Horse tack
Overview
 
Tack is a term used to describe any of the various equipment and accessories worn by horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s in the course of their use as domesticated
Domestication of the horse
There are a number of hypotheses on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were truly wild horses and were probably hunted for meat. How and when horses became domesticated is disputed...

 animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s. Saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, martingales, and breastplates are all forms of horse tack. Equipping a horse is often referred to as tacking up.
Saddles are seats for the rider, fastened to the horse's back
Back (horse)
The back describes the area of horse anatomy where the saddle goes, and in popular usage extends to include the loin or lumbar region behind the thoracic vertebrae that also is crucial to a horse's weight-carrying ability. These two sections of the vertebral column beginning at the withers, the...

 by means of a girth
Girth (tack)
A girth, sometimes called a cinch , is a piece of equipment used to keep the saddle in place on a horse or other animal. It passes under the barrel of the equine, usually attached to the saddle on both sides by two or three leather straps called billets...

(English-style riding), known as a cinch in the Western US, a wide strap
Strap
A strap, sometimes also called strop, is an elongated flap or ribbon, usually of fabric or leather.Thin straps are used as part of clothing or baggage, or bedding such as a sleeping bag. See for example spaghetti strap, shoulder strap...

 that goes around the horse at a point about four inches behind the forelegs.
Encyclopedia
Tack is a term used to describe any of the various equipment and accessories worn by horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s in the course of their use as domesticated
Domestication of the horse
There are a number of hypotheses on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were truly wild horses and were probably hunted for meat. How and when horses became domesticated is disputed...

 animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s. Saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, martingales, and breastplates are all forms of horse tack. Equipping a horse is often referred to as tacking up.

Saddles

Saddles are seats for the rider, fastened to the horse's back
Back (horse)
The back describes the area of horse anatomy where the saddle goes, and in popular usage extends to include the loin or lumbar region behind the thoracic vertebrae that also is crucial to a horse's weight-carrying ability. These two sections of the vertebral column beginning at the withers, the...

 by means of a girth
Girth (tack)
A girth, sometimes called a cinch , is a piece of equipment used to keep the saddle in place on a horse or other animal. It passes under the barrel of the equine, usually attached to the saddle on both sides by two or three leather straps called billets...

(English-style riding), known as a cinch in the Western US, a wide strap
Strap
A strap, sometimes also called strop, is an elongated flap or ribbon, usually of fabric or leather.Thin straps are used as part of clothing or baggage, or bedding such as a sleeping bag. See for example spaghetti strap, shoulder strap...

 that goes around the horse at a point about four inches behind the forelegs. Some western saddles will also have a second strap known as a flank or back cinch that fastens at the rear of the saddle and goes around the widest part of the horse's belly.

It is important that the saddle be comfortable for both the rider and the horse as an improperly fitting saddle may create pressure points on the horse's back muscle (Latissimus dorsi) and cause the horse pain and can lead to the horse, rider, or both getting injured.

There are many types of saddle, each specially designed for its given task.
Saddles are usually divided into two major categories: "English saddle
English saddle
English saddles are used to ride horses in English riding disciplines throughout the world. The discipline is not limited to England or English-speaking countries. This style of saddle is used in all of the Olympic and FEI equestrian disciplines, except for the newly-approved FEI events of...

s" and "Western saddle
Western saddle
Western saddles are used for western riding and are the saddles used on working horses on cattle ranches throughout the United States, particularly in the west. They are the "cowboy" saddles familiar to movie viewers, rodeo fans, and those who have gone on trail rides at guest ranches...

s" according to the riding discipline they are used in. Other types of saddles, such as racing
Horse racing
Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has a long history. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC...

 saddles, Australian saddle
Australian Stock Saddle
The Australian Stock Saddle is a saddle in popular use all over the world for activities that require long hours in the saddle and a secure seat...

s, sidesaddle
Sidesaddle
Sidesaddle riding is a form of Equestrianism that uses a type of saddle which allows a rider to sit aside rather than astride a horse, mule or pony. Sitting aside dates back to antiquity and developed in European countries in the Middle Ages as a way for women in skirts to ride a horse in a modest...

s and endurance
Endurance riding
Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. It is one of the international competitions recognized by the FEI. There are endurance rides worldwide....

 saddles do not necessarily fit neatly in either category.

