horse tack

All About Tack: Why Horses Wear What They Do

What Tack is Used When Riding Vs Pulling a Carriage?

Whenever you see a horse with a rider or pulling a carriage, you will notice that it is wearing various straps and harnesses, known collectively as tack. Horse tack is used to help the rider or driver communicate with the horse and ensures both are safe and comfortable.

Depending on the horse’s task, different tack may be required. In this article, we’re going to focus on the type of tack needed when riding a horse and pulling a carriage.

What is Tack And What Is It For?

Horse tack is all the equipment and gear required to handle, ride or harness a horse. Tack is not just one item but a range of things needed for different activities with a horse.

Some of the most commonly seen and used horse tack includes:

  • Bridle
  • Bit
  • Reins
  • Harness
  • Collar
  • Halter
  • Saddle / saddle pad
  • Cinch/Girth
  • Stirrups
  • Lead rope

Why Does Different Tack Need To Be Used Sometimes?

Depending on the horse’s activity, the tack required will be a bit different. Although a few core items will remain constant, some tack items may differ slightly, or you may need some unique equipment.

*Think about how a horse moves when pulling a cart vs doing show jumping, for example, and you can understand why tack needs to be adapted to the activity.

What Tack Is Needed When Riding A Horse?

When riding a horse, there is different tack required than when a horse is pulling something. As such, riding requires equipment to keep the rider in place.

Both rider and horse need to be comfortable, and the tack needs to allow for gentle but precise communication between them so the horse understands what the rider is asking it to do. 

Common types of tack required for riding include:

  • Bridle – horses’ headgear, usually made up of a halter (sometimes called a headstall), a bit and reins. 
  • Halter – a piece of equipment, usually made of leather, that wraps around the horse’s head to which a bit, reins, or a lead rope can be attached.
  • Bit – a piece of metal that sits in the horse’s mouth and attaches to the bridle and reins. When the reins are pulled, the bit puts gentle pressure on the side of the horse’s mouth, causing it to change direction. A bit is a crucial communication tool between the rider and horse. Read more about how Tally Ho Carriage Tours train horses to work with bits here.
  • Reins – a leather or rope strap attached to the bit and held by the rider to control movement.
  • Saddle – this is a leather seat for the rider. Different styles are available depending on the type or style of riding you prefer, such as western saddles or racing saddles.
  • Cinch /Girth – a strap that holds the saddle firmly but comfortably against the horse’s body.
  • Stirrups (optional) – foot holders attached to the saddle that make the rider more comfortable and secure

What Tack do Horses Wear to Pull Carriages?

Pulling a carriage or cart requires different tack from riding. The primary purposes of the tack for a carriage pulling horse are:

  • To secure the horse and the carriage together in a way that allows the horse to use their entire body strength to easily move and stop the carriage without risk of discomfort or injury.
  • To ensure the driver can communicate clearly with the horse. This is important when horses are working in unpredictable environments like city streets.

The tack used on a working horse that is pulling a carriage is similar to tack used when riding a horse: bridle, bit, and reins. There are, however, some other vital pieces of horse tack required for this job, including:

  • Harness – a set of straps and devices that attach the horse to the item it is pulling
  • Collar – part of the harness, a pair of curved wooden or metal pieces (called Hames) that help distribute the weight around the horse’s shoulders
  • Traces – leather or chain straps linking the collar to the load
  • Breeching (Britching) strap – a strap that ties behind the horse’s haunches and enables it to slow or stop the item it is pulling

Did You Know? The horses that pull carriages for Tally Ho are all draft horses – breeds with the strength to pull at least 6 times their body weight. Pulling a carriage uses only 20% of this capacity.

Why is Clean and Well-Fitting Tack Important?

Clean and well-fitting tack is essential for the well-being and comfort of the horse (and rider when there is one). Conversely, poorly fitting tack can result in:

  • Saddle slippage – can result in injury or a fall for the rider and rubbing/discomfort for the horse.
  • Sore mouth – if a bit is too large or tight, it will put excess pressure on the horse’s mouth resulting in damage to the soft mouth tissue. As a result, the horse can suffer pain, infection, and inability to respond correctly to commands.

Failure to keep tack clean and sanitary could put the horse at risk of infection and damage the equipment over time, leading to loss. So follow in the footsteps of the team at Tally Ho Carriage Tours and make cleaning of tack your priority after an outing on your horse.

At Tally Ho, our entire team is dedicated to the well-being of our horses and to the safety of our staff and customers. Thanks to our extensive training with our horses, they are all very responsive, which means drivers only need to use minimal pressure when giving instructions. In addition, as you can see in this video, our horses are comfortable in their tack and happy to wear it.

Experience The Strength of Draft Horses on a Carriage Tour with Tally-Ho

Meet our delightful draft horses in person when you take a scenic carriage ride with Tally Ho Carriage Tours. Enjoy a historical tour through the streets of downtown Victoria, BC, a relaxing ride through the country on the Sea Cider Picnic Experience, or one of our special seasonal tours. Contact us today to book your tour.