Australian Tack Tips

Read these 11 Australian Tack Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Horse tips and hundreds of other topics.

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What do I need to maintain my tack?

Caring for Leather Tack

The Australian tack looks fantastic when you first purchase it, but it won't stay that way if you don't care for it! It is essential that you start taking care of your leather items from the first moment they are purchased. If you don't maintain them they will end up looking dingy and ratty.

Aside from the aesthetic reasons for caring for your leather tack, however, there are also very important safety issues to consider. If you do not properly care for your equipment it may not function properly. Leather that is ignored will often crack, peel, mold, or rot. The last thing you want is for pieces of your tack to tear or bust at the seams mid-ride.

If you neglect your leather tack for long enough you will actually hinder its durability. If your tack is the victim of accidental mold growth or drenching, it may not be able to bounce back if it hasn't been properly cared for. Leather that isn't properly maintained will be depleted of its natural oils—one of the main reasons for its durability. If your leather dries out it is subject to cracking and peeling. Additionally, neglected leather may become even more damaged after future cleanings.

In order to properly care for your tack, give it a rub down after every use to remove all dirt and debris that may have accumulated on it during the ride. Additionally, it is important to thoroughly clean your tack at least once a week. To do this, you should take your tack apart and clean each piece individually. Both the metal and leather pieces should be cleaned.

What does tacking involve?

Tacking Properly

Before putting that Australian tack on your horse, there are some important steps you should take. Tacking a horse includes grooming as well as putting on the riding equipment. Here is a little walk through of the things you should do before saddling up:

• Begin by approaching the animal from the left

• Put a halter on the horse

• Gently rub your hand down the animal's front leg, and squeeze the rear side of the animal's fetlock. Then, pick up his foot so the bottom of the hoof is visible.

• Use downward motions to clean mud and debris from the hoof with a hoof pick. Repeat this process on the other three feet.

• Using a dandy brush, remove mud and sweat from the horse. Be sure that you make short strokes that go with the grain of the hair. If you want you can use a body brush to finish the look off.

• Using a moist sponge, clean the horse's face (mouth, eye, nostrils). Then, use a fresh sponge to clean the area beneath the tail.

How should I store my leather tack?

Protect Your Tack

Always store your leather Australian horse tack items in a place that isn't subject to moisture and humidity—this will help keep mildew and mold at bay. It's in your best interest to use a bridle bag or even a saddle cover to store the tack in—this will deter dirt and grime from resting on the items and provoking mold growth. Mildew and mold can cause your leather equipment to crack and peel or even fall apart. If you don't have a spare saddle or bridle bag to keep your tack on and don't have the extra cash to spend on one, have no fear, you can make your own!

Do you have an old pillowcase? Place your bridles and halters in the pillowcase and hang it right on the bridle rack. Similarly, you can also use a pillowcase to cover your saddle when it is not in use.

If you notice drenching or mold on your leather tack, don't panic. It is likely salvageable, especially if the equipment was properly cared for in the past. To save it, first move the tack to a dry place that is not subject to humidity. Next, take a damp cloth and do your best to get rid of all excess water and mold. Throughout this process you should frequently rinse the cloth off to prevent transfer of bacteria from one piece of equipment to another.

Use a good amount of saddle soap and a sponge to scrub the leather down. You should use enough soap that the leather becomes sudsy. Rub the soap in well then wipe off any excess. To finish the job, put a good application of leather oil on the goods.

What should I look for in a used saddle?

Used or Abused?

It's in your best interest to buy your Australian stock saddles brand new from a trustworthy source. However, if this is something your checkbook won't allow, you should at least make an informed purchase. Before picking up a used saddle, have a qualified saddler examine it for you. A professional will be able to identify internal and external damage. Additionally, you will need to speak to a fitter about properly fitting the saddle to your animal.

Examine the saddle thoroughly for signs of wear and tear. Look for cracks and peeling (especially around the stirrups and girth). Even if you believe the damage is minimal, get a second opinion from a professional before purchasing.

If you notice any signs of alteration, ask the seller what occurred. Was the saddle so severely damaged that it had to be reconstructed? If so, that could mean the saddle was poorly made, and you might want to look at other options. On the other hand, if only a minor alteration was made, like the restitching of a seam, there is no reason to be alarmed. A minor cosmetic alteration is probably not a big deal but the complete replacement of something is an entirely different story. However, you'll still want to ask a professional saddler's opinion before making a decision.

Once you get the OK from a professional and you've given the saddle a good examination, you should be good to go. Happy trails!

How do I perform a safety test on my bridle?

Testing, One...Two...

Safety first! Before sliding an Australian bridle on your horse's head, it's in your best interest to perform a safety test. Begin by twisting and bending all of the straps, looking for cracks or flakes. If you see cracks, it's a good idea to replace the damaged piece before it splits completely on a ride. Check every portion of leather in the bridle, giving extra attention to places that are consistently under pressure, like where the bit meets the rein. If you find damage in high-pressure areas, consider it a red flag. This is the point where you should invest in a brand new rein set.

The next step is to examine every part of the stitching, taking extra time and care on the rein stitching. If you have your own tools (awls are particularly useful for this reason) you may be able to repair the damage yourself. If you don't have a clue what you're doing don't try to fix it! It's better to be safe and take the repairs to a professional.

Next, examine the bit in search of damaged edges that will irritate your horse's fragile lips and mouth. You will want to replace a damaged bit immediately. Finally, check each and every buckle on your bridle in search of rust or bending. If all is clear, you're ready to go!

Why should I buy an Australian saddle?

Why Buy Australian Saddles?

