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What is Horse Tack?

What is Horse Tack?

horses on stage

Image credit: RebeccasPictures / Pixabay

What is Horse Tack?

If you have never ridden a horse, you may not know what horse tack is. Horse tack is the term used to reference all the equipment used for riding, handling, and caring for horses. Some of these equipment pieces include a saddle, saddle blanket, stirrups, cinch, bridle, and reins. Horse equipment stores are typically called tack shops as horse tack refers to a range of equipment rather than specific pieces. Outlined below are some frequently used tack pieces.

Saddle The saddle is a leather structure that is designed to fit on the horse for a person to ride comfortably.

Saddle Pad  This padded cloth is placed under the saddle to protect the integrity of the horse’s skin.

Cinch The cinch is a broad piece of material that is fitted around the barrel of the horse that helps to keep the saddle in place, also referred to as a girth.

Breastplate– This is another harness-type structure that also helps to keep the saddle in place. The breastplate has straps that extend around the sternum and forelegs. This is also frequently referred to as a breast strap or breast collar.

horses on stage

Image credit: TechPhotoGal / Pixabay

Stirrups– These are foot holders that the rider uses that are connected to the saddle by a strap. 

Reins– Reins are long straps that are composed of leather, metal, or nylon that are attached to the bridle. This is connected to the horse to steer the direction they are taking. 

Bridle– The bridle is fitted around the head of the horse and is attached to a lead rope and is used to guide or tie up the horse. This is also referred to as a halter. 

Bit– This piece is metal attached to the bridle that sits in the horse’s mouth. This is where the popular term “chopping at the bit” comes from. 

Hackamore– The hackamore is a type of halter or bridle that is used to direct a horse with a noseband instead of a bit.

Martingale– This is a strap that connects a horse’s noseband to the breastplate or neck strap. 

Headstall– Despite the name, this is not the place that your horse sleeps in each night. The headstall is the part of the bridle that goes around the horse’s head that also attaches to the bit. From here, you attach the reins and possibly the curb strap to the bit.

Shanks– This is the side portion of a bit that stays out of a horse’s mouth. This affects the leverage that the bit applies to a horse’s mouth. The longer the shank is, the more leverage the bit generally has. The top part of the shank is where the headstall will be attached, and the lower part is where the reins will attach. 

Curb strap– This part is attached to the bit and goes around the jaw of the horse. This is an important part of the bridle as it encouraged the leverage bit to act correctly and should be fitted to the horse. The curb strap can be made from chain, leather, nylon, or other materials. 

Tie-down– While the name typically refers to tying something down, this is not the case. The tie-down is a tack that is made of a strap running from the girth to the noseband. The strap gives the horse a place to lean and balance when they are moving at high speeds and changing direction. 

Longeing cavesson– This is a specific type of halter or noseband that is used for having the horse walk, trot or canter in a large circle around the handler. They do this at the end of a rope that is typically 25 to 30 feet long. This is typically used for training and exercise. 

There are other well-known pieces of tack that are used with horse riding. These include blinkers, boots, nosebags, and chamfrons. Some of these pieces are used every time, while others are used less frequently. The tack pieces are made of varying materials, yet leather is the most widely used material with the equipment. 

Why Is Horse Gear Called Tack?

The term may seem like it is an odd term, but it does have an origin. Tack is derived from the word “tackle”. This is used because it is in reference to directing or riding a domesticated horse. The horses are decked with horse tack, meaning you are tackling them by having increased control over their actions. 

While this term is popularly used for horse riding, it is used for other activities. Another place you will hear this is when sailing, as you need to set up your gear to get moving. 

What Is a Tack Room?

This is in reference to a room in a place in a stable building where all the tack is stored. The tack room is where you will go when you are looking to get your horse prepared for a ride. This is also the room where you will store all the items once you are finished. The first place you will look for a piece of equipment will be the tack room.

To keep all the pieces organized, they are hung on the wall rather than kept in a large pile. This makes it much easier to find what you need as opposed to digging through a bunch of equipment. 

If the pieces you are looking for are not in the tack room, they may be in the storage area in front of your horse’s stall. The smaller pieces of equipment are typically stored in this area by the stable hands.