What Is Tacking A Horse Up? Saddling A Horse Explained!

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Last Updated on September 28, 2022

If you’re new to riding, you might be wondering what is tacking a horse up? Tacking a horse up is a phrase commonly used by many horse riders, grooms, and riding instructors. But, like much of the terminology related to horse riding, this can be very confusing if you are new to riding!

Let’s find out everything you need to know about what is tacking a horse up!

What Is Tacking A Horse Up?

Tacking a horse up is the name used to describe the process of putting a saddle, bridle, and any other equipment onto a horse before it is ridden. You may also hear this referred to as saddling up.

This might sound quite simple, but if you’re faced with tacking up a horse for the first time, you will soon realize this equipment is more complicated than it sounds. If a horse is not tacked up correctly, you could cause injury or discomfort to the horse, or the tack may slip or even fall off. This could be very dangerous for the rider as the tack is vital to maintain control of the horse and keep the rider mounted.

Tacking A Horse Up

So, when tacking a horse up, you need to ensure that the tack is fitted in the correct way. It must be safe and secure, without causing any discomfort to the horse. If you’ve never tacked up a horse before, it is a good idea to ask someone to show you first and then watch you tack the horse up to check for mistakes.

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What Tack Do Horses Need?

The tack used on a horse when it is ridden can be very complicated, and you may find that no two horses require the same tack. The reason for this is the horses vary widely in their body shape, athletic ability, and temperament. The tack used will be adapted to account for these differences and also the type of equestrian activity the horse is being used for.

At the most basic level, you will find that the vast majority of horses are ridden in a saddle and bridle. The saddle is the part that sits on the horses back, and is held in place by a strap around the belly called a girth or cinch. The bridle goes on the horses head and has reins which are held by the rider to help steer and control the speed of the horse.

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What Is Tacking A Horse Up?

There are many other pieces of tack which can be used, but not all horses need them. You may find that a horse has a breastplate, which is a piece of equipment that goes around the shoulders and chest to prevent the saddle from slipping backwards. Some breast plates have a martingale attachment, which fixes onto the reins to prevent the horse from raising its head too high.

Some horses also have protective boots as part of their tack. These go onto the legs to protect them from injury. Most riders also use a saddle cloth, which goes underneath the saddle to make it more comfortable for the horse.

What Is The Best Way To Tack Up A Horse?

When tacking up a horse it is vital to make sure the tack is fitted safely and correctly. Traditionally the saddle is placed on the horse first, unless the horse has a breastplate or martingale.

The saddle is placed slightly further forward and slid back onto the saddle area to ensure the hairs lie smoothly underneath. The girth is fastened loosely at first, and then tightened before the rider mounts.

Fitting a bridle correctly is tricky, as it contains many straps and parts. First, the bit is placed inside the horse’s mouth, without knocking it against the teeth. The headpiece is then gently eased over the ears, making sure it lies comfortably over the poll.

The noseband and throat lash are then fastened, but not so tight that they pinch the skin. You should be able to fit two fingers underneath the brow band and noseband.  The throat lash should be loose enough for you to be able to fit a fist underneath it.

Summary – What Is Tacking A Horse Up

So, if you’ve been wondering what is tacking a horse up, hopefully this commonplace activity now makes perfect sense to you! Tacking a horse up is simply the process of putting the saddle, bridle, and any other equipment on the horse before it is ridden. If you have never tacked a horse up, it is a good idea to ask your instructor to show you how to carry out this task correctly.

We would love to hear your thoughts on what is tacking a horse up! Do you always feel unsure about whether you have tacked your horse up correctly? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about the best way to fit a saddle or bridle to a horse? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!


Why do horses need tack?

Horses need tack when they are ridden to help the rider control the horse. The saddle also makes riding a horse more comfortable for the rider, and less likely to fall off.

How long does it take to tack up a horse?

An experienced rider can tack up a horse very quickly in just a few minutes. However, if the horse is nervous, it is important not to rush the process of tacking up.

What is the opposite of tacking up a horse?

The opposite of tacking up a horse is called untacking or unsaddling. This is the process where the saddle, bridle, and any other tack is removed from the horse.

Why are horses always mounted on the left side?

Horses are always mounted on the left side due to tradition, which dates back many centuries. Soldiers mounted horses from the left side so that their swords would not hit the horse on the back as they swung their leg over. In modern times, there is no reason why you couldn't mount a horse from the right or left side.

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