Yard Tack

Last month we put together a guide on racing tack; taking you through the equipment seen in use on course.

This week, we bring you a guide to the equipment used behind the scenes (in training). Of course, there is plenty of cross-over with racing tack but there are also many other bits and pieces of tack used at home and in exercise that you might not be quite so familiar with.

Trainers have their own views and preferences on equipment used in their yards, so may insist that something is used on all horses, avoid something altogether or use different things on different horses. They may also favour a particular type/design or make of tack.

Each piece serves an important role in a racehorses daily routine, serving to bring out the best in them.

Yard Tack

Bridle

The bridle, as a whole, is vital to control a horse. A bridle is made up of many different parts – a headpiece, a browband, cheekpieces, a noseband, reins and a bit.

The headpiece sits on top of the horse’s head just behind the ears. The purpose of the headpiece is to hold the bridle onto the horse’s head without it falling off. The throatlash, which is attached, falls under the horse’s head and sits underneath their throat. Its purpose is, again, to hold the bridle in place and give the rider control whilst not aggravating the horse. Throatlashes are never tight against the horse so the horse will never feel any discomfort with this piece.

The browband sits above the horse’s eyes but in front of their ears. Its purpose is to stop the bridle from falling back onto the horse’s neck, which would cause discomfort and result in the rider losing a lot of control of his/her mount.

The cheekpieces slide down both sides of the horse’s cheeks and connect to the bit to hold everything in place.

The noseband, obviously, goes around the horse’s nose and offers the rider more control. It, also, in some cases helps the horse to breathe better.

Cross nosebands have two strips of leather, which strap around the horse’s jaw and are often used on horses who are likely to run keenly as they prevent the horse from pulling too hard and opening his/her mouth.

The reins connect to the bit and are held onto by the rider so that he/she has a contact with the horse’s mouth and can direct them. Riders are able to steer and steady their horse with the reins but can also shorten them to encourage a horse to quicken. 

The bit sits inside the mouth of the horse and uses pressure to direct them. If the rider wants to turn to the right, they will pull on the right-hand rein, which then applies a small amount of pressure accordingly to the horse’s mouth. Similarly, if the rider wants to stop or slow down, they will pull back on both reins which will signal to the horse to steady. 

There are many different types of bit, the most common used in racing is the snaffle. Horses may use different bits as some respond to very little pressure, while others may just need a bit of extra encouragement. A ring bit can be used for tougher types that like to take a hold of the bit or have a tendency to hang one way or the other.

Martingale

The martingale sits at the front of the horse, it goes around the neck and connects to both the reins and the girth. It can help to keep a horse’s head carriage down, while also preventing them from throwing their head up too high.

Breastgirth

A breastgirth helps prevent the saddle from moving slipping back underneath the rider. They are looped around the lower neck of the horse and then hooked on to the saddle and made of elastic to ensure they don’t restrict the horses movement.

Saddle

A saddle is used for the rider to sit on whilst riding the horse. Saddles are important because they disperse the rider’s weight more evenly to give the rider sufficient support and control over the horse.

Girth

A girth is used to hold the saddle in place and stop it from sliding forward or back. The girth connects onto the saddle and loops round underneath the horse’s belly.

Saddle pad

A saddle pad is a cushioned piece of material that is put onto the horse’s back to protect it and soften the weight of the saddle so that it is not just a heavy mass directly onto the horse’s spine. The pad also absorbs sweat which can avoid irritation as well as helping to prevent the saddle from slipping. Horses in training often have two on to offer more support.

Rubbers

Rubbers are placed underneath the saddle and as girth sleeves. They are made of towel and are placed directly onto the horse’s back and around the girth to prevent other equipment from slipping, to absorb sweat and to prevent cross contamination between horses (the same tack is used on a lot of different horses in a racing yard).

Non-slip

A non-slip is a gel pad that’s placed directly onto the horse’s back to help keep the saddle and pads as secure as possible. 

Boots

Boots are worn to protect against injuries caused by bumping against obstacles or their other legs.

Bandages

Bandages are worn to provide tendon support and protect horses from potential injuries like cuts or clips.

Bungee

A bungee either attaches to the bit or loops around the headpiece of the bridle and attaches onto the girth. The bungee is elastic so it doesn’t restrict a horse’s movement too much but works to bring down a horse’s head, helping them to stretch their neck and back. This essentially warms up and strengthens their top line muscles.

Draw reins

Draw reins loop around the girth on both sides of the horse through the bit ring. They work in a similar way to a bungee but rather than elastic, the rider is able to control the horse’s head with how tightly or loosely they hold their reins. They also allow the rider the option of give and take, which works more effectively for some horses.

Whip

The whip is held by the rider and is used to encourage the horse to quicken when needed. They are made of soft foam and are lightweight, meaning that it is unlikely it will hurt the horse on the few occasions they are whipped. Whips can make some horses go faster, but they are also a safety measure for riders. A whip can be used as a ‘reminder’ to prevent a horse from drifting off his/her line and guide a horse to straighten depending on which side (left or right) it is used.

Exercise sheet

An exercise sheet is a small rug that covers the horse’s hindquarters whilst they are being ridden. There are different types of sheets for different weathers/conditions and thus certain ones serve different purposes – e.g. a waterproof exercise sheet may simply be used to keep the horse dry. The main reason an exercise sheet is used is to keep a horse’s muscles warm, both before and after exercise.