Buying the horse is only the beginning…
Shopping is a highlight of horse ownership and almost every horse owner I know (myself included) seems to be addicted to buying new tack and other equine supplies – from a matching saddle pad and ear bonnet set to rugs and protective gear.
Sadly, the joy of tack shopping comes at a pretty steep price. While one item may not break the bank, when you start from nothing, you could easily find yourself in over your head. You may be panicking slightly and wondering how much you’ll need to invest in your horse’s tack.
Are you better off looking for the cheapest option, or will that come back to bite you in the butt?
Need-to-Have Horse Tack
- Saddle $100-$7,000+
- Saddle Pad/Blanket $20-$400+
- Girth/Cinch $20-$400+
- Stirrups $20-$600+
- Bridle/Headstall $40-$500+
- Bit $20-$350+
- Reins $8-$250+
- Halter $15-$500+
- Lead Rope $7-$40+
Learn more about what kind of apparel and equipment you need for yourself.
How Much Does a Saddle Cost?
The cost of a saddle varies quite a lot, depending on the maker, quality/ materials, if it’s used or custom-made, and what features it has.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can find a used saddle pretty cheaply probably on social media or other online marketplaces. I’ve seen decent quality saddles sell for $50, which can look like a steal after surveying all those fancy, expensive saddles at the tack shop.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
What should you look out for when buying a secondhand saddle, you ask? To begin with, you have no idea what the saddle has actually been through. It may have been dropped, trampled on, or flat-out neglected.
It also may be broken in a bit wonky, depending on the previous horse and rider. Look out for signs of damage, excessive dirtiness, an asymmetrical shape, or other signs that it has been manipulated.
A cheap saddle can end up costing a lot if you need to do a lot of repairs.
A cheap saddle may need reflocking, the tree may be damaged, or it may need extensive leather work to make it functional.
If the saddle was broken in or was altered inappropriately, it may end up being painful to the horse and cost you a lot more than just money!
Make sure you go over it with a fine-tooth comb before forking out your hard-earned cash. If the saddle needs TOO much work, you’re probably better off just buying a new one for a greater up-front cost.
If you’re buying a saddle, you want to be sure it fits both you and your horse. If this is your first time making such an important purchase, I can’t recommend a professional saddle fitter enough!
Ask around for recommendations so you don’t get scammed by someone just trying to make money out of you or someone who lacks the necessary experience.
There are horses, like my round-barreled, short-coupled mare, which can be a bit tricky to fit, so you might save money by hiring a professional who has numerous options for you to try out.
In the end, you want both parties to be comfortable so the horse doesn’t start to dread riding time and you can enjoy yourself without chafing and bruises.
Regardless of how much you end up spending on a saddle, you’ll want to keep it in tip-top condition, so make sure you keep enough money aside for a saddle rack on which to safely store your new equipment.
- Be realistic about your budget, but don’t skimp on saddle quality by buying the cheapest thing out there
- Find a saddle fitter if you’re not experienced or want to streamline the process
- Be very careful if buying a used or discount-quality saddle, because they can end up being uncomfortable for both horse and rider
How Much Does a Saddle Pad or Saddle Blanket Cost?
I know I just said not to skimp on a saddle, which is true, but also…don’t skimp on a saddle pad or blanket. These are in contact with your beloved pony’s back the whole time you ride and must be comfortable.
If you ride English, consider using a half pad in addition to your normal saddle pad to give your horse some extra cushion or protection.
If you’re a less experienced rider a half pad could provide the shock-absorbing power your horse’s back needs. Some horses benefit from a riser pad, which can help with shock absorption as well as saddle position, and ultimately, rider position.
Western saddle pads are generally used alone, but there are some on the market that can accommodate shims to help with saddle fit or to provide relief for horses with swaybacks or prominent withers.
Shims are made from shock-absorbent foam and can be inserted into the saddle pad to provide extra support and protection.
Some people may put a thin blanket underneath to help keep the expensive one clean. Others may use a thick felt pad underneath a show pad to minimize cleaning the show pad!
