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How to Untack a Horse

Stephanie is a graduate Pony Clubber and has been riding and caring for horses since she was five years old.

Safely rolled up stirrup leathers. This keeps the stirrups out of the way so that they are less likely to catch on anything

Safely rolled up stirrup leathers. This keeps the stirrups out of the way so that they are less likely to catch on anything

5 Steps to Untack a Horse

Untacking a horse is decidedly easier than tacking up, but it's still important to maintain safety protocols to protect you both. It's also important to keep your tack organized. I'm a graduate Pony Clubber who has been riding and caring for horses since I was five years old: Below, I explain exactly what to do.

What Does "Tacking Up" and "Untacking" Mean?

The word "tack" is jargon for any of the horse's equipment, especially the saddle and bridle. The phrase "tacking up" refers to the process of putting the saddle, bridle, and any other equipment onto the horse in preparation for riding. "Untacking" means to remove all the equipment from the horse after the ride.

1. Cool Down Your Horse First

Before finishing your ride, make sure to thoroughly cool your horse. If your horse is extremely hot and sweaty, you may want to dismount, remove the saddle, and walk him out by hand.

2. Remove the Bridle

Always put on the horse's halter and secure him before you take off the saddle:

  1. Flip the reins over the horse's head. This way when you remove the bridle, you will still have some control over the horse as you put on the halter.
  2. Undo the noseband and the throat latch.
  3. Hold the halter in your left hand and stand to the left side of the horse's head.
  4. Grip the bridle from the crown (the very top) and gently pull it over the horse's ears.
  5. Carefully lower the bridle down and avoid letting the bit knock against the horse's teeth.
  6. Slide the halter onto the horse and remove the reins from the horse's neck.
  7. Attach a cross tie to each side of the halter or tie the horse in a safe area with a safety release knot.
  8. Hang up your bridle right away. Never leave it lying on the ground or in the aisle way where the horse could become entangled. If you don't have a hook or bridle rack in the aisle, they are very easy to make!

3. Remove the Saddle

  1. If you haven't already, secure the stirrups.
  2. Unbuckle the girth—first the left side, then the right.
  3. Place the girth on top of the saddle.
  4. Return to the left side of the horse and grip the saddle by the pommel and cantle (the front and the back).
  5. Lift the saddle up before pulling it towards you; don't pull it into the horse's spine. If you cannot reach, get assistance.
  6. Place the saddle on a saddle rack or out of the way, tipped onto the front of the knee rolls (but never flat down on the ground).

4. Clean Up

After the horse is turned out, return to clean up and take care of the tack. Always:

  • wipe off the bit with a clean damp cloth,
  • and wipe down tack that comes in contact with the horse's skin, particularly in sweaty areas, such as the girth.

A few times a month, thoroughly clean your tack with saddle soap so that it doesn't leave sores on your horse, and condition your tack so that it doesn't dry out and crack, causing a safety hazard.

Put your saddle and bridle away in a clean dry place, such as the tack room. Make sure to flip the saddle pad over and lay it on top of the saddle so that it dries completely.

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