This article will answer the question… “what do I need for a horse?”. You may be surprised how long the list below is; it’s amazing how much kit you’ll actually accumulate when you own your own horse! There are so many items beyond the obvious saddle, bridle, headcollar, and grooming brushes, etc, you need for a horse, that you may not have considered.
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This Ultimate Checklist will include…
The specific tack you’ll need for a horse, will depend on which disciplines you hope to pursue, although the basic list remains the same…
Bridle – the style of bridle you pick will be your personal choice, although it’s generally a good idea to buy one that suits your horses head type (for example; narrower leather for a finer head, and wider for something more ‘cobby’), and if you intend to compete, there may be restrictions on the type and colour, so look into this before buying. Within this choice, you’ll also need to consider the noseband; whether your horse will be fine with a plain cavesson, or need a flash/grackle/drop noseband, etc. Reins are also a personal choice, but I’d personally recommend rubber, or at least ½ lined rubber, to give you extra grip, which is especially important on a rainy day! The rubber reins with a nylon core (which are often referred to as Eventa reins), are particularly good as they are grippy without the bulk. These Shires Aviemore Eventa Rubber Grip Reins on Amazon are a good starter pair to try.
Bit – there are so many different bits on the market that it’s easy to be overwhelmed! In an ideal world, we’d all like to have a horse or pony that is ‘snaffle-mouthed’ at all times as this is a mild bit, but some horses might need something stronger for jumping and hacking, etc. Use the simplest/mildest bit you can, ideally a snaffle (for schooling at least), then just use a stronger one if/when you need it, to avoid your horse getting ‘dead in the mouth’. If you find you need more breaks or control, ask your trainer for some advice.
Martingale/Breastplate or Neck Strap – some horses won’t need a martingale or breastplate, if they don’t, I think it’s worth having a saddle balance strap or Neck Strap (on Amazon) as they’re great for extra security in sticky situations, especially for jumping and hacking.
Saddle – the saddle will be one of your most expensive purchases. A new leather saddle will be upwards of £800, but you could keep costs down by buying synthetic, or second hand (just always make sure, whatever you choose, that you get the saddle professionally fitted to you and your horse). For most riders, a general purpose (GP) saddle will be the most useful, as it is just that – suitable for general purpose use. If you will mainly be doing flatwork, but still hacking, etc, VSD or WH style saddles are slightly straighter cut, whereas, if you mainly want to jump, get a GP that’s a little more forward cut, or a jumping saddle.
Girth – there are plenty of options for girths – from string, to nylon and synthetic, to leather, and from plain to shaped, or even ones with stud guards. I personally like the shaped ones in leather or synthetic, with an elastic insert, as they seem to rub the least, but your saddle fitter will be able to advise you what may suit your horse, and saddle type the most.
Stirrup Leathers – make sure you buy good quality stirrup leathers that are the right length for you. I find that the leather ones with a nylon core are quite comfortable and don’t tend to stretch as much. You can buy some here – Shires Blenheim Non Stretch Stirrup Leathers.
Stirrup Irons – Apart from stirrup irons for showing and dressage classes when a classic style is suitable, I always recommend going for stirrup irons with a safety conscious design, such as peacock irons with elastic at the sides (generally for children), bent leg ones, or even the ‘flexi’ irons which I find are particularly comfortable to ride in. Make sure they are the right size for your feet (allow approx. ¼” each side of your riding boot). There are a nice budget pair of ‘flexi’ ones on Amazon – Amidale Flexi Safety Stirrups.
Numnah/Saddlecloth – ideally you want at least two – I usually have two for daily use to allow for drying/washing, and another one spare to keep extra clean for shows. I’ve always opted for a natural wool numnah for my GP/Jump saddle, and a wool lined saddlecloth for a dressage saddle; these were the type recommended to me by a saddle fitter as their choice, and I’ve always stuck with them as they look smart too!
Exercise Sheet – Exercise sheets aren’t essential, but are ever so useful if it’s cold and rainy, especially if you need to put a rug on after exercise. I usually go for a fluorescent/waterproof wrap around style as it’s the most versatile due to the fact it can be used under, or over, the saddle (allowing it to be removed quickly), and the fluorescent ones are good when hacking on the road!
