Mistakes To Avoid When You Tack Up to Ride
Getting ready to ride takes a bit of attention to detail. You want you and your horse to be safe and comfortable. Here are mistakes to watch for as you tack up.
It’s always a mistake not to groom your horse’s back and girth area before you ride. Grit, burrs, or other debris can become lodged in your horse’s hair coat, especially when the hair is thick in the winter time. This can lead to chaffing, galls or discomfort that can make your horse misbehave. Always groom the saddle and cinch area before you put the saddle pad or blanket and saddle on your horse.
Another grooming mistake is to skip checking your horse’s hooves before you tack up to ride. Objects can get lodged in the bottom of the hoof, that can make your horse’s feet sore. And, you may miss problems like thrush and white line disease that can get worse if not treated promptly. A loose shoe can cause lameness and can trip your horse, which could injure both of you. Clean and check hooves each time you tack up--and when you are done riding.
Always check that your pads or blankets are clean. Dirt build up can cause chaffing and things like twigs, burrs or other debris can cause discomfort that can make your horse misbehave. When you put the blanket or pad on, be sure it’s perfectly smooth, and there are no folds or wrinkles where the saddle sits.
Each time you ride, you should do a quick visual tack check. Look for loose or frayed stitching, stretched or cracked leather, fractured rings or buckles, worn or sharp edges on bits and any other damage or wear that could make your saddle, bridle or bit come apart while you ride. Bits with sharp edges exposed can make a horse cranky and misbehave. Nails poking through fleece on the underside of saddles can also cause discomfort. Get in the habit of doing a quick check of your tack every time you ride, and do a thorough check when you clean it.
Avoid sloppy bridling habits that can make a horse head shy and create hazards. When putting the headstall over the ears, be gentle. Some horses dislike having their ears folded. Don’t do the noseband or throat latch-up too tight. Be sure the buckles are done up correctly, so the bridle doesn’t come loose when you ride. A horse that is uncomfortable while being bridled can become more difficult to bridle as time goes on.
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Be careful not to clank the bit against your horse’s teeth, pinch or pull at its lips or shove a frosty cold bit in its mouth. These things can make your horse resentful about taking the bit and make it difficult to tack up in the future. Again, check your bit for signs of wear, rough or sharp edges or joints that pinch. This can make your horse uncomfortable and an uncomfortable horse might react by misbehaving.
Girth or cinch up slowly. Don’t do the girth or cinch up so tight it leaves an impression on your horse when it’s removed. Make sure the girth/cinch and all the straps that attach to it are lying flat. Going slowly gives the horse time to relax and many horses will bloat their bellies while you are tacking up, leaving the cinch much looser than you realized. If you’re using a western saddle with a knotted cinch, make sure the knot is laying flat when you finish typing it.
Check the girth or cinch. In the short walk from your tacking up area, to where you mount up, the girth may have loosened because your horse has relaxed. Always do a double check before you mount. Check that your reins aren’t twisted, and any other equipment you’re using such as martingales or breast collars are adjusted properly.
On an English saddle, check that the stirrups are down on both sides. That way you won’t get into the saddle, bang your thigh on the offside stirrup and have to sit unbalanced, fiddling with it before moving on.