What Is Horse Tack?

The Definition of Horse Tack, Plus What It Commonly Refers To

Riding tack, Chantilly, France
Troy House / Getty Images

If you’re new to the world of horse riding, then you may have heard the term horse tack but aren’t quite sure what it means. To help clear up any confusion, we’ve put together this quick guide to the term, including answers to some other common questions that you might have about what horse tack stands for and what sorts of things it entails.

What Is Horse Tack?

Horse tack refers to all of the equipment that you use to ride, handle, and care for a domesticated horse, though you’ll primarily hear it used in terms of riding equipment (hence the phrase tacking up, which means fitting a horse with all of the items necessary for riding it).

Tack itself is a range of equipment, rather than a particular item. This is why stores that sell horse equipment are called tack shops or tack stores, as well as why your instructor may tell you to tack up when it’s time to get your horse ready to ride.

Common Tack Equipment

A lot of different horse equipment falls under the general term of tack. The more familiar that you become with riding horses, the more it will become second nature to refer to these items under their umbrella term rather than as individual pieces of equipment.

Here are some of the most common pieces of horse tack equipment:

  • Saddle: A supportive leather structure used as a seat for the rider.
  • Saddle blanket: A padded cloth placed under the saddle for the comfort of the horse. In English riding, this is referred to as a saddlecloth.
  • Cinch: Also called a girth, this is a broad strap of material that fits around the barrel of a horse to keep the saddle in place.
  • Breastplate: A harness-type structure that is also used to help keep the saddle in place, with straps that extend around the sternum and forelegs. Also called a breast strap or breast collar.
  • Stirrups: Foot holds for the rider that are connected to the saddle by a strap.
  • Reins: Long straps typically made of leather, metal, or nylon that are attached to the bridle and used to direct a horse.
  • Bridle: A harness fitted around the head that is often attached to a lead rope to either guide or tie up the horse. Sometimes referred to as a halter.
  • Bit: A piece of metal attached to a bridle that rests in the horse’s mouth (hence the term chomping at the bit).
  • Hackamore: A type of halter or bridle where a noseband is used instead of a bit to guide the horse.
  • Martingale: A strap connecting a horse’s noseband to their breastplate or neck strap.

Other pieces of tack used in horse riding include blinkers, boots, nosebags, and chamfrons, among many others. Some tack items are used in every ride, while others are only used occasionally.

Tack is made of many different materials, although leather is the material most traditionally used. Synthetic tack can refer to many different types of synthetic materials, which are used to make almost every type of horse tack there is.

Why Is Horse Gear Called Tack?

It might seem like a random term, but there’s a reason that this sort of equipment is called tack.

The term tack is short for tackle, which in turn is a reference used to explain riding or otherwise directing a domesticated horse. When you outfit a horse with tack for riding or another use, you’re tackling them in the sense that you now have increased control over their movements.

Tack, or tacking up, isn’t just used in horse riding. You’ll also find this term mentioned in other activities where you need to set up certain gear in order to get moving, such as sailing.

What Is a Tack Room?

A tack room is the place in a stable building where tack is stored. It’s where you’ll go whenever you’re looking to get your horse outfitted for a ride, as well as where you’ll place tack items for storage after you’re done. If you’re ever in need of a piece of riding or handling equipment, always check the tack room first.

Most tack rooms are organized quite similarly, with many items hung up on the walls instead of being stored in piles. This makes it easy to keep everything organized—and to find what you need.

If you’re looking for additional tack that isn’t in the tack room, check for a storage area directly in front of your horse’s stall. Stable hands often use these areas to store smaller tack, or tack that it outfitted to individual horses.