Horse Tack and Riding Basics

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Choosing between English and Western Riding

There are some basic differences between the two riding disciplines. Western riders can enjoy a wide range of horse sports including barrel racing, roping, cutting, reining and trail riding. English riders can enjoy a ride in the country, jumping, hunt, and dressage. Both styles can be highly competitive. Choosing becomes a matter of what your goals are and what you can realistically achieve. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish and then figure out how you will do it. Luckily many horses are trained to respond to both English and Western disciplines making it possible to try out different riding styles.
Some riders will be quite happy never competing. They may be content to ride their horse in the back yard, through fields, down roadways or over  trails for their own pleasure. In this case it doesn't really matter if you choose English or Western. Many pleasure riders have found that they can jump their horse over fallen trees or teach their horse some basic dressage movements using a western saddle. English riders are not confined to stuffy arenas and can have fun on trail rides with their Western riding friends . The point, is that both riding disciplines can be mixed and matched by adults or kids who just want to have fun. Have a look at both styles and then choose according to what personally appeals to you

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What you should know about saddles and tack before you buy

Whether your buying an English or a Western saddle their are 3 basic considerations. Fitting the horse. Fitting the rider and what the tack will be used for.

For English or western saddles

Saddles comes in a few basic sizes. The sizes are designated by a name. For Western saddles the names are Quarter Horse Bars, Semi Quarter Horse Bars, Full Quarter Horse bars and Arab/Morgan Bars. There are some specialty sizes available to fit gaited horses, ponies, draft breeds and so on.

For English saddles the names are Narrow, Medium, Wide and Extra wide. English saddles also come in specialty sizes. Some English saddle makers are now making in-between sizes so you can get an even better fit for your horse.

What the names mean The names refer to what type of tree the saddle is built upon.  Saddle trees are built to fit a wide variety of horses. This doesn't mean that one saddle will fit every horse, what it means is that you can match the type of tree to your horses wither, back and shoulder conformation.  You may have read at many websites that there are no standards between saddle making companies. This is true. However, the variances are usually small enough that it won't make much difference to your horse..

 Below is a general guide to finding a saddle to fit your horse.

This is only a guide to help get you started. Keep in mind that you should consult with the saddle company of your choice to confirm that their saddles fit the same way that our site is describing. This is important beacuse the people that make the saddle trees don't all use the same terminology or the same measurements. If you have a horse with unusual conformation then you may have to look into alternative saddles such as treeless, flex tree or saddles with air panels..

Using the names to Find the right size to fit your horse

Quarter Horse bars or Narrow in English saddles
This type will fit the bony backed, narrow shouldered, high withered horse. (Like a thoroughbred) This is the least common in both English and Western saddles. Very few horses have this conformation because we tend to feed our horses well and breed them bigger and heavier.

Semi Quarter Horse Bars or Medium in English saddles
This type fits the average fleshy backed, medium to high withered horse. This type fits over 70 percent of all horses, especially horses of mixed breeding.

Full Quarter Horse bars or Wide in English saddles
This type fits the wide fleshy backed horse with bull dog shoulders and medium to low withers.

Arab/Morgan Bars for Western saddles
This type fits horses with a narrow shoulder, wide short back and medium to low withers.

Extra wide panels for English saddles
If your horse has a back shaped like a barrel and low withers, than this is the type of saddle you want.

There are some specialty saddles available on line at The Horse Saddle shop and Equestrian Collections Just the browse the sites to find saddles made for specific breeds or conformations.

Fitting the rider
Both English and western saddles come in different seat sizes to fit the rider. Our very handy seat size calculator will tell you what size to buy.

Click to use the Western seat size calculator.

Click to use the English seat size calculator

Saddle pads
There are many saddle pads available for both English and Western saddles. A good fitting saddle should not need anymore than a simple wool, wool/felt or wool/cotton blend pad. In fact less padding under the saddle is better. Too much padding will make your saddle slip easily out of place. A lot of saddle fitting problems that make a horses back sore are from too much padding. A saddle pad should not be more than 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. Simple wool or wool blended pads are best. Remember your horses is a natural creature and will appreciate a natural material next to his skin.

The bridle has little effect on your horses performance so feel free to choose one you personally like.

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The bit does effect your horses performance greatly. Every bit ever created causes the horse some discomfort. It is important to learn about bits and how to use them right. If your just starting to ride the best bit is the Dee Ring Snaffle or Egg Butt Snaffle bit. Or ask the previous owner what bit the horse is used too. Each type of bit exerts pressure on different parts of a horses mouth, cheeks, poll or chin. A good book on bits will help you become a more sympathetic and caring rider. Click to see our Bit Guide


It is up to you whether you wear one or not. The only thing to say on this matter is that even the best rider falls. Some will end up with severe head injuries and others will get by with just a scape. Only you can decide how much chance your willing to take with your head. You can read our helmet safety and fitting guide here.

Kids and Horse Basics

It's a fact kids love horses! It is also a fact that as parents we have to ensure our kids safety. It doesn't matter at what age you decide to introduce your child to horses as long as they follow some basic safety rules.
When introducing children to horses it is not enough to simply give some rules. Children need to know why there are rules and how those rules affect the interaction between them and the horse. keep your explanations simple, short and to the point. Otherwise it may go in one ear and out the other.
Kids can become bored easily, but there are many games kids can play on horseback to help keep things fun.

See games kids can play while learning how to ride