The Training Tack & Equipment I Can’t Do Without
by Kim Roe
Recently I read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Like many others who read this bestseller, it prompted a frenzy of cleaning and unloading of “stuff”. I decided to tackle my tack room, emptying it out so it could finally be finished and painted after 25 years.
After decades in the horse business, I had accumulated an overwhelming amount of tack; rather than put it all back in my newly painted tack room, I whittled things down to the essentials. Really, how many pairs of reins does one person need? Below is a list of the tack and equipment that I love the most and use daily.
- A good quality rope halter. Every horse needs an occasional reminder to be polite and keep their distance while being led. A rope halter provides more “bite” when leading and working on the ground. I’d rather not have to use a chain over the nose, and have found horses don’t resent or fear a rope halter. For tying, I prefer a break-away halter or a leather halter, as the rope halters have gaps in them that catch on things and can cause a wreck. Also, I never trailer a horse in a rope halter.
- A long, heavyweight lead rope with a quality brass snap. Some folks swear by cotton leads, but I prefer heavy nylon. I really like the ones with a little leather tail sewn in at the end.
- A well-made saddle that fits. This is an essential. Your saddle cannot hurt the horse, period. Training can be stalled or forever ruined by back pain. Spending money on a good saddle and hiring a qualified saddle fitter is fundamental.
- An ergonomic leather girth for the dressage saddles. These girths contour around the horse’s elbows and help to keep the saddle from slipping forward onto the shoulders. Now that I’ve used them, I won’t go back to any other kind of girth.
- A Portuguese training halter – A lunging cavesson that is stiff and fits closely over the bridge of a horse’s nose. These made-in-Portugal cavessons give great control while lunging, leading, and doing in-hand work. They go over the bridle or can be used alone. They are far superior to snapping the lunge line to the bit or halter. The lunge line attaches to the bridge of the horse’s nose so you can encourage correct flexion and not hurt the horse’s mouth.
- A wide variety of bits. You never know what horses are going to like. Bits seem to be very personal to a horse – some work well in a loose ring snaffle, others prefer a full cheek or an egg butt. It’s great to have a variety to choose from and try.
- Natural fiber saddle pads with contouring for the withers. Whether western or English, I prefer wool, cotton, or fleece. I like a heavy, stiff pad under my dressage saddles as they stay put better.
Easy on and off leg protection. I’ve had horses come in for training who don’t yet tie. It’s certainly not safe to be down around their legs yet, but their owners ask me to use leg protection that involves my having to run a piece of leather or plastic through a small hole and buckle it. Trying to do this while a horse is dancing around will bring forth some choice words. Even if the horse stands quietly, time is precious and I’d rather not spend it messing around with polo wraps or complicated buckles. I love protective boots that can be put on quickly with one piece of Velcro. Done!
- And lastly, a good quality, well-fitting, waterproof rain sheet. No leg straps for me. I’ve seen too many horses have problems and wrecks with them. I only use blankets with tail straps; they’re faster to put on and off too – no reaching around between the horse’s hind legs searching for snaps. With a tail-strap, I can pull the whole blanket off over their rump.