Saddle accessories

  • Breastplate
    Breastplate (tack)
    A breastplate is a piece of riding equipment used on horses. Its purpose is to keep the saddle or harness from sliding back....

     or breastcollar: Prevents saddles of all styles from sliding sideways or backward on a horse's back
  • Surcingle
    Surcingle
    A surcingle is a strap made of leather or leather-like synthetic materials such as nylon or neoprene, sometimes with elastic, that fastens around a horse's girth area. A surcingle may be used for ground training, some types of in-hand exhibition, and over a saddle or horse pack to stabilize the load...

  • Pack saddle
    Pack saddle
    A pack saddle is any device designed to be secured on the back of a horse, mule, or other draft animal so it can carry heavy loads such as luggage, firewood, small cannons or other weapons too heavy to be carried by humans, etc.-Description:...

  • Crupper
    Crupper
    A crupper is a piece of tack used on horses and other equids to keep a saddle, harness or other equipment from sliding forward.-Construction:...

  • Breeching
    Horse harness
    A horse harness is a type of horse tack that allows a horse or other equine to pull various horse-drawn vehicles such as a carriage, wagon or sleigh. Harnesses may also be used to hitch animals to other loads such as a plow or canal boat....

    , also called "Britching"

Stirrups

Stirrup
Stirrup
A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle by a strap, often called a stirrup leather. Stirrups are usually paired and are used to aid in mounting and as a support while using a riding animal...

s are supports for the rider's feet that hang down on either side of the saddle. They provide greater stability for the rider but can have safety concerns due to the potential for a rider's feet to get stuck in them. If a rider is thrown from a horse but has a foot caught in the stirrup, they could be dragged if the horse runs away. To minimize this risk, a number of safety precautions are taken. First, most riders wear riding boot
Riding boot
A riding boot is a boot made to be used for horse riding. The classic boot comes high enough up the leg to prevent the leathers of the saddle from pinching the leg of the rider, has a sturdy toe to protect the rider's foot when on the ground, and has a distinct heel to prevent the foot from sliding...

s with a heel and a smooth sole. Next, some saddles, particularly English saddle
English saddle
English saddles are used to ride horses in English riding disciplines throughout the world. The discipline is not limited to England or English-speaking countries. This style of saddle is used in all of the Olympic and FEI equestrian disciplines, except for the newly-approved FEI events of...

s, have safety bars that allow a stirrup leather to fall off the saddle if pulled backwards by a falling rider. Other precautions are done with stirrup design itself. Western saddle
Western saddle
Western saddles are used for western riding and are the saddles used on working horses on cattle ranches throughout the United States, particularly in the west. They are the "cowboy" saddles familiar to movie viewers, rodeo fans, and those who have gone on trail rides at guest ranches...

s have wide stirrup treads that make it more difficult for the foot to become trapped. A number of saddle styles incorporate a tapedero, which is covering over the front of the stirrup that keeps the foot from sliding all the way through the stirrup. The English stirrup (or "iron") has several design variations which are either shaped to allow the rider's foot to slip out easily or are closed with a very heavy rubber band. The invention of stirrups was of great historic significance in mounted combat
Horses in warfare
The first use of horses in warfare occurred over 5,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of horses ridden in warfare dates from Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. A Sumerian illustration of warfare from 2500 BC depicts some type of equine pulling wagons...

, giving the rider secure foot support while on horseback.

Headgear

Bridle
Bridle
A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, the "bridle" includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit....

s
, hackamore
Hackamore
A hackamore is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin...

s, halter
Halter
A halter, headcollar, or, less often, headstall, is headgear that is used to lead or tie up livestock and, occasionally, other animals; it fits behind the ears , and around the muzzle. To handle the animal, usually a lead rope or lead shank is attached...

s
or headcollars, and similar equipment consist of various arrangements of straps around the horse's head, and are used for control and communication
Animal communication
Animal communication is any behavior on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behaviour of another animal. The study of animal communication, is sometimes called Zoosemiotics has played an important part in the...

 with the animal.

Halters

A halter
Halter
A halter, headcollar, or, less often, headstall, is headgear that is used to lead or tie up livestock and, occasionally, other animals; it fits behind the ears , and around the muzzle. To handle the animal, usually a lead rope or lead shank is attached...

(US) or headcollar (BI) (occasionally headstall) consists of a noseband and headstall that buckles around the horse's head and allows the horse to be led or tied. The lead rope is separate, and it may be short (from six to ten feet, two to three meters) for everyday leading and tying, or much longer (up to 25 feet (7.6 m), eight meters) for tasks such as for leading packhorse
Packhorse
.A packhorse or pack horse refers generally to an equid such as a horse, mule, donkey or pony used for carrying goods on their backs, usually carried in sidebags or panniers. Typically packhorses are used to cross difficult terrain, where the absence of roads prevents the use of wheeled vehicles. ...

s or for picketing a horse out to graze.