These are the non-essential items, that are either useful, or for if you are looking to pursue a specialist discipline…
Spare Bridle and Bit – it is useful to have a spare snaffle bridle for schooling if your horse needs a stronger bit for hacking or jumping. If you are serious about competing, especially showing and dressage, you may want a show/double bridle for certain classes.
Specialist Saddle – lots of disciplines have specialist saddles, from a western saddle, or side saddle, to polo saddles, endurance saddles, and more. For example, if you are very serious about dressage and your regular saddle is too forward cut, a dressage saddle is something to consider (for any saddle, you’ll also need the associated stirrups, girths, and saddlecloths).
Specialist Protective Boots – rarely used, but highly recommended, are knee boots for riding your horse on the road, especially for young or clumsy horses. There are also boots suited to certain disciplines, for example, a lot of show jumpers will opt for tendon and fetlock boots as they protect the joints, but as they’re open at the front, they allow the horse to feel the poles if they hit them, encouraging them to be more careful when jumping. And dressage riders will often use schooling wraps to support and protect the legs in more advanced movements.
Daisy Reins and Cruppers – generally for children’s ponies, and not that commonly used, the daisy rein helps stop ponies putting their heads down to eat grass, and cruppers attach to the back of the saddle and go around the tail to stop saddles sliding forward.
Lunge Kit – lunging will be a part of a lot of horse owners weekly routine, for this you’ll need the basics of a lunge cavesson, lunge rein and lunge whip.
Lunge Roller/Pad and Schooling Aid – a roller and pad will only really be needed if you intend to use a schooling aid when lunging, such as side reins, or a Pessoa, etc. Only use these if you are experienced though, or get some training, as they are often over used, or not used correctly!
This John Whitaker Lunging system on Amazon is similar to the Pessoa, click on the picture below for a link to check it out…
From headcollars, to rugs, to Zorro style hoods, this section will cover the wardrobe you need for a horse.
When it comes to rugs, this will very much depend on the type of horse you have, whether it’s clipped or not, and whether or not it lives in or out. For example, a very hardy pony living out, will hardly require any rugs (maybe just a cooler, and a lightweight turnout rug if you need them to be clean/dry to ride). Whereas, a fully clipped horse in full work, that is in at night in winter, and goes to shows, etc – will need a whole plethora of rugs (from coolers, to a range of varying weights of turnouts and stable rugs!)…
Headcollars – I usually opt for a quality leather one, which is safest for turn out and travelling as it would break under pressure, then have one or two spare nylon ones for bathing, etc.
Leadropes – have plenty of these in case of breakages, etc. These Rhinegold Luxe Lead Ropes on Amazon are really nice.
Cotton Sheet – cotton sheets are useful to keep your horse clean in the stable before a summer show, or to use as an easy to wash protective layer under heavier rugs.
Mesh Sheet – mesh sheets are great to stop sweaty horses from catching a chill, or for a lightweight rug after a summer bath. I sometimes use one for travelling on hot days.
Fleece Cooler – I usually have two – one for daily use, and one for travelling/shows.
Thick Cooler – the ‘Thermatex’ type, thicker cooler rugs, are really handy in winter, as they are warmer than a standard fleece cooler, and have amazing ‘wick away’ qualities (great for travelling in winter!).
Lightweight Stable Rug – a lightweight stable rug for autumn/spring time, or for horses that aren’t clipped in winter.
Middleweight Stable Rug – middleweight rug, for when a lightweight is too light, and a heavyweight is too warm!
Heavyweight Stable Rug – for when it’s really cold, and for clipped horses, a heavy stable rug is great – or you can always layer the light and middle weight ones together. I really like the ones with a built in neck so they’re extra cosy.
I had a client that just had doubles of her turnout rugs, instead of owning stable rugs; she just swapped turnouts over if they were damp – I found this was quite a good option too, and as turnout rugs are generally more durable they seemed to last longer (however, it did mean more reproofing was needed each year).
Lightweight Turnout Rug – usually waterproof, with no filling, a lightweight turnout is ideal for when the horse doesn’t need extra warmth, just protection from rain and help to stay clean.
Middleweight Turnout Rug – medium weight rugs are ideal for colder days as they have some filling. I find detachable necks are really useful for this weight of rug as you can add it if it’s colder, or particularly muddy.
