Introduction: Tacking Up a Dressage Horse
Many people have ridden a horse on a trail ride or a county fair, but actually putting the equipment on the horse, or tacking up, isn’t something most are familiar with. To tack up a dressage horse you will need a saddle pad, a saddle, girth, and a bridle. Leg wraps and bell boots can also be used but they are not required.
Step 1: Saddle Pad
When getting the horse ready everything should be done from the horse’s left side. Begin with placing the saddle pad over the horse’s back. It should cover the withers to prevent rubbing and lay flat over the horse with no bumps. Be sure to check both sides of the horse to make sure its even.
Step 2: Saddling
After the saddle pad is in place, the saddle goes on top of it. The saddle should be placed so the pommel (upside down v shaped part in the front) sits comfortably over the withers. To keep the saddle pad in place under the saddle, take the Velcro strap and put it around the billets of the saddle on both sides.
Step 3: Securing the Saddle
Next, the saddle needs to be secured to the horse. To do so, go to the right side of the horse and attach the girth. The girth will go through the loop at the bottom of the saddle pad and buckle to the billets of the saddle, like a belt. This particular saddle pad has individual sections for the billets to run through rather than the girth itself. Keeping the girth on a low setting on the right side will make it easier to attach on the left.
Moving to the left side of the horse reach under the horse’s stomach and grab the girth. For safety reasons do not crouch under the horse, simply reach your arm under. The girth will again, go through the loop at the bottom of the saddle pad (or in this case the billets will go through) and attach to the billets. Now that the girth is attached, tighten it so that it is snug against the horse but not overly tight. If tightened too much, too quickly the horse may get upset and the girth will be tightened again before riding. Be sure to keep the tightness settings as even as possible on both sides.
Step 4: Take Halter Off
With the saddle secured on the horse now the bridle can be put on. Remove the halter and loosely buckle it around the horse’s neck so there is something to hold if the horse were to try and walk away while bridling. If the horse is well behaved the halter can be taken off completely.
Step 5: Bridling
Holding the crown piece of the bridle in the right hand, use the left hand to guide the bit in the horse’s mouth. Once the horse takes the bit, slide the bridle over ears.
Step 6: Securing the Bridle
An English bridle will have two straps that need to be buckled. The first one is the throatlatch which should be buckled loosely under the horse’s throat. The second is the noseband and buckles snug under the horse’s chin while still allowing room for two fingers to fit between the horse and the leather.