Some horses, particularly stallion
Stallion (horse)
A stallion is a male horse that has not been gelded .Stallions will follow the conformation and phenotype of their breed, but within that standard, the presence of hormones such as testosterone may give stallions a thicker, "cresty" neck, as well as a somewhat more muscular physique as compared to...

s, may have a chain attached to the lead rope and placed over the nose or under the jaw to increase the control provided by a halter while being led. Most of the time, horses are not ridden with a halter, as it offers insufficient precision and control. Halters have no bit.

In Australian and British English, a halter is a rope with a spliced running loop around the nose and another over the poll, used mainly for unbroken horses or for cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

. The lead rope cannot be removed from the halter. A show halter is made from rolled leather and the lead attaches to form the chinpiece of the noseband. These halters are not suitable for paddock usage or in loose stalls. An underhalter is a lightweight halter or headcollar which is made with only one small buckle, and can be worn under a bridle for tethering a horse without untacking.

Bridles

Bridles usually have a bit
Bit (horse)
A bit is a type of horse tack used in equestrian activities, usually made of metal or a synthetic material, and is placed in the mouth of a horse or other equid and assists a rider in communicating with the animal. It rests on the bars of the mouth in an interdental region where there are no teeth...

attached to reins and are used for riding
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 and driving
Driving (horse)
Driving, when applied to horses, ponies, mules, or donkeys, is a broad term for hitching equines to a wagon, carriage, cart, sleigh, or other horse-drawn vehicle by means of a harness and working them in this way...

 horses.
English Bridles have a cavesson style noseband
Noseband
A noseband is the part of a horse's bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse. In English riding, where the noseband is separately attached to its own headstall or crownpiece, held independently of the bit, it is often called a cavesson or caveson noseband...

 and are seen in English riding
English riding
English riding is a term used to describe a form of horse riding that is seen throughout the world. There are many variations in English riding, but all feature a flat English saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn seen on a Western saddle nor the knee pads seen on an Australian...

. Their reins are buckled to one another, and they have little adornment or flashy hardware.

Western Bridles used in Western riding
Western riding
Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

 usually have no noseband
Noseband
A noseband is the part of a horse's bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse. In English riding, where the noseband is separately attached to its own headstall or crownpiece, held independently of the bit, it is often called a cavesson or caveson noseband...

, are made of thin bridle leather. They may have long, separated "Split" reins or shorter closed reins, which sometimes include an attached Romal
Romal
A Romal , is a type of long quirt attached to the end of a set of closed reins that are connected to the bridle of a horse. It is not to be used to strike a horse, but rather was a tool used to assist in moving cattle....

. Western bridles are often adorned with silver or other decorative features.

Double bridle
Double bridle
A double bridle, also called a full bridle or Weymouth bridle, is a bridle that has two bits and four reins . One bit is the bradoon , is a modified snaffle bit that is smaller in diameter and has smaller bit rings than a traditional snaffle, and it is adjusted so that it sits above and behind the...

s
are a type of English bridle that use two bits in the mouth at once, a snaffle and a curb. The two bits allow the rider to have very precise control of the horse. As a rule, only very advanced horses and riders use double bridles. Double bridles are usually seen in the top levels of dressage
Dressage
Dressage is a competitive equestrian sport, defined by the International Equestrian Federation as "the highest expression of horse training." Competitions are held at all levels from amateur to the World Equestrian Games...

, but also are seen in certain types of show hack and Saddle seat
Saddle seat
Saddle Seat is a style of horseback riding within the category of English riding that is designed to show off the high trotting action of certain horse breeds. The style developed into its modern form in the United States, and is also seen in Canada and South Africa...

 competition.

Hackamores and other bitless designs


A hackamore
Hackamore
A hackamore is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin...

is a headgear that utilizes a heavy noseband
Noseband
A noseband is the part of a horse's bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse. In English riding, where the noseband is separately attached to its own headstall or crownpiece, held independently of the bit, it is often called a cavesson or caveson noseband...

 of some sort, rather than a bit, most often used to train young horses or to go easy on an older horse's mouth. Hackamores are more often seen in western riding
Western riding
Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

. Some related styles of headgear that control a horse with a noseband rather than a bit are known as bitless bridle
Bitless bridle
A bitless bridle is a general term describing a wide range of headgear for a horses or other animals that controls the animal without placing a bit in the animal's mouth. Control is maintained by means of some sort of noseband or cavesson. The term hackamore is the most historically accurate word...

s.

