How to Tack Up a Horse For Riding: Step by Step

Tacking up a horse is one of the most important chores you will learn to do as a rider. Tacking appropriately is essential for the safety and comfort of both horse and rider. If you have never tacked up a horse, learning how is important before ever attempting to ride. With this information, riders can learn how to tack up a horse correctly, so they will be able to perform the steps without stress.

What Does It Mean to Tack Up a Horse?

Tack is the equipment used to ride a horse. Tacking up means to equip your horse with the proper equipment, so you can ride them safely. The following offers insight into the important pieces of equipment for riding a horse.

  • Saddle
  • Saddle pad
  • Stirrups
  • Bridles
  • Halters
  • Bits
  • Harnesses
  • Martingales
  • Breastplates
  • Reins

The right tack is just as essential as knowing how to use each piece of equipment. Most owners have a tack room where they store all their horse tack. Having a dedicated room ensures these pieces are protected and stored properly.

Tack Up a Horse

Steps for Tacking Up a Horse

Before a person can learn to ride a horse, they need to know how to equip each piece of equipment. Tacking up a horse needs to be carried out methodically, ensuring each piece is put in place correctly, without causing any safety or comfort issues for the horse or rider. The following steps are essential when tacking up a horse and should be followed carefully. Although it will take time, you will eventually be able to perform these steps with ease.

  • First, you will place the saddle pad or blanket in the center of the horse’s back. It is important to choose the right placement, so you can be sure the saddle pad will offer protection against pressure points caused by the saddle. If you have a saddle that does not fit correctly, placing the saddle pad correctly is even more important.
  • Next, place the saddle over the pad or blanket. It is important to note that there should be a bit of saddle pad that goes beyond the saddle on each end. If the pad is too small, you will be unable to see it because the saddle will cover the entire pad.
  • On the right side, attach the cinch to the off-billet. Make sure it is secured.
  • Move over to the horse’s left side. Tighten the cinch, using the latigo. This part of tacking up is often referred to as cinching up. You will need to tighten the cinch in three different stages, to ensure a proper fit.
  • Tighten the cinch when you first put the saddle in place.
  • Tighten the cinch again after tacking up.
  • Tighten the cinch again after leading your horse.
  • Attach the uptugs of the breast collar to the D rings on either side of the saddle.
  • Next, you will need to run the center strap of the breast collar between the front legs of your horse. Then attach it to the breast collar D ring on the cinch.
  • Finally, you will remove the halter to bridle up your horse. Should you need to keep your horse’s head at a certain height, you may use a noseband. If so, it would be applied now. The bridle is applied next, and it consists of the following.
  • Headstall
  • Reins
  • Curb strap
  • Bit

The bridle helps riders to maintain control of their horses. Bridles are used when riding a horse, and halters are used when leading a horse from the ground.

You will use the throat latch to secure the bridle to your horse’s head. You can use a tie-down to attach the noseband to the cinch, though this is not always necessary.

Now, you know the basics of how to tack up a horse with ease. It is wise to practice these moves often. Although experienced riders can do these steps quickly, speed should not be your first concern. Instead, focusing on carrying out the tacking up steps correctly, making sure each one is applied securely, for a safe and comfortable ride for you and your horse.


It is not overly difficult to tack up a horse, even though there are many steps involved. Once you feel confident in conducting these steps, tacking up will proceed much faster.

Tacking up properly is a skill you will need to know if you plan on being around horses. Putting the right equipment, in the right places, will keep your horse secure and ensure they can follow your lead, whether you are on the ground or their back.

Although there are multiple ways to tack up a horse, following the methodical steps above will keep everything in order as you are learning. Follow a different order once you learn how to tack up a horse effectively.

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