What Equipment Do You Need For Horseback Riding?
If you are new to horses, the list of gear that is used for riding is lengthy and daunting. Some of these items for both horse and rider are necessities. Some of them are optional, or only applicable to specific disciplines. Before you head to the tack store (either online or physically), you will want to arm yourself with knowledge on what it is that you actually need.
What are the essential equipment pieces for horseback riding? There are a few essentials for both horse and rider that you will need to purchase if you do not already have access to them. Here are the must-haves for each of you and your horse:
Equipment For The Rider
- Riding Pants
- Comfortable Shirt
Equipment For The Horse
- Grooming Kit
- Saddle Pad
- Girth or Cinch
- Bridle, Reins, and Bit or Hackamore
While the number of necessities can seem overwhelming at first, I hope to make it easier for you to get started. Read on to learn more about each item on this list, and for recommendations to purchase online.
Necessary Equipment For The Horseback Rider
When looking at riding gear, you will find that there are endless options to choose from. There are four key items that you will need however, even if heading to the stables for your very first lesson.
Rider Equipment #1: Helmet
We’ll start with the most important item on this list. When you are riding a horse, you are putting your trust into a 1,000+ pound animal that is both powerful and flighty. Depending on your expertise and the horse you are riding, this can be a dangerous combination. Even the most docile horse can become spooked, and even an experienced rider can be thrown or otherwise injured.
You will need an ASTM/SEI-certified helmet, which is a helmet specifically designed for equestrians. If you will be taking lessons, you may find that the barn you are riding at already has helmets available for your use. Nevertheless, you may want your own so as to ensure the proper fit. You can find a large variety of equestrian helmets online, and you don’t need to break the bank. If you’re looking for a nice-looking affordable riding helmet, check out the Troxel Liberty Horseback Riding Helmet on Amazon by clicking here.
Rider Equipment #2: Boots
Equestrian boots are not just for style – they are also essential for safety. To safely ride a horse, you will need a shoe with a heel of at least 1”. This ensures that your foot does not become tangled in the stirrup, which can be a serious safety hazard should you fall off the horse. Some of the most popular options are English riding boots or Western riding boots. They both come in taller or shorter styles (the short English boots are known as “paddock boots”). Click here to view paddock boots from TuffRider as an affordable option on Amazon.
Rider Equipment #3: Riding Pants
If you’ve ever ridden a horse in shorts, it was probably only once. Your legs will have constant contact with your horse, and this can become uncomfortable if you are not wearing pants. You can ride in jeans, breeches, or even leggings – just make sure the pants you choose are form-fitting and flexible. Check out the Willit Women’s Riding Tights here on Amazon:
Rider Equipment #4: Comfortable Shirt
You can wear almost any shirt for riding, so long as it is comfortable (moisture-wicking is a plus), form-fitting, and allows for flexibility and movement. Here is a good long-sleeved option for sun protection.
Necessary Riding Equipment For The Horse
If you are planning to take lessons or lease at a local barn, they should already have everything that your horse needs. However, if you are buying your own horse, below are the necessities that you will need to ride.
Your horse should be groomed before every ride. This is not only important for the horse’s coat care, but also for your horse’s comfort. If a horse has dirt on his coat and this is covered with a saddle and rider, the debris may dig into his skin and cause discomfort. There are many options on the market that have everything you need in a single grooming kit, such as this Weaver Leather Grooming Kit on Amazon.
Horse Equipment #2: Saddle Pad
Under every saddle needs to be a quality saddle pad. Saddle pads protect the horse from the chafing of the saddle, and are an essential piece of tack for every ride. Saddle pads come in a variety of styles and sizes, so make sure to purchase one that will fit your horse and saddle. It’s also important to know there is a difference between English saddle pads and Western saddle pads. Be sure to get the proper saddle pad depending on the style of riding you do. For an English saddle pad, check out this affordable option from HORZE:
If you’re a Western rider, check out this saddle pad from Weaver Leather:
Horse Equipment #3: Saddle
The saddle is probably the most expensive item on this list, and one where you don’t want to pinch pennies. You will need either an English saddle or a Western saddle depending on the discipline, and each type comes in a wide variety of styles and sizes. While you can purchase a saddle online, it is usually best to shop in person for this item. Ideally, you’ll be able to try the saddle on your horse and also ride in it before purchasing to make sure it fits both you and your horse. An ill-fitting saddle can cause pain to your horse that can even lead to behavioral issues. To learn more about how to measure and fit a saddle, visit my article Measuring a Horse Saddle: Everything You Need to Know.
Horse Equipment #4: Girth or Cinch
The girth (English) or cinch (Western) is the “belt” that secures the saddle to the horse’s back. Without this, your saddle is useless. You cannot use a cinch on an English saddle and you cannot use a girth on a Western saddle, so you’re going to have to find one of these options specific to your riding style. You can also buy a girth or cinch used, but make sure to check the quality before purchasing – a frayed girth can lead to disaster mid-ride. Here is a highly-rated option on Amazon if purchasing a new cinch:
If you’re an English rider, here is a good option for a girth:
Horse Equipment #5: Bridle, Reins, and Bit or Hackamore
Every horse needs a bridle, reins, and a way to control the animal (usually this is in the form of a bit or a hackamore). A bridle is a piece of tack that fits onto the horse’s head. The style will depend on the discipline, the horse, and your own preference. The reins are attached to the bit and are what you hold in your hands. A bit is the metal rod that goes into the horse’s mouth and is attached to the reins. Instead of a bit, you may choose to use a hackamore – this is a piece that goes over the horse’s nose. Both the bit and the hackamore are used for steering and controlling the horse. Most riders purchase these items at a tack store either used or new, so as to get a feel for the condition and quality of the tack and to make sure it’s the right size for their horse. If purchasing online, here is a good option from Dover Saddlery that includes the bridle and reins:
Horseback Riding: The Initial Investment
While there is a significant up-front investment when it comes to horseback rider gear and tack, quality equipment should last a lifetime (or beyond) if well-cared for. For this reason, you don’t want to cut corners and buy the cheapest gear you can find – quality is paramount when it comes to horses.
Above, I mentioned that you’ll have to find a bit for your horse. You can’t just put any bit in your horse’s mouth. You need to make sure it’s the right size and that it caters to your horse and its needs. To get a complete rundown of the different types of bits and which one may work best for your horse, visit my article Choosing a Bit for Your Horse: Complete Guide.