A pre-ride tack check is something every rider should do before mounting up, but even some of the most experienced riders have tack mishaps because they missed something before mounting up. Growing up I had my share of tack problems, most of which could have been prevented if I had only taken a few extra minutes to make sure my tack was in good working condition and put on properly.
Just recently I had an accident where I was riding a young horse with a saddle that I failed to tighten up all the way. The saddle slipped, the colt freaked out and I ended up with a few broken ribs and a banged up knee. If I had only double checked to make sure my cinch was tight before I had gotten on, I could have saved my self a lot of pain and money. The picture to the right is of my underarm after I landed in the panels when my saddle slipped. The video link here is a case where a loose saddle slips off, and the rider, Mark Lyon, takes a spill. This was during a 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover. Mark actually got back on the horse and finished the ride to finish first in the event. And neither Mark or his horse suffered any injuries. 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover Winner Mark Lyon and Christian
Checking Your Tack
The saddle pad is pretty easy to check before putting it on your horse. Just make sure it is free of any objects that can irritate your horse such as stickers or a piece of hay. Also if I notice there is a lot of hair built up on the underside of the pad I will take a curry comb and brush it off.
Your saddle has so many parts to check. I start with making sure my cinch straps or billets are in good working condition. Make sure there is no uneven wear on them. Also make sure they are not cracked or dried out. A couple times a year I will oil my straps with Neatsfoot oil to help keep the leather soft. Make sure your cinch is fairly clean and there are no broken strands if it is a rope cinch. Also check to make sure all the parts of your stirrup fenders are in good shape. Make sure they are not split, thin or cracked. Then before you mount your horse double check your cinch and make sure it is snug. I usually will saddle my horse and only cinch them up half way tight. Then I will do a little ground work and tighten the cinch a little more. And I will then bridle my horse and finish tightening up the cinch. By cinching in three steps it helps prevent my horse from becoming “cinchy”. Also make sure to have your rear cinch snug enough that it isn’t hanging down. If you leave that rear cinch hanging down, it really isn’t doing anything but hanging there. Also it leaves a place for a horse to catch his foot if he happens to kick at a fly. It doesn’t need to be tight, but don’t leave it hanging clear down.
When checking your bridle you need to make sure all the leather is in nice condition, free from any cracks and not dried out. If your bridle has Chicago screws make sure they are all securely fasten. Chicago screws have a tendency of becoming loose after a while so it is good to check them every time you ride. If the Chicago screw is in a place that I don’t need it to ever come out, I will put a dot of glue in side the screw before fastening it. Make sure your reins are securely fastened to your bit, and also be sure your bit is adjusted correctly in your horses mouth. I like to have the bit so it is just starting to make a wrinkle in the corner of my horse’s mouth. Other people adjust their bits looser, and others adjust it tighter. I have found that the start of one wrinkle works best for most horses.
Well hopefully before you hop on that pony of yours next time you will take a peek at your tack just to make sure it is all in good working condition. You never know it might just save your life.