TACK is equipment used to control your horse when riding. Tacking up is the term used when putting the necessary equipment on your horse, for example, the bridle, saddle and numnah prior to exercising your horse/pony.
Top 10 things to remember when tacking up:
1: DO: Tie up your horse before tacking up, using a head collar and leadrope. Remember, never tie your horse to a solid object, instead tie your lead rope to a piece of twine using a quick release knot.
2: DO: Tack up from the left hand side. Approach your horse’s shoulder when tacking them up. The bridle and saddle should be put on the horse from the left hand side.
3: DO: Remember to always groom the horse prior to tacking up. Always ensure the coat beneath the tack and girth is free of mud/dirt/sweat, this is to avoid the horse’s skin becoming sore. Try to avoid tacking up your horse when he is wet. (Click here for more on grooming.)
4: DO: Clean your tack regularly. Keep numnahs and saddle pads clean, wash them regularly. (Tip: Be careful using certain washing products as like humans, some horses can have sensitive skin and react to the washing powder!) Always wash your bit after use so it is clean for the next time you tack up your horse.
5: DON’T: Tighten the girth up too tight. Begin by tying the girth loosely and allowing your horse time to adjust. Gradually tighten up the girth, always ensure you can fit your hand under the girth. Tip: Always tighten the girth evenly on both sides of the saddle. This ensures there is equal pressure on either side of your horse and on the girth leather straps.
You should be able to fit your hand under the girth, always slide your hand under the girth in the direction that the hair lies.
6: DO: Be gentle! Horses are sensitive. A bad experience when tacking up can easily lead to a horse becoming difficult to tack up. If you are struggling always ask someone with experience for help. Tip: If you are having difficulty placing the bit in the horse's mouth, make sure it is clean and warm it in your hands before trying to place it in the horse's mouth. Alternatively putting a little bit of honey on the bit can help entice the horse to open it's mouth.
7: DO: Check that the bit fits correctly and is suitable for your horse. An ill-fitting bit or one which is too serve bit can cause injury to the horse's lips and gums. (Read more about bitting here.)
8: DO: Run up your stirrups when finished riding. Stirrup irons should always be rolled up when placing the saddle on the horse's back. If your stirrups are hanging down when tacking up they may hit the horse and injure or frighten him.
Stirrup irons should not be left down when tacking up.
9: DO: Regularly check the condition of your tack to ensure it is fit for purpose. You should do this every time you tack up as it can prevent an accident when riding. Tip: Regularly check the stitching on the bridle, saddle and stirrup leathers especially. For more advice on checking tack condition click here.
10: DO final checks before mounting. Ensure that the forelock is pulled out from under the browband, the bit is sitting correctly in the horse’s mouth and that the numnah is not lying flat on your horse’s withers - pull it up slightly to take the shape of the pommel of the saddle.
Do not leave stirrup irons hanging down as pictured here.
The correct safety position to keep the stirrups in when not in use.