Heavyweight Turnout Rug – for when it’s really cold, especially for thin-skinned and clipped horses, a heavy turnout rug is fantastic, I really like the ones with a built in neck to help keep them cleaner!
Fly Mask – from a simple fringe, to a full face mask, these protect the horse’s head from flies in summer. I always use full or half face ones, and some even have UV protection, which are brilliant for horses with pink noses that are prone to sunburn! Equilibrium make a really good one that you can find a link to buy by clicking on the photo of it below…
Fly Rug – designed to protect the horse form flies in the summer, fly rugs divide opinion, on one hand they do the job, (and save some money on fly spray!), but some horses find them too warm. I personally prefer them to be ‘nude’ in summer, unless they suffer with a condition like sweet-itch that requires a rug.
Hood – these are completely optional, but very handy if you go to shows a lot, because they’ll help keep the horse clean and their mane neat the night before.
Turnout Hood – this one is a complete luxury and not essential, but I personally love them, especially for any combo involving grey horses and muddy fields! They come in a range of options, from full neck, to just the head, and with or without zips and ears.
Tail Bandages and/or Tail Guard – essential for protecting the dock of the tail when travelling.
Travelling Boots – probably not essential if you won’t be going out to shows, although handy to have in an emergency, and you’ll want some if you’re buying a new horse and collecting it (although you can make do with leg bandages and bandage pads in a pinch). The best ones will cover the knees and hocks, and protect the coronet band of the hoof.
All the equipment you will need for a horse…
Grooming Kit – in your grooming kit box, the basic items you’ll need are a hoof pick, mane comb, body brush, curry comb, dandy brush and rubber curry. I also like to include a tea towel for polishing, some perfume-free baby wipes (or a sponge/equine specific wipes), mane/tail spray, a large hair brush for tails, and a hoof oil/conditioning product (with a hoof oil brush).
Wash Kit – horse shampoo, a couple of buckets, some sponges (ideally different colours for face/eyes, etc), a sweat scraper and possibly a rubber curry comb to help ‘massage’ out the dirt, will be sufficient as a wash kit. Some people now swear by a relatively new product – the horse washing ‘wand’, that attaches to the hose and makes bath time even easier. You can even buy horse showers which give more pressure and heated water!
Tack Cleaning Kit – to clean your tack, you’ll need a few sponges, a tub for water, some saddle soap and leather balm/conditioner. If you have any brass fittings, a cloth and brass polish will also be needed. Here’s a link to my favourite leather conditioner at the moment that you can buy here – Effax Leather Balm, 500ml
‘Summer’ stuff – I like to have a ‘summer kit’, which is just fly sprays, a bot knife, a shedding blade for malting coats, and horse-safe sun block if needed! My farrier recommended I also put ‘Hoof Moist’ on one of my horse’s feet in summer as they suffered with dryness.
‘Winter’ stuff – my ‘winter kit’, consists of a hoof scrubbing brush, a coat conditioner spray to help lessen mud sticking to their coat, and mud fever prevention/treatment creams if needed.
Trimmers/Pulling Combs – if you’re going to pull manes/tails, you’ll need a pulling comb. Some horses aren’t keen on this, and for those who aren’t, I use a bladed comb (this one I have… you can see it here on Amazon – ‘Solocomb‘), or thinning scissors. Trimmers are not essential, especially if you won’t be competing, or if you have a native type of pony, but handy if you want to keep ears, bridle paths, etc, smart (most of this could be done with skillful use of scissors and a comb though, and you need to be careful not to over trim!).
Clippers – it takes a bit of practice to get accomplished at clipping, so they’re probably only worth it if you are experienced or have lots of horses, generally owners with a single horse will just pay someone to clip for them. If you do want some, I really like the cordless type, click the photo below for a link to some nice ones on Amazon…
Haynets/Racks – haynets vs hay racks vs hay on the floor is always a big debate! Horses naturally feed with their head down, and it is best for their airways, so if you can feed on the floor that’s great. However, some horses will spread hay all over their bed, which can be a pain, especially on shavings, a good solution to this is a ‘Hay Bar’, which keeps hay contained but allows low level feeding. Click the picture below to check one out on Amazon…
Stubbs also do a ‘munch station’ which is another good low level hay option. Click on the picture below for a link to check it out on Amazon…
Some horses with restricted diets or needing soaked hay (such as laminitic ponies) will fair better with haynets (for these horses, small holed nets are good because it will take them longer to eat!). I’m a fan of ‘easy fill’ haynets because fillings nets can be a chore!
