It doesn’t matter if you are riding a 20-year-old experienced trail horse or leading a Thoroughbred sale yearling, if your equipment isn’t in good shape, then you are positioning yourself—and your horse—for disaster! Here are some tips on how to inspect your equipment and detect problems before they become a threat to safety.
Most of the time equipment failures occur at places where there is the most wear-and-tear. This can include at buckles, at places leather bends or takes stress, impact points where leather meets metal, and spots where leather or other materials are hung and might become worn. Also check all points on items that are available for horses to chew or rub…whether it’s a lead rope, halter, girth or bridle.
At buckle points, make sure to bend the leather or other material to see if there are cracks or stress points that might lead to an easy break. Check the buckle itself to ensure it hasn’t become damaged.
The same is true for places where there isn’t a buckle, but where leather or other materials meet metal or fasteners, or where you repeatedly hang the equipment for storage. Bend the leather, turn it to all angles and use your fingers to feel for cracked or peeling materials.
Also check stirrup leathers where they bend around the stirrup or fasten to the saddle. Check billet straps on English saddles and the site where your girth attaches to your tree on Western saddles. Sometimes you don’t notice the problems when you are saddling up, so take time to look specifically at those areas. If your stirrup leathers have worn or torn holes to take up or let down your stirrups, this might be a good time to replace them.
Also check girths where they loop through the metal or leather rings to cinch up on Western saddles, or where they buckle on English saddles. If you have a fleece or other cover over your girth material, remove it and make sure the leather or other material under the cover isn’t damaged. If you have elastic on your girth, test its strength and flexibility and replace if needed.
Look to see if you are missing keepers for any of your equipment (saddles, bridles or halters) and replace them; they are there for a reason.
If you have screws or rivets on any of your equipment make sure they are tight and secure.
Taking time once a month to look over all your tack when you aren’t in the process of getting ready to ride or work your horses will help ensure the safety of humans and horses in your stable.