The word "hackamore
Hackamore
A hackamore is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin...

" is derived from the Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 word jáquima. Hackamores are seen in western riding
Western riding
Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

 disciplines, as well as in endurance riding
Endurance riding
Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. It is one of the international competitions recognized by the FEI. There are endurance rides worldwide....

 and English riding
English riding
English riding is a term used to describe a form of horse riding that is seen throughout the world. There are many variations in English riding, but all feature a flat English saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn seen on a Western saddle nor the knee pads seen on an Australian...

 disciplines such as show jumping
Show jumping
Show jumping, also known as "stadium jumping," "open jumping," or "jumpers," is a member of a family of English riding equestrian events that also includes dressage, eventing, hunters, and equitation. Jumping classes commonly are seen at horse shows throughout the world, including the Olympics...

 and the stadium phase of eventing
Eventing
Eventing is an equestrian event comprising dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test requiring mastery of several types of riding...

. While the classic bosal
Bosal
A bosal is a type of noseband used on the classic hackamore of the vaquero tradition. It is usually made of braided rawhide and is fitted to the horse in a manner that allows it to rest quietly until the rider uses the reins to give a signal. It acts upon the horse's nose and jaw...

-style hackamore is usually used to start young horses, other designs, such as various bitless bridle
Bitless bridle
A bitless bridle is a general term describing a wide range of headgear for a horses or other animals that controls the animal without placing a bit in the animal's mouth. Control is maintained by means of some sort of noseband or cavesson. The term hackamore is the most historically accurate word...

s and the mechanical hackamore
Mechanical hackamore
A mechanical hackamore is a piece of horse tack that is a type of bitless headgear for horses where the reins connect to shanks placed between a noseband and a curb chain. Other names include "hackamore bit", "brockamore," "English hackamore," "nose bridle" and "German hackamore." Certain...

 are often seen on mature horses with dental issues that make bit use painful, horses with certain training problems, and on horses with mouth or tongue injuries. Some riders also like to use them in the winter to avoid putting a frozen metal bit into a horse's mouth.

Like bitted bridles, noseband-based designs can be gentle or harsh, depending on the hands of the rider. It is a myth that a bit is cruel and a hackamore is gentler. The horse's face is very soft and sensitive with many nerve endings. Misuse of a hackamore can cause swelling on the nose, scraping on the nose and jawbone, and extreme misuse may cause damage to the bones and cartilage
Cartilage
Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue found in many areas in the bodies of humans and other animals, including the joints between bones, the rib cage, the ear, the nose, the elbow, the knee, the ankle, the bronchial tubes and the intervertebral discs...

 of the horse's head.

Other headgear

A longeing cavesson
Longeing cavesson
A longeing cavesson is a piece of equipment used when longeing a horse. A longeing cavesson consists of a heavy, padded noseband, metal rings to attach the longe line, a throatlatch, and sometimes additional straps such as a jowl strap or a browband for added stability...

(UK: lungeing) is a special type of halter or noseband used for longeing
Longeing
Longeing or lungeing is a technique for training horses, where a horse is asked to work at the end of a long line and respond to commands from a handler on the ground who holds the line. It is also a critical component of the sport of equestrian vaulting...

 a horse. Longeing is the activity of having a horse walk, trot and/or canter in a large circle around the handler at the end of a rope that is 25 to 30 feet (9.1 m) long. It is used for training and exercise.

Reins

Reins consist of leather straps or rope attached to the outer ends of a bit and extend to the rider's or driver's hands. Reins are the means by which a horse rider or driver communicates
Animal communication
Animal communication is any behavior on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behaviour of another animal. The study of animal communication, is sometimes called Zoosemiotics has played an important part in the...

 directional commands to the horse's head. Pulling on the reins can be used to steer or stop the horse. The sides of a horse's mouth are sensitive, so pulling on the reins pulls the bit, which then pulls the horse's head from side to side, which is how the horse is controlled.