- Consider a half pad if you ride English style
- Buy the correct pad for the type of saddle
- Make sure the pad doesn’t alter your saddle fit
How Much Does a Girth or Cinch Cost?
Girths and cinches are essential pieces of tack that may or may not cost you a lot of money.
One of the best girths I bought was an inexpensive, elastic, fleece-lined one for about $35. So, why might you need a more expensive girth? If your horse is sensitive or allergic to certain materials, you may need to hunt for something different.
You also may need something that distributes pressure more evenly, if your horse has a delicate girth area.
Some saddles need to be set back a bit to fit the horse properly and to avoid interfering with the shoulder and restricting movement.
If your horse is constantly hitting their shoulder blade on the saddle, it may end up painful and resistant to work. In this case, you may need to budget for an anatomical girth or cinch.
Some of those fancier girths and cinches are designed for particular sports, so you likely won’t need to look at those (yet).
- Does your horse need a certain material?
- Are they sensitive to girth pressure?
- Do they need a contoured girth to provide shoulder relief?
How Much Do Stirrups Cost?
If you’re a beginner, you can get by using inexpensive stirrups, but safety stirrups are always a great idea. Yes, even for you adults.
Consider purchasing safety stirrups that are designed to release your foot so you don’t get caught up and dragged after a fall.
Western safety stirrups may be a little more costly, but if you ride by yourself or are still fairly new to riding, they can be a lifesaver.
Of course, you can sit back and ogle all those fancy, expensive stirrups, but they’re probably not worth the expense if you’re just starting out.
Some are made of amazingly light materials, have wider treads, or are jointed to help soften the impact and protect your knees and ankles. Necessary? Probably not. Fun if you want to splurge? Most definitely.
You might also want to think about stirrup leathers. If you ride Western you don’t really need to worry about this, unless you want different fenders.
English saddles usually don’t come with either leathers or stirrups, so add on another $20-$100+ for those.
- Do you ride by yourself or are you still somewhat inexperienced?
- Do you have knee or ankle problems?
- Do you need extra support and grip to keep your stirrups?
How Much Does a Bridle or Headstall Cost?
It can be hard to pick your first bridle, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to find something great.
The most important part of any bridle or headstall is fit, so measuring your horse with a cloth measuring tape is the place to should start. Once you have an idea of what size you’re looking for, you can then look for something comfortable.
Cheap leather can often be very stiff and will require a lot of conditioning and breaking in to prevent rubbing and chafing.
Regardless, there are inexpensive options on the market that actually are nice and soft straight off the rack. So, you should either go to a tack shop and start touching, or ask other horse people for recommendations.
Other than correct sizing and comfort you should find something that matches the rest of your tack, although it’s not truly necessary to be able to ride.
You may also decide to leave the whole “leather” thing behind and buy a synthetic bridle or headstall. These can be fantastic options if you live in a hot, wet environment, don’t have a climate-controlled tack room, and don’t want to battle with moldy leather.
If you plan to hit the trails and know you’ll be getting a bit damp, you might look for nylon or BioThane options. Whatever material you opt for, your bridle still needs to fit AND be soft and comfortable.
- Do you know your horse’s size? If not, you had better measure.
- Make sure you buy something soft enough to prevent chafing.
- Match your current tack or buy something that can go with anything.
How Much Does a Horse Bit Cost?
If you know a lot of horse people, you’ll probably notice that they have a ridiculous number of bits hidden away in their tack room. Why? Because there are so many different types, sizes, and variations they wanted to try out.
If your horse is already trained, you should have an idea of what he or she prefers and what size they wear.
Usually, the previous owner will let you know what they normally used and you can buy the same thing.
If you don’t know your horse’s bit size, buy yourself a bit sizer so you take an accurate measurement.
Improperly sized bits can pinch your horse’s mouth or hit its teeth, making it an unpleasant experience for those and reducing the accuracy of your aids, so it’s important you get it right!
You may also be expected to use (or not use) certain bits in certain disciplines.
