Willington Hills
Equestrian Center

  Proprietors: Ruth Gilman & Mark Forkey
34 Cemetery Road, Willington, CT 06279
Tel: (860) 684-4849 -- Email us!

Tacking Up

How to prepare your horse for a lesson:
- Put on whatever boots or shoes you'll be riding, and pick out a helmet that fits you. Be sure to check the fit now, since once you have your horse in hand, fussing with a helmet won't be nearly as easy.
- Get the appropriate cleaning supplies from the tack room. Each horse has his or her own bucket of brushes, combs and hoofpicks -- just look for the nametag that matches. Take the bucket out to the tacking bay where you'll be bringing your horse.
- Get the appropriate tack for your lesson. For example, Bob uses an English saddle, his English bridle, a thick gray saddleblanket and a foam rubber back cushion for his lesson, as well as a 48" or 46" girth. Gather these up and take them to your tacking bay. the saddle, girth, blanket and back pad can go on the side rail. The bridle can go on the hook over the cleaning supply bucket.
- Go retrieve your horse. Use the halter and lead rope found on the door to your horse's stall. Enter the stall, and close the door behind you. Halter your horse and clip the lead rope to the center ring of the halter (if it isn't clipped there already). Don't be fooled -- the clip doesn't go on one side of the halter. Be sure to clip it on the ring under your horse's mouth. (see illustration) Open the door all the way and lead your horse out. Be sure to give him plenty of space to turn and head down the aisle.
- Bring your horse to the tacking bay and clip each cross-tie to the side rings (see illustration.) Unclip the lead rope and hang it on the hook to the side of your cleaning bay.

Cleaning Your Horse Before a Lesson
- Begin loosening the shed hair, sweat and dust from your horse's coat using the curry comb (see illustration). Start from the neck, working in a circular motion against the lay of the hair. Work all the way to the tail on one side. You can either do the other side, or switch to the stiff bristled brush and curry the other side later. Don't curry below the knee -- there are tendons and sensitive skin down there, and the curry comb isn't particularly good at getting into the clefts along the legs. The curry comb is really meant for the smoother well muscled areas.
- Use the stiff bristled body brush in short strokes to flick the deeper dirt and shed fur out away from the body. Try not to poke the bristles into the horse's skin -- despite having very thick hides, they can still feel even the landing of a tiny fly on their skin. Lay the bristles onto the horse at an angle and flick the dust up and away from the horse into the air. Yes, you'll get pretty dusty if your horse has rolled, but keeping your horse clean is very important to avoid saddle sores or skin problems. Do this for both sides. Carefully brush away dirt and shed hair below the knee and above the hoof.
- Follow up with the soft body brush to smooth and shine the coat and remove any stray dust. You can also use this soft brush on the face and all over the body to remove dust.
- Next, take a hoofpick. Stand facing the rear of your horse and run your hand along the shoulder or hip, down along the side of the body and down teh back of the leg. Lightly pinch the tendons behind the ankle directly above the hoof to signal to the horse to raise his hoof to be cleaned. Always work from the back of the hoof to the point of the frog (see illustration), getting out as much of the dirt as possible. The goal is to free the frog so that blood can flow well into the hoof, but also to remove dirt and droppings to prevent fungus or bacteria from growing there. You don't need to do much of anything with the frog itself, but it's fine to /gently/ brush out any dirt that might have accumulated there. Be sure to clean each foot thoroughly before your lesson and afterward.

Tacking Your Horse
This will be covered in detail by your instructor, but in general, here's the procedure.

Stand on the horse's left side (his head to your left). Start by placing the saddle pad or saddle blanket behind the withers on your horse. You can even place it on the withers and slide it down into place -- this ensures that none of the horse's hair is rubbed the wrong way. Next, add the rubber back-protector pad (if your horse uses this). Finally, place the saddle. One way to remember the order is by the function of the pads: The saddleblanket or saddlepad is to catch sweat as well as pad the horse. The rubber back pad is to cushion the horse's back. (We've had students sometimes put the rubber pad on first, and then the saddle pad. While this is harmless for one ride, it leads to a sweatier horse and would eventually lead to saddlesores.)

If the girth is already on the saddle, make sure it's flipped over the back of the saddle. Once the saddle is in place, go around the front of your horse and carefully lower the girth. Return to he left side, and reach underneath to pull the girth around your horse's barrel and up to the saddle. Cinch the girth or tie the bellyband so that it is snug but not too tight. You or your instructor will retighten it in the ring right before you mount.


Now's the time to put on your riding helmet. Once you have the horse bridled, it's much harder to put it on, so we recommend for riders to put the helmet on before you even take the horse off cross ties.

Grab your horse's bridle. Put the reins over your horse's head while he's still on cross-ties. Sling the bridle over your shoulder. Standing in front of your horse, release the cross ties and move to the horse's left (same side as you saddled the horse). Undo the clip near the horse's throatlatch and remove the bridle. Sling it over your other shoulder. Take the bridle and turn so that your shoulder is under or near the horse's throatlatch. Holding the bridle in your right hand, position the bit under the horse's mouth. Your right hand will be over his nose. This way, if the horse throws his head up to avoid the bit, you can use your right hand to pull his nose back down. Use your left hand to guide the bit in. Once you have the bit in the horse's mouth, slide the bridle up onto the forehead. Pull the ears forward into position and let the bridle settle. Next, on an English bridle, buckle the <name of part>. Then, do the cheek band. This is fitted properly when your hand can fit through along the cheek. (See illusration.) Flip the reins back off the neck, hang up the halter (usually on the same hook with the lead rope), and guide your horse to the ring.

Ring Customs

It is customary when entering the ring at Willington Hills to call out 'Door' whenever the bar blocking the doorway is slid out of the way. This way riders are aware that there's an exit from the arena, and can be ready in case one of their horses decides to head for home unexpectedly, or is surprised by the entry of your horse into the ring.

You should then have your instructor check your tack and retighten your girth. Next, you need to let down your stirrups (for English riding). Flip your horses reins over his neck and loop your arm through the reins to approach the saddle. This way, you still have an arm on the reins if your horse decides to go for a walk while you're adusting your stirrups. Do this for both sides. Lead your horse toward the mounting block, so that the mounting block is on your horses's left side. (Your horse's head will face the door out of the ring and the block will be between the wall and your horse.) Move the block into position, and with your instructor's permission, mount the horse.


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