Ok so a slightly more boring topic but this is just so important! Now let’s be honest, all equestrians know there are risks and must have at least a tiny bit of crazy to be riding horses. Ideally though, you don’t want to be having any accidents, especially ones that are easily preventable and before you even get onto the fun stuff!
It is SO easy to perform basic safety checks on your own tack, and it takes only a few minutes. I generally do mine when I’m cleaning my tack as you are already taking things apart and having a good look.
Firstly, you should just look at the overall appearance of your tack. Has anything changed? This may seem obvious but when you’re looking at it every day, it can be easy to miss things. Has anything changed shape? Is there a new dent or wrinkle in your saddle that you haven’t seen before? Leather will change in appearance over time and most likely it is nothing to worry about but if in any doubt, please ask a qualified saddler.
Next, stitching! There is A LOT of stitching in your bridle, saddle and all your other bits of tack and as the old saying goes “a stitch in time saves nine.” You should check all the stitching on your tack and if you notice sections of stitching are coming loose or rotting you should get it seen to as soon as possible (any qualified saddler should be able to help you out). Pay particularly close attention to girths, the girth straps on your saddle and stirrup leathers.
The next thing you want to check for is cracks in leather. Unfortunately, cracked leather cannot be saved and is at considerable risk of breakage, but it could be replaced. The most common place cracks occur is around holes and often next to buckles. If the leather is very dry and about to crack, this is a good sign that is has dried out and is in need of some oil!
Another sign of wear is when holes start to stretch. This is most commonly seen on girth straps and stirrup leathers. Slight stretching in leather is normal but if the holes are considerably elongated the strap becomes at risk of breakage and is no longer safe. Stretching can also cause the leather to become dangerously thin in areas of wear. Check the thickness of the strap all the way along and if it has become particularly thin in one place it is time to replace!
Remember that if in doubt, it is always best to ask! Most qualified saddlers will be happy to advise you on whether your tack is safe or in need of repair. Even if a repair is needed, surely the cost of safety is worth it!