There are many different types of horse equipment. Some are used to aid the rider, while others protect the horse.
A bit is a piece of metal that sits in the horse’s mouth and, when used with the bridle and reins, gives the rider control over movement. A running martingale attaches to the girth between the front legs and forks into two straps with rings on each end through which the reins run.
A saddle is a base frame that distributes the rider’s weight across a horse’s back. It has a seat for the rider; skirts, panels and flaps that protect the horse from the saddle; and a girth that secures the saddle.
Close contact saddles have a narrow seat and move the rider closer to the horse, enabling them to respond quickly to the movement of the animal. They also feature a padded knee roll to encourage proper leg positioning.
All-around saddles are made for a variety of disciplines, from ranching to barrel racing and roping. They have a wide range of flap and panel options to suit the fit of different horses.
Roping saddles have a tall, thin horn and are more durable so that you can use them for other events as well. They also have a wide pocket to help the rider stay balanced during speed events.
Saddle blankets and saddle pads (known as numnahs in the UK) are essential pieces of equipment necessary to have as a beginner horse rider. They absorb sweat, cushion the saddle, and help to minimize back strain.
They are available in many styles, from wool and acrylic for a traditional look to neoprene and other modern materials. Be sure to check the washing instructions on your chosen blanket as not all are machine washable. Before you wash your saddle blanket, it is important to clear it of excess horse hair and dust by vacuuming before putting it into the washer. Excessive hair and dust will make the blanket uncomfortable for your horse. Also, be sure to use a low heat setting. Adding too much heat to the saddle pad can cause it to bunch up on your horse’s back.
Depending on discipline and skill, riders use different types of bits to communicate with their horse. Bits vary in the amount, location and type of pressure they exert on a horse’s mouth.
Some bits contain shanks, long pieces that hang past a horse’s chin and provide leverage for rein cueing. Others, such as a Pelham, create multiple pressure points. Bits also differ in the amount of pressure that they place on the tongue, corners and bars of the mouth.
Spoon horse bits are similar to ported bits, but the ports have been flattened and smoothed, looking like a spoon. They are designed for horses that tend to pull or ignore rein signals to stop or slow down. Bits also vary in their mouthpieces, including a joint or solid mouthpiece.
A martingale is a piece of horse equipment that can prevent injury to both horse and rider. It is not necessary to have as a beginner, but may be useful in certain situations.
These are adjustable straps that run from the girth up through a ring on the noseband of the bridle. They create a lowered head position, but not as much as a standing martingale.
They work directly on the head, via a noseband, and need a contact from the rider for them to function. These can be dangerous if they are too tight, and must be fitted to the correct tension. A tie down is a shorter version of the standing martingale, and are mainly seen in western equine disciplines. These are also dangerous if not adjusted correctly, and can catch on to other items.
A whip or riding crop is a necessary piece of equipment for horse riders of every discipline. They can be used to back up a rider’s natural aids or as a way of disciplining the horse. But a rider needs to have a high level of sensitivity to the whip’s use, as overuse can make a horse numb to its effectiveness.
Crops can be either running martingales (which have two rings and are fastened under the horse’s neck) or bib martingales (which fit over the horse’s girth). Running martingales help keep the reins from slipping backwards. A bib martingale fills the space left between the two running rings and is a more subtle way to control the horse. These are both great options for beginner horse riders.