Do you need an incentive to buy an Australian saddle? Well, if you are a good rider, the Australian saddle will make a big impact on your form, making you an even better rider. To attach an Australian saddle to the animal, a super-efficient double girthing system is used. Both the overgirth and the attached billet straps fasten right to the girth using an exclusive leverage system. The double girthing system makes it possible a rider to cinch the saddle more tightly and efficiently—this drastically lessens the risk of slippage. And, if a billet strap were to break, the overgirth would provide added safety. If you break horses professionally, this will make it a safer process. And, if you are new to riding, the safety that an Australian saddle ensures will give you an extra boost of confidence—it will be lot easier to learn when you're not terrified.

The Australian saddle was orginally designed for trail riding - it is the only saddle designed specifically for the rider's safety (keeping the rider in that seat). English saddles were designed for dressage and jumping, Western saddles for roping, and Australian saddles were designed for tough riding. In fact, the Australian saddle was invented almost 200 years as the answer to long hours in the saddle, dangerous conditions, and risky landscapes. It is often referred to as the safest possible saddle for trail riding—who doesn't want a little extra security?

How can I ccurate estimate of the cheek piece adjustment and bit of my horse's bridle?

Can You Fit The Bit?

Purchasing Australian bridles is only half the battle - next you need to make an accurate estimate of the cheek piece adjustment and bit before putting the equipment on your horse. There are two ways that this can be done.

First, you could go the trial and error route and hold the bridle on the animal's face, tinkering and adjusting until it fits the length from the mouth corners to the poll. The second way to go about this process is to put the bridle on the animal's head, fine-tune the cheek piece on only one side, and leave the other unattached. Then, you can hold the horse's mouth open and slip the bit through to the other. There should be a few wrinkles in the corners of the horse's mouth.

Make sure that you have adjusted the bridle correctly, or you risk hurting the animal. To test the fit, gently lift the bit sides away from the mouth and assess the situation. If there is a lot of space at the corners, it is too loose. There should only be a minimal amount of space—less than one centimeter. If you feel lost, ask a professional to help you correctly fit your bit and bridle.

How should I fit a saddle?

A Perfect Fit

When it comes to precision equipment like Australian saddles, it's important that they are a perfect fit for the rider and the horse. A saddle that doesn't fit correctly will affect the movement of the horse, thus decreasing the amount of control a rider has over the animal. A saddle should fit like a Every horse has a unique build and you need to fit a saddle according to its body type. Here are some important tips on fitting a saddle:

• The saddletree must not fall behind the animal's shoulders—it should fit across the withers.

• The entirety of the panel must be touching the horse's back.

• After the girth has been secured, you should have enough space to place two fingers between the gullet and the withers.

• The saddle should hold the rider in the deepest part, not sagging one way or the other. Both sides must be level.

• You should never put a saddle on a weak, unhealthy horse. Saddles are designed to fit well across well-toned, healthy animals.

• Always buy saddles from someone who is qualified and is willing to give you a guarantee.

What is an Australian stock saddle?

Australian Stock Saddle

Many riders are unfamiliar with Australian stock saddles and are therefore hesitant to look into them. In the simplest explanation: an Australian stock saddle is an oversized dressage saddle. The Australian stock saddle can be a mix between Western and English styles. The stirrups are in the dressage position and like the dressage saddle they are free hanging. Like the English saddle, the Australian stock saddle is a forward seat (unlike the rear-reading Western seat).

When using the Australian saddle, at the walk the rider should sit in the rear of the saddle, keeping their legs forward, and the heels tucked down (this will assist in spreading the weight of the rider further down the leg, making for a more comfortable ride). Not only does this provide more comfort but also it is safer. This way, if a horse stops short or steps in a hole you will be a lot less likely to take a spill forward.

How should I clean my silver tack pieces?

Make That Silver Shine

In addition to the maintenance of the leather parts of Australian saddles, you also want to care for your silver pieces. It doesn't matter how great that leather looks if the hardware around it is only giving off a lackluster glow.

To begin, put a tiny drop of polish on a flannel cloth (or a piece of a flannel shirt). Use large strokes to massage the polish onto your hardware. It's smart to start in the beginning of each piece rather than the edges to avoid staining the leather. Then, when you reach the edges of the silver, use tiny, delicate strokes. If your silver appears black due to residue, allow the polish to sit for 15 minutes. If the silver has a dull appearance, only let the polish sit for 5 minutes. To remove the polish completely, rub it away with a clean, flannel rag.

If you happen to get polish on the leather, apply a glass cleaner to a clean rag and swipe it across the leather in one motion. This should remove the black smudge. Be sure to swipe not rub or you will only work the polish deeper into the leather.

How can I adjust a saddle that is sagging?

What's That Awl About?

If you've taken the time to research the benefits of owning Australian stock saddles, then you should take the time to care for the one you purchase. It's essential to awl your saddle frequently in order to balance the saddle and stop the stuffing from becoming too rigid. So, if your saddle begins to sag in the front, which is common, you should awl the stuffing so that it is evenly distributed throughout the saddle—this will bring the saddle back to its original state.

The same can be done if the back of the saddle begins to sag (which is highly unlikely). If the saddle is ill fitting, you can adjust the stuffing to make a better fit. Awling can't work miracles so if you have a hopeless saddle to begin with this will not do the trick—awling is for making adjustments, not complete makeovers.

If you do not own a saddler's awl, you can create a makeshift awl out of a thin-shank Phillips head screwdriver. First, sharpen the screwdriver until it comes to a smooth, sharp point. You can then use fine-grain paper to complete the task.

*A garden weeder can also be used as a stuffing rod.

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Sherril Steele-Carlin