Tack is the equipment used for riding a horse. There are many possible variations and additions, but basic tack can be divided into the saddle and tack that goes on the horse’s head. In this post, we describe the major pieces of tack that you’re likely to come across if you come for a ride.
The Western saddle is the largest and most recognizable piece of riding equipment. It’s what you sit on when riding a horse. All of its parts have their own names, but the ones most relevant to beginner riders are the horn, the seat, the cantle, and the stirrups.
The horn is the distinctive projection at the front of a Western saddle. It was traditionally used for holding one end of a lasso, but, these days, riders mostly use it for support, including while mounting and dismounting.
The seat is the part that you sit on and is located on top of the saddle tree, which is the saddle’s frame. The cantle is the raised edge at the back of the seat, while the stirrups are the dangling loops that hold the rider’s feet.
The saddle sits on a saddle pad, which provides cushioning, absorbs the horse’s sweat, and can help improve the saddle’s fit. The saddle is held in place with a cinch, a band that runs under the horse’s belly and attaches to the latigo on the horse’s left side and the off-side billet on its right. A saddle may have a back cinch that connects to the front one with a strap.
A headstall is a set of straps that goes around the horse’s head. It can be part of either a halter, which is used for leading the horse from the ground and tying it up, or a bridle, which is used for riding.
A bridle can have different components, including a noseband, a browband or ear loops, and a curb strap, which goes under the horse’s chin. The rider uses the bridle to communicate with the horse by applying pressure on different parts of its face. In most cases, a bridle includes a bit - a piece of metal that goes inside the horse’s mouth and helps the rider give commands.
There are several types of bits, but 2 of the most common are snaffle bits and curb bits. Snaffle bits pull directly on the horse’s mouth, while curb bits use metal shanks that hang outside the horse’s mouth. Instead of using a bit, some bridles use a bosal - a thick band that presses down on the horse’s nose.
The reins are the straps used for directing a horse and attach to the bit, if one is used. A Western rider might use split reins, which have 2 separate straps; a roping rein, which consists of 1 short loop; or romal reins, which have a string attached on the end. A bosal is often combined with mecate reins, which were traditionally made of horsehair and include both a long rein and a lead rope.
Did you learn something new about Western tack? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.