You’ll probably see a lot more curb bits in the Western world, while those focusing on English more commonly use a snaffle bit.
Like many other aspects of horse ownership, newbies should consult a trusted instructor and get them to help you make some of these decisions.
- If you don’t know your horse’s size – MEASURE!
- Pick what your horse is most comfortable with
- If you feel that you need a bit to control your horse, consider hiring a coach or instructor to work through your problems
How Much Do Horse Reins Cost?
Some of the less expensive bridles and headstalls out there may come with reins, but oftentimes they don’t. You can’t get much riding done without reins unless you’ve had a lot of training. (Of course, if you can ride without reins, you probably don’t need to be reading this!)
The type of reins you buy are based on the type of riding you do.
You may grab some standard flat-laced reins if you’re riding English, or you might need barrel reins or split reins for specific Western disciplines.
What you can expect to pay is based on the material, quality, and bonus features. High-quality, luxurious leather reins can cost quite a bit, but you may be able to get by perfectly fine with some braided nylon ones.
- What reins are you expected to use in your discipline?
- What’s your budget?
- Do you need a special length?
How Much Does a Horse Halter Cost?
Horse halters can run you anywhere from $15 to several hundred dollars (for a fancy show halter). You probably only need to spend about $20 to grab a decent nylon or rope halter, though.
Expensive halters are generally reserved for showing in hand, but some of the nicer luxury halters can get pretty pricey too.
- What size do you need?
- Do you need a breakaway halter?
How Much Does a Horse Lead Rope Cost?
Lead ropes are pretty cheap, with a basic one costing around $7 to $15, but you could pay $40 and upwards for special materials or features. As a new horse owner, you only need a standard cotton lead rope with a snap.
Halters and lead ropes from the same company are usually offered in matching colors, so you can coordinate everything.
- What type of material do you prefer?
- Do you want it to match your halter?
- What kind of snap do you prefer?
- What length do you want?
Nice-to-Have Horse Tack
How Much Do Horse Boots Cost?
There are quite a few different types of horse boots out there and you should understand what they’re for before you go out and buy them.
There are hoof boots that protect their feet if they’re barefoot, ones designed to prevent injury from back hooves overreaching and hitting the front, and others that support and protect your horse’s legs and tendons.
Reining riders may invest in special boots to protect their horse’s legs from abrasions and strain while sliding. There are even boots out there to protect your horse’s legs while they’re riding in the trailer and ones to keep irritating flies at bay.
Boots can cost you anywhere from under $20 for some bell boots to over $300 for a pair of high-quality sport boots.
- Does your horse work hard enough to require something like sport boots?
- Does your horse overreach or need extra protection due to the way they move?
- What size boots does your horse wear?
How Much Do Horse Polo Wraps Cost?
Polo wraps are similar to sport boots in that they protect their skin from dirt or scrapes and can provide a little extra support. They’re usually a lot cheaper, though, and generally run $15 to $100.
The trick with polo wraps is learning how to actually put them on your horse!
The easiest way is to have an experienced friend or instructor show you and then watch you do it yourself.
If they’re too tight they can cut off circulation and if they’re too loose they can slide down, so make sure to practice and check your work.
- Does your horse really need the extra support and protection?
- Do you know how to apply them, or do you have someone who can teach you?
- Most importantly: what color do you want?
How Much Does a Breast Collar or Martingale Cost?
Breast collars (for you Western people) or breastplates (for you English people) can be a great addition to your tack collection if you need them (many do not).
Those in the English realm may also use martingales – either running or standing. Western versions often go by the name tiedown.
Martingales and tiedowns are used to control how the horse carries their head and can attach in different ways.
A tiedown may connect from the cinch to the noseband and is used for a horse to brace against while doing athletic maneuvers, such as barrel racing. They are not intended to keep your horse’s head down, although you will probably see them used that way.
A martingale is generally used to keep a horse’s head from coming up too high or to correct poor head carriage and improve the horse’s way of going.
