Inspecting your tack before each ride is a good way to help prevent accidents. Here is a pre-ride tack safety checklist and tips that Pony Club teaches to keep riders safe in the saddle.
Am I Ready to Ride?
Before you catch your horse to groom, make sure you are dressed safely for riding:
1. Wear riding shoes or boots with a hard, smooth sole and a definite heel. The heel is to help prevent your foot from sliding through the stirrup.
2. Choose long pants or riding breeches/tights that don’t wrinkle, rub, or bind to keep you comfortable in the saddle.
3. Wear clothing that fits properly and is not baggy so you can move easily and quickly without getting caught on the saddle.
4. Avoid loose or dangly jewelry as it can easily get caught on tack or your horse.
5. Most importantly, make sure your helmet is fitted properly and the harness is snug below your chin while fastened.
It’s a good idea to wear your helmet anytime you are handling horses. This includes while grooming, tacking and untacking—not just while riding.
As you groom your horse, pay extra attention while cleaning areas where tack will touch the horse, such as the girth and saddle area. Last but not least, make sure you always clean out your horse’s hooves and check his shoes (if he is wearing any) to ensure they are not loose.
Tack Safety Check
Always do a tack safety check before mounting. Follow these steps:
1. Holding on to the reins, start with the bridle and make sure the bit is in the horse’s mouth correctly (not upside down). Buckles should be fastened with strap ends through the keepers. Check that all straps lie smoothly without any twisting.
2. Look carefully at where the browband and headstall meet and ensure that the horse’s ears are not being pinched.
3. Check the throatlatch: You should be able to fit a small fist between the horse’s cheek bone and the buckled throatlatch.
4. Look at the saddle pad and make sure it is straight and smooth. Check any straps that attach the pad to the saddle (for English tack) are correctly fastened.
5. Make sure the girth or cinch is tight for mounting your horse.
6. Overall, make sure that there is no cracked leather. This is super important in areas where pressure or stress is applied, such as:
◆ Reins, especially where they attach to the bit.
◆ Stirrup leathers where the stirrup irons hang for English stirrups or the narrow part of the fender for western stirrups.
◆ Buckle ends of an English girth; for western tack, the latigo strap.
7. On an English saddle, check that the safety bar (where the stirrup leather attaches to the saddle) is open.
Once you get safely settled in the saddle, there are a few more things to check before beginning your ride.
1. Make sure the stirrup length is adjusted to put you in a balanced position with your head over your shoulders, hips, and heels. (Length also depends on what type of riding you are planning on doing, such as flat work, trail riding, or jumping.)
2. Check the girth/cinch again after walking around, as they typically loosen. (English riders can do this while mounted; for western riders, someone on the ground can check or you must dismount and check.)
3. Check that your surroundings and horse’s attitude are all safe before you start your ride.
This list may sound like a lot to remember. But if you perform a tack safety check before every ride, it will soon become a familiar routine. By taking these simple steps, you can ride off with confidence that all your gear is good to go.
This article about tack safety is brought to you in partnership with the United States Pony Clubs, Inc. Join Pony Club for more lessons like this! Find a Pony Club or Pony Club Riding Center near you and learn more at www.ponyclub.org.