Fol­low these ex­pert trail-tack guide­lines.

Fol­low these ex­pert trail-tack guide­lines for op­ti­mal safety, fit, com­fort, and con­trol.

Horse & Rider - - Contents -

Safe, com­fort­able, trail­ready tack says you’re a ded­i­cated, knowl­edge­able trail rider. You’ll also be ready for long rides in fall’s cool weather.

On the trail, your tack must stay in place, fit well, and be at­tached cor­rectly so that your horse can con­quer any ter­rain com­fort­ably. If your sad­dle doesn’t fit, his back will be sore af­ter just a short ride. If your sad­dle isn’t se­curely at­tached, it could slide back­ward or for­ward, es­pe­cially when you ride up and down hills. If your bri­dle doesn’t have a brow­band and throat­latch, it could come off if your horse brushes against a low branch.

Here, I’ll ex­plain what’s safe and un­safe in your trail bri­dle, trail sad­dle, and your sad­dle’s at­tach­ments that help to keep it in place—the flank cinch, breast­col­lar, and crup­per. I’ll also share the type of tack I pre­fer on the trail and how to fit it to your horse so he stays com­fort­able and pain-free.

Your Trail Bri­dle

Use a bri­dle with a brow­band and throat­latch to help keep it se­cure and bal­anced. (One-eared head­stalls can come off on the trail.) Ad­just the head­stall evenly on both sides. The brow­band should be level and sit just below your horse’s ears.

Tighten the throat­latch just enough so that you can fit three fingers be­tween the strap and your horse’s throat. This will keep the throat­latch tight enough to keep the head­stall from slip­ping over his ears, but not so tight that it in­ter­feres with his breath­ing when he breaks at the poll.

The bit must sit level in your horse’s mouth. I fit my horse’s bit so no wrin­kles show in the cor­ners of his mouth. The bit sits at the top of the mouth, with no gaps be­tween bit and lip.

Your Trail Sad­dle

For trail rid­ing, I pre­fer a West­ern sad­dle that puts my legs and body in a bal­anced po­si­tion and with a nar­row twist and padded seat for com­fort.

Your horse’s com­fort is para­mount. I pre­fer to ride in a flex­i­ble-tree sad­dle that con­forms to my horse’s back shape and ab­sorbs shock. These sad­dles are light­weight and al­low your horse to move his shoul­ders.

A sad­dle horn al­lows you to pony an­other horse and gives you some­thing to hold onto in steep ter­rain. Horn-free West­ern or “hy­brid” trail sad­dles tend to be lighter.

A sad­dle skirt will help keep your trail gear from rub­bing your horse’s back. Back skirt­ing lets you hook on large bags for long rides. Also look for plenty of ties and D-rings to at­tach jack­ets and wa­ter bot­tles.

Check the sad­dle’s fit and place­ment. The seat should ap­pear level when viewed from the side. The screw at the base of the pom­mel should sit be­hind your horse’s shoul­der blade, in “the pocket.” You should

be able to in­sert your whole hand over his with­ers un­der the pom­mel to en­sure that the sad­dle won’t push down on his with­ers.

When you sad­dle up, pull the sad­dle pad up into the gul­let so your sad­dle doesn’t cre­ate pres­sure at your horse’s with­ers. Also make sure your sad­dle doesn’t dig into his back or hips.

Rig­ging refers to where the D-rings are placed to hold your sad­dle onto your horse. For trail rid­ing, I pre­fer Y (cen­ter­fire) rig­ging, in which an ad­di­tional D-ring al­lows you to run the latigo front and back to cre­ate a “Y” to help hold your sad­dle in place. You can also change cinch place­ment if your horse gets a sad­dle sore on a long ride.

Se­cure At­tach­ments

A flank cinch se­cures the back of your trail sad­dle when your horse rounds his back. Make sure the flank cinch is snug, but not so tight it causes dis­com­fort. Use a cinch hob­ble (con­nect­ing the two cinches) to pre­vent the flank cinch from slip­ping back and be­com­ing a buck­ing strap.

A breast­col­lar helps to keep your sad­dle from slip­ping back when go­ing up­hill. I pre­fer a wide, sculpted breast­col­lar for com­fort. Fit the breast­col­lar so it sits above your horse’s shoul­ders. Cen­ter the mid­dle strap, and at­tach the col­lar evenly on each side. Make sure it isn’t so tight that it in­ter­feres with your horse’s breath­ing when his nose touches the ground. You should be able to place a fist be­tween the strap and the front of his chest.

If your well-fit­ting sad­dle slips for­ward when go­ing down­hill, con­sider a crup­per—a leather strap that at­taches to the back of your sad­dle and goes un­der your horse’s tail—to hold your sad­dle in place. De­sen­si­tize your horse to the crup­per be­fore hit­ting the trail.

On the trail, your tack must stay in place, fit well, and be at­tached cor­rectly so that your horse can con­quer any ter­rain com­fort­ably.

LEFT: A flank cinch se­cures the back of your trail sad­dle when your horse rounds his back. RIGHT: A breast­col­lar helps keep your sad­dle from slip­ping back when go­ing up­hill. I pre­fer a wide, sculpted breast­col­lar for com­fort. Fit the breast­col­lar so it sits above your horse’s shoul­ders.

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