Feeding Bowls – simple plastic or rubber bowls for feed are ideal. You can use standard wide buckets, or ones that hook over the door, but if you leave the feed in the stable, avoid anything with metal parts, or plastic than can shatter.
Water Buckets – if you don’t have the luxury of auto-drinkers – nice sturdy water buckets, or rubber trugs (ideally without metal handles that the horse could get caught on) are ideal for water in the stable.
Feed Bins/Scoops – you may not need these if your yard includes feed, but if you do, make sure your feed bins are large enough to accommodate a bag or two of feed, and are damp/vermin proof. Galvanised metal feed bins are ideal because they are designed for purpose. This is a good one available on Amazon – LARGE GALVANISED FEED BIN WITH TWO COMPARMENTS
Depending on the livery arrangement and the set up of the yard, you may not need some of these, for example if you are on full livery, you generally won’t need to muck out…
Wheelbarrow – pretty self explanatory… you’re going to need a wheelbarrow for mucking out and poo-picking. Larger wheelbarrows seem to have gained a lot of popularity, but from personal experience, although they may save you multiple trips to the muck heap, the trip you make will be HEAVY, and they’ll be hard to wheel up a ramp, or over mud – so I’d always stick to a smaller/mid size one! This 85L Plastic Wheelbarrow on Amazon is a good standard type.
Fork – the type of fork will depend on the type of bedding you use… either a shavings one with close prongs, or four/five pronged one for straw. To preserve your back, and save bending over, I always recommend the ones with the long handles.
Broom – anyone who’s spent time mucking out and sweeping a yard, will tell you, a good broom is essential! Go for something very sturdy, but relatively lightweight.
Shovel – a standard bit of kit, I’d recommend a lightweight plastic one!
Poop Scoop – a poop scoop is a great bit of kit for quickly skipping out, clearing droppings when grooming, and for poo-picking the fields.
Step/Stool/Mounting Block – not reserved purely for mounting up, a portable one of these is ideal for bathing and plaiting manes, reaching cobwebs in the stable and changing light bulbs, etc. I personally use a Stubbs one, as I find it’s small and light enough to pop in the horsebox too. It can be purchased on Amazon, to check it out click on the picture below…
Gloves – of course they’re not essential, but a good pair of rubber or gardening type gloves are a must on my list! Not only do they preserve your hands, but skipping out the ‘fiddly’ leftovers by hand is much quicker if you want a smart bed!
Trugs/Bucket Tubs – you can never have enough of these! (click on the pic for a link to buy)
Kit for You…
Okay, so we’ve covered what you need for a horse, but what about you? If you’re buying a horse for the first time, you’ll probably only be having a lesson or two a week, and not mucking, out, etc, so you’ll need to add to your riding kit as you’ll be riding a lot more (yay!), and you’ll also have to have some good all weather clothes!
WELLIES! – as mentioned in the article Buying a Horse – The Ultimate Guide, there will be times when there’ll be a lot of mud, so all self respecting horse owners should have a faithful pair of wellies or good waterproof yard boots!
Helmet – easily the most important item you will spend money on for yourself! Make sure you buy one that is up to date with current safety standards, and is fitted properly (remember, you’ll also need to replace it if it is dropped or you have a fall).
Riding Boots – this is a personal choice as to whether you want long boots, or jodhpurs boots with chaps or gaiters (if you will be using spurs, make sure they have a spur rest). I personally wear long boots for schooling, and boots/chaps for hacking, etc.
Jodhpurs – you’ll need a few pairs to allow for washing, and a show pair – just get whichever style is most comfy for you (I would recommend darker coloured ones for day to day wear though!).
Body Protector – I recommend everyone owns one of these, but they’re generally only essential for XC – remember, much like helmets, they also need to be up to current safety standards.
Fluorescents/Reflectives – absolutely essential if you intend to ride on the roads!
Gloves, etc – gloves, and other items such as whips and spurs, etc, if you use them.
