Introduction: Tacking a Horse
This is the term for putting the saddle, bridle, and other riding equipment on a horse.
Step 1: Cleaning the Horse
Before putting the saddle on the horse you want to brush any dirt or mud off the horse. Clumps of dirt under the saddle blanket can result in discomfort for the horse. Brush the area where the saddle will sit and make sure to get their belly where the girth strap will go.
While brushing, check over the horse to make sure there are no injuries that need to be addressed before riding.
Step 2: Cleaning the Hooves
It is very important to check for rocks in the horse's hooves before riding. You don't necessarily have to clean out all the dirt because especially if it is muddy, the hooves will just get dirty all over again two minutes into the ride.
To clean the hooves, pick up the horse's foot as shown. Hopefully the horse has been trained to pick up its feet easily. Clean out any rocks found in the hoof and check to make sure the hoof is healthy. Set the hoof down and move on to the next one. Be wary of the back feet as some horses are prone to kicking.
Step 3: Fly Spraying
In the summer, fly spray is a good thing to have around. Some horses can get very irritated by flies while others don't seem to notice at all. Fly spray can be bought at stores or made at home from recipes.
After the horse is clean, spray the entire torso of the horse from a foot or two away. Spray the legs thoroughly and carefully spray the face and ears being sure to cover they eyes with a hand. For horses that are more headshy, spray some fly spray on a hand and rub it on the face and ears.
Step 4: Putting the Saddle On
Before putting the saddle blanket on, brush it off and make sure there is nothing stuck to it. Set the blanket up on the horse's withers (the shoulders of the horse). This is around where the mane ends. Next, grab the saddle, making sure the girth strap and right stirrup won't get under the saddle, and set it on the horse's back. Do not toss or drop the saddle onto the horse. Some horses will be spooked by this. Be sure the saddle is straight on the horse's back and that no straps are twisted which could cause discomfort for the horse. Pull the girth strap under the horse's belly and thread the leather through the buckle. Tying the leather rather than buckling it works better. Most horses hold their breath and it is a lot easier to adjust the girth if it is tied rather than buckled. See the pictures for how to tie the girth.
Step 5: Putting the Bridle On
Start by holding the top of the bridle in the right hand and the bit in the left and make sure the reins are out of the way. Rest the right hand up near the ears so the bridle is straight and not twisted. Take the bit hand and while holding the bit, stick the thumb and forefinger of the same hand in the horse's mouth where there are no teeth. The horse should open their mouth and accept the bit. If not, increase the pressure on the horse's mouth until it opens. If the bridle has a curb chain (a chain attached to the sides of the bit) make sure that does not go into the horse's mouth with the bit but rather under the horse's chin. With the left hand, pull the top of the bridle over the horse's ears. Buckle the strap under the horse's chin. It doesn't really matter how tight this one is as long as it's not too tight.
Step 6: Check All the Tack
Now that both the saddle and bridle are on, it is time to check over everything. Most horses will hold their breath when the saddle girth is being tightened so it is likely the saddle is loose. Some horses hold their breath even longer. If necessary, walk the horse around a little bit until they let out the held breath. Then, tighten the saddle once more. Check the stirrups to see that they're the same length. Don't worry about adjusting them just yet. That can be done after mounting the horse.
Congratulations! You've tacked up your horse!