It might be just me, but it seems that every time I’m a spectator at a horse show, I can't help but notice any and all unusual items of tack being used in the warmup and show rings. If you're reading this, it probably means I'm not the only one. As interesting as these "out of the box" tack choices are to ogle from the sidelines, when it comes to the big time show jumpers, there has to be a serious benefit behind the not-so-standard pieces of leather and metal adorning their four-legged partners.
As humans, we don’t all wear the same clothes or wear the same type of sneakers when we workout, so why would our horses conform to uniform equipment, too? Each horse is unique, and we're seeing that expressed more and more in tack choices.
As I reached out to riders to ask about their weird tack choices, I learned that these days it’s all about custom fit, design, and a tailored experience for each animal. Check out the most unique items of tack I've seen lately, and what exactly they're all about.
1. Double Noseband
From a basic flash to a figure-eight to a drop noseband, the sky's the limit on how you prefer to bridle your horse. Recently, Dy’on released a new type of noseband that is quickly gaining popularity by the likes of Bertram Allen, Jessica Springsteen, and Lillie Keenan. Combining the effects of a cavesson and a drop noseband, this new innovation is designed for a stronger horse by controlling the opening of the mouth and shifting of the jaw, while also preventing pinching at the corners of the mouth.
“[RMF Swinny du Parc] has a tendency to open her mouth while ridden, which causes the bit to move and can alter the control. When I have her mouth closed, the bit stays steadier in her mouth and it’s nicer for her and easier for me on course,” Jessica explains. “With the pressure of the double noseband on two spots, it gives me the opportunity to have the noseband loose enough so Swinny is comfortable, but at the same time the bit stays nice and steady in her mouth.”
2. Rope Noseband
A typical noseband consists of one thing and one thing only – leather. So what’s this new type of noseband we’re seeing more frequently in the jumper ring? A nod to Argentina's polo ponies? Rope, rawhide – whatever you call it – it’s a deviation from the classic leather noseband. The rope noseband is used for horses who are on the stronger side as an added level of control for the rider. Top riders from around the world use this type of noseband, including Kevin Staut – who uses them on most of his horses – Molly Ashe Cawley, John Whitaker, and Gregory Wathelet.
3. Pastern Wrap
One of the most sensitive areas on a horse body, pasterns are often prone to unwanted nicks and scratches. Although hind boots are used to protect horses’ back legs, the pastern is often unprotected and open for injuries. For American show jumper Adrienne Sternlicht, protecting her horses’ pasterns is a top priority when jumping – especially when on grass footing as it can be unpredictable. “We use pastern wraps whenever the horses are jumping on grass, with studs, for extra support,” Adrienne explains.
4. Horse Sox
Socks for horses? As weird as it sounds, this innovation is protecting your horse's legs for a multitude of purposes. The socks can be used under boots to prevent rubs, scratches (everyone's favorite fungal infection), or can be used as a compression sock that aids in increased circulation. An added bonus? They’re washable, reusable, and can be cut to your desired length. American show jumper Catherine Tyree recently started using the EquiFit GelSox on her mount Bokai.
“Bokai shows in the EquiFit Knock Knee liners because he has a tendency to knick the inside of his left knee with his right front foot when he jumps,” Catherine explains. “We added the EquiFit GelSox this summer because he started to catch himself on the inside of the same knee but above where the Knock Knee liners stop. The sock has added another layer of protection to help prevent him from cutting himself.”
5. Riding in a Fly Mask
Sometimes the simplest of hacks makes for the best solutions. But a fly mask in the show ring? Unfortunately, this is against the rules, but there’s no clause in the rule book barring fly masks in the warm-up ring. For Margie Goldstein-Engle’s powerhouse mount, Royce, wearing a fly mask is the perfect fix in keeping him focused in the warm-up and avoiding those nasty bugs and gnats. “He doesn’t like the bugs and is very sensitive to them,” Margie explains. It’s as simple as that!
Alright NF Community, chime in: what's the most unusual piece of tack you've ever used, or the weirdest tack you've ever seen? Comment below.
All photos by Dani Maczynski Photography.