On some types of harness
Horse harness
A horse harness is a type of horse tack that allows a horse or other equine to pull various horse-drawn vehicles such as a carriage, wagon or sleigh. Harnesses may also be used to hitch animals to other loads such as a plow or canal boat....

es there might be supporting rings to carry the reins over the horse's back. When pairs of horses are used in drawing a wagon
Wagon
A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals; it was formerly often called a wain, and if low and sideless may be called a dray, trolley or float....

 or coach
Coach (vehicle)
A coach is a large motor vehicle, a type of bus, used for conveying passengers on excursions and on longer distance express coach scheduled transport between cities - or even between countries...

 it is usual for the outer side of each pair to be connected to reins and the inside of the bits connected by a short bridging strap or rope. The driver carries "four-in-hand" or "six-in-hand" being the number of reins connecting to the pairs of horses.

A rein may be attached to a halter to lead or guide the horse in a circle for training purposes or to lead a packhorse, but a simple lead rope is more often used for these purposes. A longe line
Longeing
Longeing or lungeing is a technique for training horses, where a horse is asked to work at the end of a long line and respond to commands from a handler on the ground who holds the line. It is also a critical component of the sport of equestrian vaulting...

 is sometimes called a "longe rein," but it is actually a flat line about 30 feet (9.1 m) long, usually made of nylon or cotton web, about one inch wide, thus longer and wider than even a driving rein.

Horses should never be tied by the reins. Not only do they break easily, but, being attached to a bit in the horse's sensitive mouth, a great deal of pain can be inflicted if a bridled horse sets back against being tied.

Bits

A bit
Bit (horse)
A bit is a type of horse tack used in equestrian activities, usually made of metal or a synthetic material, and is placed in the mouth of a horse or other equid and assists a rider in communicating with the animal. It rests on the bars of the mouth in an interdental region where there are no teeth...

 is a device placed in a horse's mouth, kept on a horse's head by means of a headstall. There are many types, each useful for specific types of riding and training.

The mouthpiece of the bit does not rest on the teeth of the horse
Horse teeth
Horses' teeth are often used to estimate the animal's age, hence the sayings "long in the tooth", "straight from the horse's mouth" and "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth".- Types of teeth :At five years of age a horse has between 36 and 44 teeth...

, but rather rests on the gums or "bars" of the horse's mouth in an interdental space behind the front incisors and in front of the back molars. It is important that the style of bit is appropriate to the horse's needs and is fitted properly for it to function properly and be as comfortable as possible for the horse.

The basic "classic" styles of bits
Bit (horse)
A bit is a type of horse tack used in equestrian activities, usually made of metal or a synthetic material, and is placed in the mouth of a horse or other equid and assists a rider in communicating with the animal. It rests on the bars of the mouth in an interdental region where there are no teeth...

 are:
  • Curb bit
    Curb bit
    A curb bit is a type of bit used for riding horses that uses lever action. It includes the pelham bit and the Weymouth curb along with the traditional "curb bit" used mainly by Western riders....

  • Snaffle bit
  • Pelham bit
    Pelham bit
    A pelham bit is a type of bit used when riding a horse. It has elements of both a curb bit and a snaffle bit. In this respect a pelham bit functions similar to a double bridle, and like a double bridle it normally has "double" reins: a set of curb reins and a set of snaffle reins. Because it has...

  • Weymouth or Double Bridle
    Double bridle
    A double bridle, also called a full bridle or Weymouth bridle, is a bridle that has two bits and four reins . One bit is the bradoon , is a modified snaffle bit that is smaller in diameter and has smaller bit rings than a traditional snaffle, and it is adjusted so that it sits above and behind the...



While there are literally hundreds of types of bit mouthpiece
Bit mouthpiece
The mouthpiece is the part of a horse's bit that goes into the mouth of a horse, resting on the bars of the mouth in the sensitive interdental space where there are no teeth. The mouthpiece is possibly the most important determinant in the severity and action of the bit. Therefore, it should be...

s, bit ring
Bit ring
The bit ring is the ring on the side of a horse's bit, particularly on a snaffle bit. It is used as a point of attachment for the cheekpieces of the bridle and for the reins. It also has an effect on the action of the bit...

s and bit shanks, essentially there are really only two broad categories: direct pressure bits, broadly termed snaffle bits; and leverage bits, usually termed curbs
Curb bit
A curb bit is a type of bit used for riding horses that uses lever action. It includes the pelham bit and the Weymouth curb along with the traditional "curb bit" used mainly by Western riders....

.

Bits that act with direct pressure on the tongue and lips of the bit are in the general category of snaffle bits. Snaffle bits commonly have a single jointed mouthpiece and act with a nutcracker effect on the bars, tongue and occasionally roof of the mouth. However, regardless of mouthpiece
Bit mouthpiece
The mouthpiece is the part of a horse's bit that goes into the mouth of a horse, resting on the bars of the mouth in the sensitive interdental space where there are no teeth. The mouthpiece is possibly the most important determinant in the severity and action of the bit. Therefore, it should be...

