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How to Understand Horses' Tack

Nov 24, 2007
If you are going to look after horses, you need to understand their tack.

Colors - Stable colors are frequently displayed on brow bands, blankets and coolers.

Order of Predence - When tacking a horse, he should first be bridled and then saddled; when removing tack, generally the girth should be loosened and the stirrups run up on the saddle - then remove the bridle and replace it with a halter. Removing the saddle last avoids the sudden release of pressure on the horse's back.

The Saddle - The pommel is the raised forward part. The cantle is the raised rear part. The tree is a form over which the saddle is built. Generally, it is made of wood with metal reinforcement, but frequently, it is made of light solid metal. The skirts are the small pieces of leather near the pommel covering the stirrup bars. The flaps are the large pieces of leather covering the girth buckles.

The weight of an adult's English (flat) saddle with girth, stirrup leathers and irons, is approximately 15 to 18 pounds. Saddles vary considerably depending on their use. They are usually specially designed for the following purposes: general riding, polo, hunting, jumping, the show ring, military, flat racing, cattle work (the western or stock saddle which weighs from 30 to 40 pounds without silver).

Girths - There are several types of girth: A folded leather girth is most usual. A balding girth is one composed of three interlaced straps, providing freedom at the horse's elbows. A Fitzwilliam girth is one with a thinner strap superimposed on the larger main girth. A Lonsdale girth is shaped so that it is narrow at the horse's elbows and is reinforced with a thinner superimposed strap stitched to the main girth.

A canvas girth is used largely on saddle horses. A string girth is used when a horse is tender or has just recovered from girth sores. It is frequently used regularly by military and police organizations. An overgirth is an elastic web surcingle passing over the saddle and under the horse's belly. It is used in addition to the regular girth, generally in racing, to assure the security of the saddle.

Stirrups - Stirrups are generally made of metal, although, for western riding, they are generally made of wood with leather wrappings on the tread in leather hoods. Metal stirrups are made in various sizes and weights - the widest about 52 inches. Metal stirrups are frequently canted toward the rear and hung off center to assist in the natural placement of the foot with heels down and toes pointing slightly upward and outward. Stirrups on flat (English) saddles are frequently referred to as "irons."

Bridle - The bridle is usually composed of a crown piece, cheek straps, throat latch, brow band, bit, cavesson (nose band) and one or two reins. If a curb chain is used on a bit, it is held in place along the horse's chin groove by a thin piece of leather known as a lip strap.

The bit may be attached to the bridle by a sewn-in leather loop, by buckles or by hook billets (metal fasteners in the shape of hooks).

Bits - Bits are usually made entirely of metal, but frequently the portion in the horse's mouth is made of hard rubber. Bits are generally classified as: curb (or bit), snaffle (or bridoon), pelham or double (bit and bridoon or curb and snaffle).

A bit is a single bar in a horse's mouth with shanks, and a curb chain to provide leverage, controlled by a single rein. A snaffle is a single bar (sometimes jointed) without a shank, controlled by a single rein. A pelham is a single bar with a shank and a curb chain controlled by two reins. A double bit is two separate bits - the snaffle (bridoon) and the curb (bit).

When the bridle is placed on the horse, the following should be checked for proper adjustment:

A. the bit - regulated by the cheek straps; B. curb chain; C. throat latch; and D., if used, the cavesson (nose band).

Now you know about horses' tack, you will be able to take better care of your horse.
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