Get on Track with Choosing the Right Tack

Get on Track with Choosing the Right Tack

There are so many important elements that go into the proper care of your horse and proper riding techniques, but few elements are as important as choosing the right tack. The right bridle, saddle, and other equipment can mean the difference between a happy, healthy horse and an unruly, unhappy, unhealthy one. Carefully choose the saddle based on a number of factors, including the breed of horse, the shape of the horse’s barrel and back, the fit of the saddle itself, and the tack room size of your horse trailer.

One important thing to keep in mind as you shop for the perfect saddle is that there is no such thing as a one size fits all saddle. Even though a saddle with full quarter horse bars will fit most quarter horses, it will not be the right fit for all. If you are unsure how to properly fit a saddle for your horse, be sure to ask an expert or a horse-savvy friend. Many saddle makers and tack shops will be able to provide you with references for saddle fit experts, and those experts can be invaluable in helping the saddle fit the horse. The good news is that many saddles can be easily fitted by one of these experts, so your off-the-shelf bargain saddle may be the perfect fit for your horse after all.

Know Your Horse

When shopping for a saddle, bridle and other tack, it is important to take your horse’s breed into account. For instance, most Arabians and Arabian crosses will have a more slender build—with a narrower back—than the stockier Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas. If buying a western saddle for a Quarter Horse, it is important to look for full Quarter Horse bars. This will help to ensure a proper fit on most—but not all—Quarter Horses. If the saddle does not appear to fit well, it’ll be crucial to have it evaluated by a saddle fitting expert.

The fittings that come with that saddle are an important part of tack shopping as well. While many western and English saddles will come with the fittings, others will not. Some cheaper saddle manufacturers will also try to cut costs by providing inferior fittings, so it is important to look at the cinch strap, the back strap, and the girth. After all, it is the cinch and the girth that will hold the saddle on the horse. You don’t want to rely on weak, thin, inferior leather for this important job!

After the perfect saddle has been found, you’ll want to match it with the perfect saddle pad. You should find a saddle pad that not only fits the saddle but one which fits the horse as well. It is important to look carefully at how the saddle rests on the horse’s back and to carefully examine the back for any possible bruising after each ride. If you suspect the saddle pad is rubbing or hurting the horse, be sure to replace it immediately.

For western riders, there are a number of choices when it comes to saddle pads. Navajo pads are a consistent favorite with many riders, both show riders and trail riders. These pads are easy to clean, feature attractive patterns, and are generally easy to fit. There are also a number of other types of western pads, including the attractive new foam pads that can provide better protection from slippage and girth loosening.

Protect Your Friend

English riders also have a great deal of variety when choosing saddle pads, including pads in a number of bright colors to accentuate the color of virtually any horse. While the majority of English pads are standard white fleece, a number of colors—and a number of other materials, like foam—have been making strong inroads.

In addition to these standard pads, both English and western riders can choose from a variety of therapeutic pads designed for horses and ponies with back and leg problems. These pads can be great for older horses, and for those who have been schooled incorrectly. They are designed to provide support where it is needed most, making them a great choice for many riders.

Bridles and bits are just as important as saddles and saddle pads, and riders of all disciplines will find many choices in this area as well. While owners of certain breeds of horses—such as Tennessee Walkers, Icelandic horses, and other gaited breeds—will have breed specific bridles and bits, owners of Quarter Horses, Paints, Appaloosas, Arabians and other more common breeds face a wide-open field of bits, from the lightest loose-cheek snaffles to the most severe correction bit.

When choosing a bit, the most important rule is to never use a bit you do not understand, and never to use a severe bit unless you are an experienced rider. Many bits—in the wrong hands—can severely damage both the horse’s mouth and his mind. If you need help finding the proper bit for your horse, be sure to ask a qualified expert, such as an experienced horse trainer or riding instructor.
Western riders should keep in mind that snaffle bits are not just for English riders, and that many accomplished western riders ride and show in a snaffle. Keeping a horse—western or English—in the lightest effective bit, is a good way to keep him willing and balanced.

Request Your Quote Today!