, any bit that operates only on direct pressure is a "snaffle" bit.

Leverage bits have shanks coming off the mouthpiece to create leverage that applies pressure to the poll, chin groove and mouth of the horse are in the category of curb bits. Any bit with shanks that works off of leverage is a "curb" bit, regardless of whether the mouthpiece
Bit mouthpiece
The mouthpiece is the part of a horse's bit that goes into the mouth of a horse, resting on the bars of the mouth in the sensitive interdental space where there are no teeth. The mouthpiece is possibly the most important determinant in the severity and action of the bit. Therefore, it should be...

 is solid or jointed.

Some combination or hybrid bits
Bit (horse)
A bit is a type of horse tack used in equestrian activities, usually made of metal or a synthetic material, and is placed in the mouth of a horse or other equid and assists a rider in communicating with the animal. It rests on the bars of the mouth in an interdental region where there are no teeth...

 combine direct pressure and leverage, such as the Kimblewick or Kimberwicke
Kimberwicke
A Kimblewick, Kimberwicke or Kimberwick is a type of bit used on a horse, and named after the English town of Kimblewick where it was first made. The bit has bit shanks, D-shaped rings, and a curb chain. Due to its shanks, it is regarded as a type of curb bit...

, which adds slight leverage to a two-rein design that resembles a snaffle; and the four rein designs such as the single mouthpiece Pelham bit
Pelham bit
A pelham bit is a type of bit used when riding a horse. It has elements of both a curb bit and a snaffle bit. In this respect a pelham bit functions similar to a double bridle, and like a double bridle it normally has "double" reins: a set of curb reins and a set of snaffle reins. Because it has...

 and the double bridle
Double bridle
A double bridle, also called a full bridle or Weymouth bridle, is a bridle that has two bits and four reins . One bit is the bradoon , is a modified snaffle bit that is smaller in diameter and has smaller bit rings than a traditional snaffle, and it is adjusted so that it sits above and behind the...

, which places a curb and a snaffle bit simultaneously in the horse's mouth.

In the wrong hands even the mildest bit can hurt the horse. Conversely, a very severe bit, in the right hands, can transmit subtle commands that cause no pain to the horse. Bit commands should be given with only the quietest movements
Riding aids
Riding aids are the cues a rider gives to a horse to communicate what they want the animal to do. Riding aids are broken into the natural aids and the artificial aids.-Natural aids:...

 of the hands, and much steering and stopping should be done with the legs and seat.

Harness

A horse harness
Horse harness
A horse harness is a type of horse tack that allows a horse or other equine to pull various horse-drawn vehicles such as a carriage, wagon or sleigh. Harnesses may also be used to hitch animals to other loads such as a plow or canal boat....

 is a set of devices and straps that attaches a horse to a cart
Cart
A cart is a vehicle designed for transport, using two wheels and normally pulled by one or a pair of draught animals. A handcart is pulled or pushed by one or more people...

, carriage
Carriage
A carriage is a wheeled vehicle for people, usually horse-drawn; litters and sedan chairs are excluded, since they are wheelless vehicles. The carriage is especially designed for private passenger use and for comfort or elegance, though some are also used to transport goods. It may be light,...

, sledge or any other load. There are two main styles of harnesses - breaststrap and collar and hames
Hame
Hame or hames may refer to:*Häme, a province of Finland*Hames, a pair of curved metal pieces lying on the horse collar of a horse harness, taking the pull from the traces...

 style. These differ in how the weight of the load is attached.

A breaststrap harness has a wide leather strap going horizontally across the horses' breast, attached to the traces
Trace (tack)
In transport, a trace is one of two, or more, straps, ropes or chains by which a carriage or wagon, or the like, is drawn by a harness horse or other draught animal. The once popular idiom: "kick over the traces" comes from a frisky animal kicking one or both feet outside a trace...

 and then to the load. This is used only for lighter loads.

