How to Tack up a Horse

Tack is the equipment used to for riding a horse. Learn the perfect way to get your horse ready to ride if you are a beginner or novice!


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    Tie your horse. Cross ties, but you may use something else if your horse is used to it. If you tie your horse with the lead rope, it's always a good idea to do a quick-release (or "slip") knot!
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    Groom the horse. This can be a full groom - both brush the horse and pick out the feet with a hoof pick. As you groom, check the horse for lumps, bumps, swelling, and heat that could mean your horse is unsound. See Related wikiHows below.
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    If you want to do the bridle first, tie your pony's head-collar so that it is around his neck. This will make it easier for when you put the bridle on. If doing the saddle first, leave it on his face so he can't run away.
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    Put on the saddle pad/blanket/cloth. (If you are not going to ride straight away leave the nose band off until you are ready to ride. Place the front on the horse's withers, a bit higher than normal. Slide it down a bit so the hair will not be pushed down in an unnatural position.
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    Place the saddle gently on the horse's back. It should sit in the middle of the saddle pad. Again, make sure it doesn't interfere with the horse's shoulder. If it is sitting correctly, most of the time there will be a thin strip on the saddle pad that the saddle sits straight above, and should be coming out from directly underneath the pommel. Remember, if your horse has a martingale attach it before you start when you are putting on the saddle.Take note to also lift the top of the blanket (pad) into place, where the pommel on the saddle is. It's easiest to lift both blanket AND saddle up, so they can come down gently from a few centimetres above the withers.
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    Put on his cinch or girth. Some horses will bloat - if he is known to do this, tighten it gradually on both sides when he exhales so he can't do this and tighten it again prior to mounting. Ideally, you should have the girth about 3/4 as tight as you prefer it. If your saddle is unattached attach it with keepers. If using breast strap, or rear cinch, now is the time to position them. Move your horse at least three steps, forward or back. Tighten the cinch or girth again and do so gradually.
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    Put on the horse's boots. You may have to put on boots or polos but it depends on your horse's needs. Make sure the strap of the boots go from the inside of the horse's leg, wrapping around the front so the end if the strap is facing backwards on the outside of the leg
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    Unbuckle the cross ties. Put the reins over the horse's head. This is so they don't get tangled in all the other straps on the bridle and so that you will always have control over the horse.
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    Hold the crown, noseband, and throat latch in your right thumb, under and over the horse's head. This way, only the bit is being given and does not get tangled. Offer the bit into the horses mouth. Put a finger on each side of the bit and gently push against the horse's mouth. If the horse does not take in the bit, it is a good idea to put your thumb in the very corner of the horse's mouth where there is no teeth, and push on the horse's tongue. This will make your horse open his mouth.
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    Put the crown/headpiece of the bridle over the horse's ears. Some put in the farthest ear first, so the ear nearest will easily slide under.
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    Buckle the throat latch. When you buckle it, you should be able to put four fingers or a fist in between the throat and the throat latch.
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    Buckle the nose band. You should be able to fit one or two fingers under it.
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    If you have a flash, buckle it. You should buckle it so it is snug but not hurting the horse.
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    Mount your horse and you are ready to ride! Have fun!


  • When you attach the reins, always make sure the clips are facing outwards, so the clips don't rub against your horse's mouth.
  • To help a shy horse take the bit, put a little honey or peppermint oil on it. Then praise them each time they take the bit to help them get used to it.
  • Make sure that when putting the bit in the horses mouth, you do not hit the horses teeth, or they will become sour to the bit.
  • In the winter, be sure to warm the bit so the horse will not become bit-shy.
  • When you go to pick your horse's hooves, bring the horse's hoof to you so to lessen the risk of being kicked.
  • Always tighten the girth again once you have warmed up as horses tend to puff their stomach out when being tacked up. If after you've warmed up your horse still puffs his stomach out when you tighten his girth then tighten it as you walk, he cannot puff his stomach out and walk at the same time. Be careful they can kick you!
  • Have an experienced horse friend help you tack up the first few times!
  • When approaching your horse with an item, always walk slowly so your horse won't spook. Place your hand on the horse's shoulder when in reach and never walk directly behind or in front of the horse.
  • Avoid setting the saddle on the floor. Put it over a fence, door, a special rack or the horses back. If you must put the saddle down on the floor, put it on top of a rug or coat, leaning against a wall with the seat facing the wall, the pommel down and the cantle (that is the back of the saddle) resting against the wall with the girth over it to protect it from scratches.
  • Be friendly, gentle to the horse, and make sure everything is clean and hygienic before you start.
  • Have your horse or pony smell the item so they know what is happening to them. I always put the saddle slowly, so they are not spooked by the sudden weight.
  • Know your horse - Some horses don't like to be rubbed or touched in certain places (for example the belly) so when you tack and untack be sure to be cautious around these places. If you do not know where these places are as the horse is not yours ask a more experienced rider or the owner of the horse.
  • Always when training, praise your horse by giving him/her treats if you feel that they did well!
  • Behave gently.
  • Make sure you put the saddle and bridle on from the left side.This is not necessary, some people prefer to train their horse so that he will accept things from both sides.
  • Always undo the back girth first in case he runs away because if you undo the front girth first and not the back girth the horse could spook and run off making the saddle go under their belly.
  • Make sure your saddle fits your horse as it can cause discomfort.
  • Some horses are "girthy", that is, they don't like their girth being tightened. They may attempt to bite you if you tighten their girth, so if your horse is like this, simply be wary. (Tip: When you first put the girth on; keep it loose at first. After leading your horse around for a few minutes tighten the girth again because the horse will have let out air. Gradual tightening the girth instead of tightening it all the way at once can help girthy horses.)


  • While tacking up, never kneel down! Crouch if you need to, but never sit or kneel next to a horse, as they can accidentally or purposefully kick or step on you.
  • If the stirrup bar is an old type it may be hinged to lock the stirrup in place. Always keep it down, to help prevent being dragged.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding. Your helmet should never have had an impact or been stored improperly. It should be under 5 years old.

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