Winter Gear – I cannot stress enough how much better winter will be if you’re kitted out in the right gear! Get yourself a great waterproof/windproof coat, waterproof over trousers, thermals, etc. I personally love a heated body warmer for days spent out in the cold! I got given one as a Christmas present and have never looked back, here’s a link to the one I have on Amazon – Electric Heated Vest, Waterproof Windproof USB Charging
Other – One item that seems to be gaining popularity is an air vest – a vest that attaches to the saddle and inflates to break your fall if you come off (although they are quite expensive, so only serious competitive riders will probably want one of these!). Check one out on Amazon here – Point Two ProAir Horse Riding Airbag Jacket – Inflatable Safety Jacket *Canister Sold Separately*
If you intend to compete, you’ll need some extra kit for this, to prep for shows and to comply with dress codes (if you’re only going to hack out, etc, you don’t need to worry about this section!)…
Show Kit for You – depending on the discipline, you’ll need specific show gear. Generally speaking, most will require a helmet that’s up to date with the latest safety standard, light coloured jodhpurs, a shirt with tie or stock, gloves, show jacket and smart long boots (ankle boots are fine for children or some native showing classes, and boots/gaiters are often okay for jumping classes) – check the dress code. For cross country and hunter trials, you’ll want XC colours, a helmet with a silk, and a body protector (possibly even an air jacket too at higher levels). I personally like the Racesafe ones, I find them one of the more comfortable options on the market for me. You can see the Racesafe ones on Amazon here – Racesafe Provent 3.0 Body Protection.
Show Kit for Your Horse – check the requirements of the discipline/class you are competing in – for example, some classes will have restrictions on what bit can be used, and some classes will not allow coloured numnahs, etc.
Show Day Equipment – if your home kit is bulky, it can be convenient to have a pared down version of your grooming, first aid and wash down kits for shows, especially if you want to keep weight down in your horsebox. You’ll also want a poop scoop/trug to clean up after your horse, and haynets, buckets and a water container. I find bag style haynets particulary good in the lorry because they minimise spill.
All the extra bits you may need for a horse, and the optional things you might want to consider…
Horsebox/Trailer – if you plan to travel to lots of shows or go on lots of outings, you’ll probably want your own transport. The choice between a trailer or 3.5 ton/7.5 ton horsebox, will depend on your budget, the driving licence you have, and the weight you’ll need to carry on board (check out the licence requirements here if you are confused). If you won’t be going out regularly, you can always hire transport as and when you require it.
Storage Boxes/Racks – this may already be set up at your yard, but you’ll generally need a few plastic boxes for for your kit. If it isn’t provided at your yard, or you have your own set up, you’ll need to consider saddle racks and bridle hooks, plus rug racks or rails to hang up rugs. Tack lockers are good idea for keeping kit together and extra security – some attach to the wall like this one on Amazon – Tidyard saddle cabinet.
Washing machine/dryer – you’ll probably only need this for your own set up, as most yards will have a washing machine available to clean smaller items/numnahs/light weight rugs, etc (heavier rugs will usually require specialist washing anyway).
Paddock Equipment – for most people the only consideration will probably be electric fencing to section off areas if needed (posts/tape and an electric fence unit/battery) if not managed by the yard. However, if you have your own set up, you may need to think about land maintenance tools, or hire someone to roll paddocks, etc, as needed.
Ménage Items – only really applicable if you have your own set up with a menage or riding area really, but if this is the case, you may want to kit your menage out with jumps, dressage markers, mirrors and an arena leveler (or at least a good rake!), and possibly even floodlights, subject to planning permission.
What You Need for a Horse – The Checklist…
I’ve condensed all of the above into a simple checklist that you can copy and use to suit your requirements. I suggest you go through the list and cross out anything you won’t need for a horse, (or anything you already have), according to what you’ve learnt about in this article. Then you can research prices, based on what you want and whether you’re looking at second hand items or brand new, and jot down an estimate of the cost for each thing, to give you an idea of what you need to budget. How much it can cost can vary wildly, depending on how much you’ll need, and whether or not you buy expensive brand new items, or hunt around for second hand stuff and bargains, but expect your kit so set you back at least £1,000 upwards… HAPPY SHOPPING!
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