew larger, only to shrink in size again. However, with the changing and expansion of grasslands, species gradually grew larger and adapted into anatomy and behaviors we know from the modern horse (such as having one toe per hoof and grazing on grass).

The domestication of modern horses goes back perhaps more than 5,000 years. It is believed that the origins of their domestication date to just after the Ice Age (approximately 10,000 years ago) when wild horses started to die out in all but Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the homes of short grasses, shrubs, and large amounts of dry land. Scholars think that the people of these areas were the ones who domesticated the remaining wild horses, starting a human-to-horse bond that has developed into what it is today.


Horseback Riding

how to tack up a horse and back ride

Horseback riding is not only a great sport but also a fantastic bonding experience between a human and his or her horse. There are plenty of health benefits from horseback riding, such as development of the leg and arm muscles and improvement of balance, posture, and concentration. It is widely considered to be a very calming activity, as well.

While domestication may have started around 10,000 years ago, this domestication was not used for horseback riding. Instead, horses were domesticated as a source of food and clothing. The "first ride", an important turning point in the history of the horse, most likely took place in 4200 B.C. as a way to watch over other horses easier and to herd cattle and sheep. It also had a large benefit on traveling, as such would be a much quicker process when on horseback.

As time passed, horses were used for help with many tasks. Horses were used for pulling heavy loads of supplies, both before and after the invention of the wheel. After the wheel came things like carts, chariots, and devices for cultivating fields. Horses were one of the hardest workers in history. The term "workhorse" isn't used for nothing!


How to Tack Up a Horse

Now that you've learned a bit about the history of the horse and horseback riding as it led up to its place in modern society, it's time to learn how to tack up a horse.

How to tack up a horse properlyKnowing how to tack up a horse properly is extremely important for both you and your horse. If you miss something or incorrectly dress your horse, not only will it affect the comfort for both you and the animal, but it could also cause an accident while riding. Improper tacking could cause you to lose control of your horse or even fall off if something is loose or comes undone.

First things first: what does tacking up your horse even mean? The word "tack" simply refers to any piece of equipment for the domesticated use of horses. This could mean the saddle, bridle, halter, reins, bits, stirrups, or all of the above – including any piece of equipment not mentioned in that list. The act of equipping your horse with these pieces is called "tacking up".

Secure Your Horse

This first step is extremely important for the process. Before you can start, you must secure your horse in order to ensure both efficiency and your safety while tacking up. You can do this with cross ties or by securing them to a hitching post. Another good tip for safety is to use slip knots while securing. This will allow you to quickly untie and release your horse if something happens during the process.

Groom Your Horse

Although this step may seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things, grooming before equipping will help guarantee your horse comfort and avoid pain while riding. Always make sure to well groom the areas where tack will sit. For example, if there is dirt under the saddle, it could rub while you ride and cause saddle sores on your horse. Also make sure to check that your horse's hooves aren't loose and to clean them with a hoof pick.

Saddle Your Horse

How to tack up a horse using a saddle
Now that you've properly groomed your horse, it's time to start dressing. The first step in dressing is to place the saddle pad on your horse. You'll place the pad on the horse's neck and then slide it down gently into place on the back. Next, place the saddle on top of the pad and slide it back until it settles. You'll know it has settled when it no longer slides easily.

To secure the saddle, first buckle the girth on the horse's right side. On the left side, reach under the horse and pull the other side of the girth toward you, pulling it tight and then buckling it. Make sure to double check that it is secure after tightening.

Put on Your Horse's Bridle

Before putting on the bridle, untie your horse. Place the reins over the horse's neck in case you need to utilize quick control while adjusting the bridle. With your fingers on either side of the bit, push it into the horse's mouth and then slide the headpiece over the ears. Buckle the throat latch loosely as not to choke your horse. You should be able to fit a couple fingers in the space between the throat latch and the horse's skin.

how to tack up a horse putting bridle

Ready to Go!

Now that you know how to tack up a horse properly and have done so following the steps, you're ready to ride! This is an intimate bonding experience between you and your horse, so be sure to treat the experience with love and respect. Now that you're officially ride-ready, pick up some apparel from our shop and show your horse love with pride!


Up Next: How Big is a Horse's Brain?


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  • Aaron Seminoff
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