Horseback riding equipment is called "tack," because all equipment must be fastened (or tacked) onto the horse prior to riding. To prepare a horse for equine sports is called "tacking up."
A bit is a piece of metal and rubber that lies inside the horse's mouth. The bit controls the horse's mouth, and in combination with the bridle, halter, and reins gives the rider control of the horse's head. There is evidence of bits being used by riders as far back as the 14th century BC.
Bits have two main components: a mouthguard and rings. The mouthguard lies behind the horse's teeth, and is made of various types of metal such as copper or stainless steel. Mouthguards are sometimes wire-wrapped to provide more comfort to the horse.
The rings are made of a similar material, and serve to attach the mouthguard to the reins and bridle. The average cost of bits is around $90, but for high-end rings and mouthguards that are more comfortable to the horse, costs are closer to about $150.
A breastplate fastens the saddle to the front of the horse and it prevents the saddle from sliding backwards off of the horse. It is used with both Western and English saddles (the two most common kinds of saddles), and is made mostly of leather. It can also be made from nylon or other faux-leather materials.
The main type of breastplate is called the hunting breastplate. It runs between the horse's front legs and attaches to the girth. The western breastplate - often called a breast collar - has an additional strap running between the legs.
A breastplate will cost on average $120, but simpler versions can be bought for as little as $50 online.
A bridle is another extremely necessary piece of equestrian equipment. A bridle functions as the main source of directional influence from the rider to the horse in equestrian competitions. More specifically, the bridle provides directions by placing pieces of equipment onto certain places on the horse's face.
There are four parts of the bridle that work closely together to provide this function. One of these is the throatlatch, which holds together the leather straps around the side of the horse's face. Next is the noseband, located around the snout of the horse, whose primary goal is to keep the mouth of the horse closed. Another part of the bridle is the bit, which rests inside the horse's mouth, helping the rider to control the horse more precisely if need be. The last parts of the bridle are the reins, thin leather ropes that the rider holds in order to control the equipment placed on the head of the horse. The straps that connect to one another within bridles are usually leather, although some of the connectors that intertwine the system can be iron or metal.
Equestrian riders also require specific shoes, clothing, shoes, and headgear to perform adequately during their horse shows. First off, equestrian riders must wear certain types of boots in order to control the horses direction during the competition. For most shows, the rider will wear tall boots that stretch up his or her knees; however, in some informal events, the rider can wear low-strap boots. Next, the rider must wear tight-fitting pants, often called breeches. These breeches are designed to keep the rider firmly on the horse, as well as to provide support and flexibility for any type of movement that the rider desires. At most official horse shows, the riders will also wear jackets with some sort of long sleeve shirt underneath. Lastly, riders wear helmets, usually made of some sort of plastic covered in a thin layer of cloth.
The primary role of the girth is to connect both sides of the saddle around the horse's waist. This is essential because the saddle is not able to stay stable without some sort of item providing tension under the horse's gut. There are a few types of girths, but all provide the same basic function stated above. One is a fleece girth, which is made of a softer material to protect the belly of the horse. Another is the dressage girth, which is shorter than most to prevent the buckles from interfering with the rider's legs.
The halter is a piece of guiding equipment that provides a means of leading or tying up a horse. It consists of a series of straps that wrap around the horse's muzzle and behind the ears to form a skimp frame of headgear. The halter was patented in 1894, and has become a common piece of horse tack ever since.
The straps of a halter are made most commonly of leather, nylon, or rope and are adjusted and secured by metal rings and latches. Most halters will cost about $60 or $70, with cheaper decorative ones costing as little as $20 and expensive, high-end ones costing as much as $100.
A harness is used whenever a horse needs to carry a large weight behind it, such as a wagon or racing cart. In equestrian sports, this most often means a cart called a "sulky" that holds the rider. There are two commonly used types of harnesses: the collar-and-hames design and the breastcollar design.
The collar-and-hames harness is used most often with work horses that must haul massive wagons or plows. It consists of a padded loop that wraps around the horse's neck and two wooden or metal straps (the hames) that place the main weight of the load onto the horse's back and shoulders.
The breastcollar design, used for lighter loads like in sulky racing, instead has a padded strap that reaches across the horse's chest, placing all of the weight onto the sternum of the horse. Both harness designs attach to the load with a vast series of even more straps and clamps.
Harnesses can be very costly, and that's not including whatever the horse is actually pulling. For instance, a racing sulky can cost upwards of thousands of dollars. Sulky harnesses themselves can cost between $200 and $400.
The horse is the most important element in an equestrian's journey through the sport of horseback riding. The horse and rider must work together closely, and bonds between human and animal are almost always formed over the years. Your horse is your best friend, and will be your partner in sport and recreation.
Horses themselves are extremely expensive and require a level of owner responsibility that isn't cheap. Maintaining a healthy horse can cost you upwards of $3,000 a year. However, if you love horses and truly wish to become an elite equestrian, then you will find it worth every cent. If you cannot afford to purchase a horse, many people rent horses instead.
There are a vast array of horse breeds in the world, and extensive research will be required before you purchase one to call your own. The American Quarter Horse is the preferred breed for many beginners, due to their patience, calm demeanor, and trainability, but every expert has their own opinion.
A horse is more than a piece of equipment or a pet, it is often a friend for life. You should therefore treat your purchase as one of the most important choices you will ever make.