Standing martingales are more restrictive than running martingales and can be riskier to use.
No tiedown or martingale should ever be used if there is a chance that your horse will fall, swim, or end up in deep water.
Breastplates and breast collars are used to prevent the saddle from slipping backward. Some English breastplates have optional martingale attachments as well.
Both breastplates and breast collars can be useful if your horse is traveling over difficult terrain with steep inclines and declines. They can also help keep the saddle in place when making sudden turns or doing a lot of work at speed.
- Do you actually need a breastplate/breast collar or tiedown/martingale?
- Are you able to fit and use one properly? If not, you should work with someone experienced.
- What material do you prefer, and do you need it to match your tack?
How to buy horse tack on a budget
If you’re on a tight budget but need to buy tack for your horse, you can try looking for secondhand options either online, at a tack shop, or at a local tack sale.
If there’s something you want but that’s a bit out of your budget, you can wait for tack shops to have sales or keep an eye out for something lightly used.
You should also resist the overwhelming desire to buy the fanciest, most expensive options on the market.
It’s really hard, I know. Sometimes the best saddle for your horse is actually very reasonably priced. Save the super costly items for when you’ve selected your niche and are actually competing.
You should work with an instructor or a trusted friend if you’re not very experienced with horses and horse tack.
There are many companies out there that will try to convince you that you need to buy a lot of gear, but, honestly, you don’t need very much to ride and enjoy your horse.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much does a full set of horse tack cost?
The total cost depends on a few factors, like what discipline you ride and whether you buy used or new. Let’s break down the costs involved.
- Saddle: The saddle, stirrups, stirrup leathers, saddle pad, and girth can run to anywhere from $250 to over $8,000.
- Bridle: A bridle, reins, and a bit may range from $70 to $1,000.
- Accessories: Some types of riding, like western or jumping, involve other pieces of tack like a riding crop, martingale, or breastplate. Factor in $125 to $250 if you need these items.
- All in all, that brings your total cost to between $450 and $9,500.
Q: How much does horse tack weigh?
How much your tack weighs can vary widely depending on the type of tack and the material it’s made from.
For example, a synthetic all-purpose saddle may weigh only 12 pounds, whereas a western ranch saddle can weigh as much as 60 pounds.
Here’s a general breakdown of some saddle weights.
- Racing saddle: 1 lb.
- Close contact saddle: 10-15 lbs.
- All-purpose saddle: 15-20 lbs.
- Dressage saddle: 15-25 lbs.
- Trail saddle: 25-35 lbs.
- Barrel saddle: 25-35 lbs.
- Roping saddle: 30-45 lbs.
- Ranch saddle: 40-60 lbs.
Q: Can you ride a horse without tack?
You can ride a horse without any tack, using just a neck rope, but this takes a lot of skill and practice.
Riding a horse bareback without a saddle requires balance, skill, and coordination, so those new to riding will find it extremely difficult and may cause their horse discomfort if they try it out.
Riding a horse without a bridle also takes a lot of practice, and requires the horse to be re-trained to respond to different aids or cues.
Only once you’ve perfected the art of riding with tack can you take the leap to ride without any at all. It’s certainly not a sensible option if you’re just looking to save money!
It’s so much fun to buy tack for your horse, whether it’s your first or your tenth (bit or horse). There are so many colors and patterns of saddle pads, so many comfy girth or cinch materials, and thousands of different bits to choose from.
It can be easy to spend a lot, but luckily, it’s not too difficult to find everything you need on a budget.
Do your homework, ask for help, and you’ll be riding in style before you know it (with some cash leftover).
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- How Much Horses Cost & How You Can Afford One
- 5 Best Saddle Racks for Keeping Tack in Tip-Top Condition
- Sticker shock: How much does it cost to feed a horse?
- Beginner’s Guide to Horse Hay Nets & Bags
- Food or Foe: What Do Horses Eat (And Why)
- Estimate Your Average Horse Cost (State by State)
- 6 Best Fly Boots for Horses Harassed by Bugs