Tacking up a horse for the first time, or even the first several times, can be a headache if you don’t know exactly how to go about doing it. Luckily, if you follow a few easy steps, you should be able to turn the chore of getting a horse ready to ride into a breeze.
First, you will want to make sure you horse is secure and won’t wander off by tying him up, cross-tying him, or putting him in a stall. Before you put any tack on, be sure to go over your horse with a brush, paying particular attention to the area where the saddle will be. Also make sure you pick out his feet before you begin so that if there are any nails or rocks in your horse’s foot you can find them and take them out before you get on your horse’s back.
The first item of tack you want to place on your horse is the saddle blanket. Place it well forward on your horse’s withers and slide it back into place just behind them, making sure to slide it in the direction of the horse’s hair. If your blanket has straps for the saddle’s billet straps to go into, make sure that those are facing the front of the horse. Take care to get out and wrinkles in the blanket and make sure it is hanging even on both sides of the horse.
Next, gently place the saddle on your horse’s back, again placing it well forward and sliding it back until it settles into position in the middle of the horse’s back. You will then want to lift of the flap and place the billet straps through the straps in the saddle blanket. Then, take your girth and buckle it loosely on one side. Go to the horse’s other side and buckle it loosely on that side as well. You may then go back to the other side of the horse and tighten it there, then tighten the other side. It is important that you tighten the girth slowly in this manner to make the process as comfortable as possible for the horse.
The part of tacking up your horse that you might run into the most trouble with is putting on the bridle. Take up your bridle in your left hand and go to the left side of the horse. Place the reins over his head, making sure that they are not twisted. If your horse is wearing a halter, you will want to take it off now. Hold your bridle at the top, in your left hand, and reach under your horse’s head with your right hand and bring your hand over top of his nose to prevent him from throwing his head in the air. Slowly lift the bridle up and put the bit in the horse’s mouth. Some horses will open their mouths up for the bit, others won’t. If your horse fails to open his mouth, take your left thumb and gently insert it in the horse’s gums toward the back of his mouth where he doesn’t have any teeth. This will usually make the horse open his mouth. Once the horse has taken the bit, life the bridle up and over his ears. You may need to gently pull the ears through the brow band. Now just buckle the nose piece and the throat latch, and pull your horse’s forelock out of the brow band.
Now your horse is ready to ride! If you take the same easy steps every time you get your horse ready to ride, tacking up should become second nature to you in no time.