A collar and hames harness has a collar
Horse collar
A horse collar is a part of a horse harness device used to distribute load around a horse's neck and shoulders when pulling a wagon or plow. The collar often supports and pads a pair of curved metal or wood pieces, called hames, to which the traces of the harness are attached...

 around the horses' neck with wood or metal hame
Hame
Hame or hames may refer to:*Häme, a province of Finland*Hames, a pair of curved metal pieces lying on the horse collar of a horse harness, taking the pull from the traces...

s in the collar. The traces
Trace (tack)
In transport, a trace is one of two, or more, straps, ropes or chains by which a carriage or wagon, or the like, is drawn by a harness horse or other draught animal. The once popular idiom: "kick over the traces" comes from a frisky animal kicking one or both feet outside a trace...

 attach from the hames to the load. This type of harness is needed for heavy draft
Draft horse
A draft horse , draught horse or dray horse , less often called a work horse or heavy horse, is a large horse bred for hard, heavy tasks such as ploughing and farm labour...

 work.

A hybrid type, known as a "brollar", increases the bearing area of the breastcollar around the shoulder of the horse, but does not have rigid hames.

Both types will also have a bridle
Bridle
A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, the "bridle" includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit....

 & rein
Rein
Reins are items of horse tack, used to direct a horse or other animal used for riding or driving. Reins can be made of leather, nylon, metal, or other materials, and attach to a bridle via either its bit or its noseband.-Use for riding:...

s. A harness that is used to support shafts, such as on a cart pulled by a single horse, will also have a saddle attached to the harness to help the horse support the shafts and breeching to brake the forward motion of the vehicle, especially when stopping or moving downhill. Horses guiding vehicles by means of a pole, such as two-horse teams pulling a wagon
Wagon
A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals; it was formerly often called a wain, and if low and sideless may be called a dray, trolley or float....

, a hay-mower, or a dray, will have pole-straps attached to the lower part of the horse collar.

Breastplates and martingales

Breastplates
Breastplate (tack)
A breastplate is a piece of riding equipment used on horses. Its purpose is to keep the saddle or harness from sliding back....

, breastcollars or breastgirths attach to the front of the saddle, cross the horse's chest, and usually have a strap that runs between the horse's front legs and attaches to the girth. They keep the saddle from sliding back or sideways. They are usually seen in demanding, fast-paced sports. They are crucial pieces of safety equipment for English riding
English riding
English riding is a term used to describe a form of horse riding that is seen throughout the world. There are many variations in English riding, but all feature a flat English saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn seen on a Western saddle nor the knee pads seen on an Australian...

 activities requiring jumping, such as eventing
Eventing
Eventing is an equestrian event comprising dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test requiring mastery of several types of riding...

, show jumping
Show jumping
Show jumping, also known as "stadium jumping," "open jumping," or "jumpers," is a member of a family of English riding equestrian events that also includes dressage, eventing, hunters, and equitation. Jumping classes commonly are seen at horse shows throughout the world, including the Olympics...

, polo
Polo
Polo is a team sport played on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Sometimes called, "The Sport of Kings", it was highly popularized by the British. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a...

, and fox hunting
Fox hunting
Fox hunting is an activity involving the tracking, chase, and sometimes killing of a fox, traditionally a red fox, by trained foxhounds or other scent hounds, and a group of followers led by a master of foxhounds, who follow the hounds on foot or on horseback.Fox hunting originated in its current...

. They are also seen in Western riding
Western riding
Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

 events, particularly in rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

, reining
Reining
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits...

 and cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

, where it is particularly important to prevent a saddle from shifting. They may also be worn in other horse show
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

 classes for decorative purposes.

A martingale
Martingale (tack)
A martingale is any of several designs of tack that are used on horses to control head carriage. Martingales may be seen in a wide variety of equestrian disciplines, both riding and driving...

is a piece of equipment that keeps a horse from raising its head too high. Various styles can be used as a control measure, to prevent the horse from avoiding rider commands by raising its head out of position; or as a safety measure to keep the horse from tossing its head high or hard enough to smack its rider in the face.

They are allowed in many types of competition, especially those where speed or jumping may be required, but are not allowed in most "flat" classes at horse show
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

s, though an exception is made in a few classes limited exclusively to young or "green" horses who may not yet be fully trained.

Martingales are usually attached to the horse one of two ways. They are either attached to the center chest ring of a breastplate or, if no breastplate is worn, they are attached by two straps, one that goes around the horse's neck, and the other that attaches to the girth, with the martingale itself beginning at the point in the center of the chest where the neck and girth straps intersect.

Martingale types include:
  • Running martingale: This design adds leverage to a bit and features a split fork beginning at the chest with a ring on each side of the fork through which the reins pass, enabling the rider to more easily keep the horse under control, but also allowing the horse freedom of movement when needed. Fitted correctly, the running martingale only controls how high the horse carries its head when the rider tightens the reins. The standard adjustment of a running martingale is to set the rings at a height where they do not engage and add leverage to the reins when the horse carries its head at the proper height. Sometimes a running martingale may be adjusted at a greater or lesser length depending on the needs of the horse and rider.

