Is Your Tack Ride-Worthy? Here’s a Checklist

I had reached the end of a full and long day. My daughter and I were invited to enjoy a trail ride the next day.  Everything had been planned, the time had been set aside, we each had a suitable horse/pony to ride, and we were looking forward to a fun, shared experience. 

Come ride along with me! Get your riding the SLO County Trails Hotsheet to get started and join the SLO Horse News Herd!

Is The Tack Ride-Worthy?

As we planned the riding day, a question ran across my mind, “Is the tack ride-worthy?” I checked the girth I thought we’d use with our saddle for the trail ride; it was missing a buckle!  Panic mode set in.  I didn’t have a back-up girth that would fit the particular pony my daughter would be riding. I scrounged around for something to use in a pinch. No success. I now had 45 minutes to run to a tack store for a replacement.

Throwing the unusable girth into the car with me as a size guide, I sped to the nearest tack store and managed to get in just before they closed.  With patient help from the sales assistant I walked out of the store with a workable option. An overwhelming sense of relief flooded over me; the trail ride had been saved.  The riding day would have been very sad if I hadn’t noticed the condition of the tack that I had planned to use.  This got me to thinking…how often do we, as riders, check our tack?  Is your tack ride worthy?

My daughter enjoying our trail ride with a girth that is ride-worthy.

Whether you’re heading for a horse show, loading up for a trail ride, or just planning a day in the arena at home, it pays to know what condition your tack is in so that you aren’t faced with any surprises.

Is Your Tack Ride-Worthy? Here’s a Checklist:


  1. Is the leather attached to all of the buckles in good order – no cracking, tearing or thinning? Check the girth, cinch, stirrup leathers, breast collar holdings, etc.
  2. Is the stitching keeping any buckles or d-rings in place in good working order – not thin, coming loose or missing?
  3. Are the stirrup leathers in good working order – no thin areas, no dry or cracked leather, no worn ties, no over stretched buckle holes?
  4. Is the saddle tree strong? If you can squeeze the two sides together with NO movement you have a strong tree.
  5. Are the stirrup bars secure and able to hold the stirrup leathers in place?
  6. Is the girth or cinch leather in good working order? Are there any missing buckles? Is the stitching holding strong? Look for dried or cracked leather, broken strands in a string or mohair girth/cinch. Look for overly caked on sweat that will rub your horse’s skin, as well as worn out elastic – all of these things are signs of a potential problem.

Bridle or Headstall

  1. Does the bridle or headstall have a brow band (or ear piece) and a throatlatch? Both of these items are necessary for keeping the bridle or headstall on the horse’s head.  Some trail headstalls are designed for use with a halter and have snaps for attaching to the halter, are these snaps in good order?  Be sure – first – that everything is accounted for when checking over your bridle.
  2. Is the leather attached to buckles in good order – no cracking, tearing or thinning?
  3. Are all the Chicago Screws tight? Are all the buckles in good working order?
  4. Is the stitching keeping buckles in place in good working order?
  5. Are there any dry, thin or cracking pieces on your bridle? This is a good reason to keep your bridle cleaned and oiled regularly.
  6. Are the reins in good working order? Check any buckle attachments for thin, cracked or breaking leather.


  1. Are there any rough, pointed or excessively worn areas on your bit?
  2. Is the bit attached correctly to the headstall? A snaffle should come together where one side touches the other easily.  A chain must be adjustable and should rest flat (yes, twist the chain flat each time) in the chain groove and sit just snug against your horse’s skin – neither tight nor loose.  A bit port should face up towards the back of the horse’s mouth.
  3. Is the bit clean? Especially in the corners where saliva and food can dry and cake.

Hey, head’s up. Purchasing products through clicking the the links or product pics that follow may result in providing us a little kick-back money. To learn more see the affiliate disclaimer near the end of this story.

Clean and Preserve your Tack to keep it Ride-worthy

It’s up to you to keep your tack clean and ride-worthy. Saddle and bridle leather are subjected to dirt and sweat every time you ride. These two elements can deteriorate your leather. Therefore, you must clean the leather with saddle soap and warm water.

Dip a tack sponge in warm water then squeeze out the water. Rub a bit of saddle soap onto the sponge. Rub this into the leather to open the leather pores and allow the soap to pull the dirt out. Dip sponge in water again and squeeze out. Rinse the leather with this sponge to pull the soap and dirt out. Leather should then be treated with a leather conditioner or leather oil.

A little water is fine for leather, but getting soaked in it is not good. Leather that has been soaked by rain, or dunked in a water trough will need to be reconditioned to preserve the leather’s natural suppleness and keep it from drying out and cracking.

How often you clean and condition your leather tack depends on how often you ride. Sweat and dirt will eventually deplete leather of its natural oils. So, how often you clean, depends on how often you ride. However, tack that is sitting needs to stay conditioned too.

Just so you know, the above section contains Riding Warehouse product links to make shopping easy and convenient for you. We do get a little kick-back when products are purchased through these links which helps us bring you more stories about the SLO horse community. Your price stays the same, so it’s a win-win! Also for local riders you can order items online and request pick-up – during checkout – at the Riding Warehouse store. Happy Trails!

Do yourself a favor and go over all of your tack and equipment at your earliest convenience.  Is your tack ride-worthy? Make sure that everything is in good working order. First, take the time to do a good cleaning so that you have a good starting point.  It’s also not a bad idea to have back-up equipment, at least for things that get worn the most often, such as, cinches, girths, breast collars, and even headstalls or reins.  Having a good back-up will save you if you happen to run into a problem at the last minute.  Remember, safety is the first and most important thing when it comes to horseback riding!

Does Your Tack Need Repair?

There are a few options here on the Central Coast for tack repair.

Silver Star Ranch Saddlery in Templeton, CA

Brian Harms of Silver Star Ranch Saddlery is a full-service Saddlery making personal saddles, tack, saddle fitting and repair. Brain tells us his most common repair jobs are saddle re-fleece and repairing stirrup leathers. He also runs a mobile service covering larger cow horse shows (although he’s been on a two year absence). Facebook is always a good way to contact Brian or by phone (805) 610-7333.

Finns Leather Shop in Morro Bay, CA

Finn Hansen began working with leather after finding an old bag of tools in his grandparents basement when he was 13. As one of the last brick and mortar leather shops in California Finn’s offers a wide variety of services: custom-made for creations for you, repairs to your favorite leather goods, or he can provide supplies to make your own creations and much more. Finn takes in equipment for repairing in the mornings of the first two weeks of the month. The repair must take a 1/2 hr or less and the turn around time is a day or three. Call him for details: (805) 772-0255

Allgood Custom Leather in Creston, CA

Matt Allgood comes highly recommended for tack repair. Allgood Custom Leather also has western clothing, boots and hats. You can reach Matt by phone 805-712-8095.

Samantha Huston – located between Santa Margarita and Creston, CA

Samantha follows in her dad’s steps and hand-crafts beautiful custom saddles as well as doing tack repair. She operates Golden Pond Saddle Shop in rural SLO County. Check out her work on her website samanthahuston. You can contact her by phone: 805-704-9678 or e-mail:

Get going! Looking for trails to ride in SLO County? This hotsheet will get you going on a few of the top rides. Get this delivered to your e-mail and join the SLO Horse News herd to stay up-to-date on herd happenings. Click here > SLO County Trails Hot Sheet to get going!

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