I am a tack hoarder.
The problem started in college when I had to ride several horses in different disciplines. I needed different bits, different sized sport boots, different bridles. My little tack trunk was soon overflowing, but I justified each purchase because I actually used the items.
After college, my horseback riding habits changed. I primarily ride my own two mares, but my tack box is still overflowing. As part of my 2019 downsizing plan, I am becoming a tack minimalist. Here’s what is staying in my tack room and what is finding a new home.
The idea behind minimalism is to have less stuff so that you can enjoy more. Even though I dramatically downsized my life when I moved from Montana to Arizona in Spring 2018, I still have too much stuff. This is especially true in my tack room where I justify keeping every piece of tack, and in my closet, where I have way too many barn clothes (see How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe for the Barn to see what essential barn clothes I am keeping).
It’s time for this to change.
I want my tack room to hold quality items that I love and that I use daily. I don’t think I have ever used a piece of tack to the end of its useful life. I have so much that that it gets rotated through and outgrown or packaged away before it ever gets worn out. This isn’t the best practice for my budget or the organized tack room I want.
First, I have to decide what pieces qualify as essential tack. This is the bare minimum that I can get by with to do my job. Here’s what I consider essential for my riding lifestyle:
If you live in a cold climate, add blankets to the list. If you ride a specific discipline that requires specialized equipment, add it to the list.
When I list it all out, I realize that I have way more tack than I really need. My horses are well-broke, so I don’t need multiple bits for them. They live in the same pen, so I don’t need separate grooming supplies for them. I am not currently showing, so I don’t need to keep anything “show ring nice.” Everyday, quality work tack is sufficient.
I always buy the highest quality item I can afford. Cheap, made-in-China junk tack is dangerous and not a good use of your money. Much of my tack I bought in college 15 years ago and is still in excellent condition because I spent my money on quality items and then cared for it properly.
Right now, I’m not showing my horses, so I have no need to keep anything “show ring nice.” However, when I start showing again, my tack collection will expand to accommodate these items. If you are performing in the show ring, you need to look professional, and this requires quality, well-maintained tack.
When I show, these are the items I keep in top condition:
When I show, I use the same bit that I train in. I find that my horses perform best with something familiar. I also use the same girth or cinch. I keep it in excellent condition, so it is show ring ready.
I only keep spares of two items – a halter and a lead rope. These are items that I cannot go without if one breaks. For safety reasons I need to have one halter and one lead rope available for every horse on my property at all times. Everything else I can go without until I can get to the tack store to replace it.
I struggle with letting go of tack. I “what if” every single piece, and I really don’t need to. My horses are broke and will continue to use the same bits, so I can let the others go. I really don’t need pink and turquoise and hunter green and red flame polo wraps – I can pick a favorite pair and let the others go. I have an abundance of saddle pads, both English and Western. I have draw reins and martingales and training surcingles and driving lines that I never use. All of that can be let go – either sold or donated to a good cause.
Because I have trouble letting go of everything all at once, every day I choose one item that I no longer need. It goes in my “donate or sell” box, and I am not allowed to remove it.
As I reorganize my tack room, I am only giving myself enough space for the items I keep. Two bridles means two bridle hooks, and no more. If I buy a new bridle, one has to leave. If I buy new sport boots, my old pair has to leave. I only have space for what I need, which makes it easier to replace items rather than add to my collection.
Organization = Peace of Mind
I would love to be one of those naturally organized people, but I’m not. Instead, I am actively taking steps to live a more minimalist lifestyle with my belongings organized, keeping only things that I use and love.
What are your essential pieces of tack? Let me know in the comments below!
Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.