The martingale is an extra piece of horse tack that is used to control overactive or young horses when they jump. Its main function is to make sure that the horse's head does not rise way up whenever it jumps. It does so by exerting downward pressure on the bit via the reins whenever the horse raises its head.
There are two kinds of martingales: the running martingale and the bib martingale. The running martingale has a single strap that attaches to the girth and runs through the horse's front legs, where it splits to two separate straps that end in metal or rope loops. The reins run through these loops. The bib martingale is identical, except instead of having two separate straps after the martingale passes through the legs, it has a single, wide "bib" that connects the two halves of the martingale together.
Martingales cost on average $100. Higher quality leather martingales can cost as much as $240, while ones made of cheaper leather can be found for around $30 online.
Reins are the main way for a rider to control their horse. They consist of one or more straps that are held by the rider on one end and connect to the bridle on the other. They can be made of leather, rubber, nylon, or other synthetic materials. Rubber reins are much cheaper, usually being sold for less than $30, but many experienced riders prefer the comfort and quality of leather reins.
There are a wide variety of rein types, each characterized by material, length, and function. For example, one distinction is between "closed" or "loop" reins and "double" reins. Closed reins are made from a single strap that loops on itself and is easier to keep hold of during intense riding. Double reins, on the other hand, consist of two separate, unattached straps, one for each side of the horse and each hand.
Different riders prefer different rein types to suit their personality and riding style, and as you grow as a rider, you will begin to form your own tastes as far as reins are concerned. Whatever style you choose to go with, reins are a vital part of horse tack.
A saddle is one of the most important pieces of equipment in equestrian. Saddles are placed on the back of the horse, acting as a support between the rider and the horse. There are two main types of saddles, English and Western, and each is used in different types of equestrian competition. One main difference between these saddles is that Western saddles have a horn on the front in order to provide additional assistance to the rider. English saddles also have thicker and wider knee pads, as Western saddles often have narrow leather fenders on each side instead. In general, Western saddles are much more complex, incorporating a variety of unique parts in addition to the horn. These other parts include the saddle tree, which is the frame that holds together the base, and the billet strap, which notches the saddle in place.
Saddles can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. In the end, it is all about the overall quality of the saddle. Saddles made of high-quality hides and with hand-crafted trees with extensive decorations will understandably cost you more money than saddles with synthetic trees or faux-leather padding and straps. In general, a long-lasting, high-end saddle will cost you between one and three thousand dollars.
Saddles of all kinds are important for the safety of the rider, as they provide stability for the rider when faced with abundant amounts of force, yet also allow the rider to control the horse in a more efficient manner. In any sense, saddles are one of the most essential pieces of equestrian equipment.
A piece of equipment to discuss in combination with the saddle is the saddle blanket. The saddle blanket is a square of cloth that lies underneath the saddle and provides extra cushion to both the rider and the horse.
Most blankets are made of wool, cotton, or other synthetic fabrics and measure about 3 feet by 3 feet, although there are larger ones made to be folded for even more support. Different saddles will require slightly different blanket specifications (English saddles use a molded pad, Western saddles don't), so be sure to pay attention to what you buy.
The saddle blanket is often a piece that can add character to the horse tack. Because it is made of easily customizable materials, two blankets are rarely the same, and you can buy yours with a beautiful design or can even make one yourself. It can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars, but on average you'll be looking to spend between $50 and $100 on a quality saddle blanket.
Stirrups are loops of metal and leather 6 inches high and 5 inches wide that a rider puts their foot through when riding horseback. One stirrup lies on either side of the horse, both attaching to the saddle with leather or elastic straps. The stirrups give the rider a foothold, lending support and greater control over the horse. Stirrups have been excavated in remains that could be up to 4000 years old, but the first instances of modern metal stirrups came in the 13th century, with the rise of the Mongolian empire.
Stirrups are usually made out of lightweight metals like aluminum and then padded with leather, or they are made completely out of leather. An average pair of stirrups will cost $80 to $90, with top-end pairs costing as much as $300 and bare-bones stirrups costing as little as $10.
Many pieces of equestrian equipment not only allow for comfortability of the rider and horse, but also allow for better control of the horse by the rider. For this reason, there are also several pieces of equipment that can be considered training equipment.
One of these is the crop. A crop is a long stick with leather or synthetic fabric at the end, and the crop is used primarily as an additional bit of aid for the rider (just like the reins or feet), serving as extensions of the rider's arm. A horse that has been trained to accelerate with a touch to the haunch (back or thigh) will respond with a touch of the crop while riding.
Many other pieces of equipment in this sport can also be considered training equipment, such as the bridle and the stirrups, as these are used by the rider to guide the horse in a certain direction.
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There are many factors to consider for each piece of equipment that you buy. In general, you should always consider the comfort of you and your horse (especially with pieces like bits, horseshoes, and saddles). You also want to think about the overall quality of any equipment that you buy. Most pieces of equipment are expensive, so having durable and long-lasting equipment is crucial to your long-term finances.
Individual pieces of equipment have their own unique considerations. For example, a girth must have excellent elasticity and must be the proper length, while horseshoes need to fit your horse and be made of a comfortable yet strong material. And on top of all of that, you need to buy equipment that is visually appealing to you!
Specific considerations are discussed for each article of equipment in greater detail below, so keep reading to learn more!