Before you can take a horse out for a ride, you need to be able to tack him up properly. Tacking is dressing him for a ride; "tack" is equipment you use to ride a horse. Saddles, bridles, bits, saddle pads and all other types of riding equipment fall into the broad category of riding tack. Failure to properly tack up your horse can lead to rider and horse discomfort, to the inability to control the horse, and to accidents caused by equipment failure.
Groom your horse's coat completely with grooming brushes. Make sure to remove all the loose dirt from the horse's back, stomach, sides, legs, face, neck and throat areas. Clean his hooves using a hoof pick. When dirt becomes trapped between a piece of tack and the skin, it will cause your horse pain.
Place the saddle pad onto the horse's back with the front of the pad sitting on the withers. Place the saddle on top of the saddle pad and slide it back gently an inch or two until it appears to settle on the horse's back and no longer slides easily. Attach the girth to the saddle. On a Western saddle, you will need to buckle the girth to the off-billet on the right side of the saddle, then tie the cinch strap on the left side of the saddle. On an English saddle, you will buckle the girth to the billets on both sides of the saddle. Make sure to tighten the girth until it is snug.
Put the bridle on the horse by standing on the left side of the horse with the bridle in your right hand. Use your right hand to pull the bridle onto the horse's head and your left hand to guide the bit into his mouth. Adjust all the buckles on the bridle so the bit is held snugly in the horse's mouth without being tight; you should see a slight wrinkle on either side of the corner of his mouth. The noseband and throatlatch should be loose enough that you can get a couple of fingers between the horse's skin and the leather.
- If you do not understand the names of tack items or how to use them, have a professional riding instructor teach you how to safely saddle and ride a horse. Equine activities can be dangerous and improper use of equipment can lead to serious accidents.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.