First on the list is deciding which kind of halter you want to buy for your horse, nylon versus leather. Personally, I only use leather equipment on my horses. Unfortunately, leather equipment is more expensive but will break in the case of an incident. If a horse is wearing a nylon halter and it gets caught on something, the nylon will not break and this can be dangerous or fatal. Horses have a tendency to panic if they get their halter caught on something and can sometimes hurt themselves. All nylon halters that are going to be used on a horse for more than just bringing them in or turning them out, should have the piece that goes over the crown of the horse’s head made of leather. That way if the horse gets their halter caught on something, the leather will break and give way avoiding injury. The cost of nylon equipment is appealing, it will last longer in the harsh weather but it is more abrasive and will cause the loss of hair or even put sores on your horse more quickly than leather, especially if worn all the time.
Your next decision is whether you are going to ride English or Western. Understanding that you have a personal preference, some of your decisions should be based on the way in which your horse moves. Based on horses that are pleasure horses, western horses usually have a slower trot which is called a jog, and instead of a canter, they are said to lope and their head carriage is lower. English horses movements are at a faster pace, so when they are trotting, you will need to post in the saddle (when the horses’ left leg, for instance, is up, you will be in an upward position out of the saddle and a little forward and when their left leg is down you will be sitting back into the saddle and do this with each stride of the horse} which is easier in an English saddle. Also when they are at a canter the pace is faster and you can stand up a little in a forward position which will make it a little easier for both you and your horse. Some horses are versatile enough to be shown under both English and Western tack, but if you will not be taking your horse to the show ring and are going only for trail rides, then the choice is yours.
Now let’s talk about saddles. The base of every saddle is what is called the tree. Some trees are wider or smaller or larger than others. You do not want a saddle with a narrow tree on a horse that has very wide withers or is carrying a lot of weight. On the other hand, you do not want a saddle with a wide tree on a horse that has narrow withers. The saddle will sit on the withers and rub the horse causing some very serious injuries. Saddle pads are also an important part of your tack. There is a wide variety of saddle pads to choose from. My suggestion would be to consider therapeutic pads. They may cost a little more but the results are worth it. Usually saddle pads are not an item that you will have to buy frequently. For the very serious horse person, you can have a “saddle fitter” come and measure your horse, ask you what it is you are looking for in a saddle and either design a specific saddle for both you and your horse or they will make the saddle themselves. This is an expensive proposition especially if you have more than one horse but well worth the cost. Saddle fitters can also design a special saddle pad.
Bridles are easy to decide on, but using the right bit is crucial in the outcome of your horses’ performance. Horse’s mouths are sacred. It is the vehicle of communication to your horse. You may have to try more than one kind of bit before you decide which is the best. This is because each horse may react differently to specific kinds of bits. Having the correct bit in a horses mouth will make a big difference and keep the lines of communication open.