  • Standing martingale: A design with one strap that runs from the girth or the chest and attaches to the noseband
    Noseband
    A noseband is the part of a horse's bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse. In English riding, where the noseband is separately attached to its own headstall or crownpiece, held independently of the bit, it is often called a cavesson or caveson noseband...

     of the bridle. The standing martingale acts on the horse's nose and creates an absolute limit to how high a horse can raise its head. The term used in western riding
    Western riding
    Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

     for this piece of equipment is the tie down. Standard adjustment of a standing martingale allows enough slack to bring the strap to the horse's throatlatch
    Horse anatomy
    Equine anatomy refers to the gross and microscopic anatomy of horses and other equids, including donkeys, and zebras. While all anatomical features of equids are described in the same terms as for other animals by the International Committee on Veterinary Gross Anatomical Nomenclature in the book...

     when the animal has its head in a relaxed, natural position. However, it is sometimes adjusted shorter. Unlike the running martingale, it limits the freedom of the horse's head, no matter how long or short the reins may be. While standing martingales are common in show hunter
    Show hunter
    The show hunter is a type of show horse that is judged on its movement, manners, and way of going, particularly while jumping fences. The horses are shown in hunt seat style tack, and are often of Warmblood or Thoroughbred type, though a hunter-style pony is also seen in youth classes...

     and equitation
    Equitation
    Equitation is the art or practice of horse riding or horsemanship.More specifically, equitation may refer to a rider's position while mounted, and encompass a rider's ability to ride correctly and with effective aids. In horse show competition, the rider, rather than the horse is evaluated...

     classes, the limits placed on the horse's movement are dangerous for cross-country
    Cross-country equestrianism
    Cross country equestrian jumping is an endurance test, and is one of the three phases of the sport of eventing; it may also be a competition in its own right, known as hunter trials or simply "cross-country" - these tend to be lower level, local competitions.The object of the endurance test is to...

     riding or show jumping
    Show jumping
    Show jumping, also known as "stadium jumping," "open jumping," or "jumpers," is a member of a family of English riding equestrian events that also includes dressage, eventing, hunters, and equitation. Jumping classes commonly are seen at horse shows throughout the world, including the Olympics...

    . Therefore, in these disciplines, a running martingale is necessary for safety reasons, if a martingale is used at all.

  • German martingale or Market Harborough: This design consists of a split fork that comes up from the chest, runs through the rings of the bit and attaches to the reins of the bridle between the bit and the rider's hand. It acts in a manner similar to a running martingale, but with greater leverage. It is not usually considered show legal and is used primarily as a training aid.

  • Irish martingale: Unlike the previous designs, this very simple "martingale" does not control the height of the horse's head, but merely keeps the reins from going over the horse's head in the result of a fall. It consists of a piece of leather with a ring on each end through which each rein runs.


There are other training devices that fall loosely in the martingale category, in that they use straps attached to the reins or bit which limit the movement of the horse's head or add leverage to the rider's hands in order to control the horse's head. Common devices of this nature include the overcheck
Bearing rein
A bearing rein, known today as an overcheck or a checkrein, is a piece of horse tack that runs from a point on the horse's back, over the head, to a bit. A bearing rein is used to prevent the horse from lowering its head beyond a fixed point...

, the chambon
Chambon
A chambon is a piece of horse tack. It is a strap that runs forward from the bottom of the girth or surcingle, and forks. The forks continue to a ring on either side of the bridle or halter, at the base of the crownpiece. Running through those rings, the forks follow the cheekpieces to the bit...

, de Gogue
Gogue
The Gogue or de Gogue is a piece of horse tack used for training purposes, and is very popular in Europe, with a similar place in training regimes as side reins...

, grazing reins, draw reins
Draw reins and running reins
Draw reins and running reins are pieces of riding equipment used for training that use the Mechanical advantage of a 'single movable pulley' to cause the horse to bring its head down and inward...

 and the "bitting harness" or "bitting rig
Bitting rig
A bitting rig or bitting harness is a training tool for horses that can teach a horse to accept a bridle and bit, and later assist a horse in developing the necessary musculature for a given equestrianism discipline...

". However, most of this equipment is used for training purposes and is not legal in any competition. In some disciplines, use of leverage devices, even in training, is controversial.
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