Top Tack Tips from Jayne Ross

April 6, 2022 9:19 am by
Posted in Horse of the Year Show, HOYS, Jayne Ross, News, Sponsored riders, Tips


Worrying about show ring etiquette can be off-putting for novices and knowing what tack you can or should use for your horse can be a minefield. I believe in keeping it simple, making sure the tack looks good, is comfortable and suitable for the type of horse.   

Whether you are competing in a class at your local show or progressing to the next level, you need to ensure your turnout is correct for the class to make that all important first impression to the judges. Remember – always have correctly fitted tack that is clean and supple.   

I try to be discreet rather than too obvious with tack.  It is important to that everything is appropriate for the type of horse and for the class you are entering, so check the rules carefully.  If you are unsure what is correct for your horse’s type, ask for help – professional show producers are usually very happy to offer advice.  You are trying to create a harmonious picture of horse and rider and your tack should be inconspicuous.   


Bridles that are too big or too small never look smart! Choose a bridle that suits your horse’s type and will enhance the head.  For a riding horse class, I like a well fitted, dark brown leather bridle without too many brass buckles, a plain cavesson noseband and a coloured browband.  I dislike black leather, and absolutely hate floppy browbands!  A well fitted, coloured brow band is correct but choose a good colour that doesn’t clash with your horse.  

Hunters and cobs should wear a plain leather browband, and the bigger horses look better with a slightly wider noseband and straps that look more workmanlike.  Hacks, however, should look elegant and so narrower leather for the bridle is appropriate, with a pretty coloured browband. 

Make sure your reins are of an appropriate length.  Reins that are too long can get hooked on your foot and be dangerous – the ride judge will not appreciate getting tangled up!  Leather reins, laced or plaited, would look better than rubber ones. We do sometimes put a rubber top rein on a double bridle when the English weather plays its trump card with heavy rain.  

Hickstead Small Show Hunter Wall Street 2 owned by Ellie Just c spidge photography


When it comes to bits, you need to check carefully what is allowed for your class and what works best for your horse.  Not every horse can cope with a double bridle, especially young horses, so consider a Pelham with a straight or jointed mouthpiece and double reins.   

Remember, a horse or pony that goes well in a snaffle bridle gives a nicer impression than one that goes badly in a double or Pelham bridle. 

HOYS 2109 Jayne riding the winner of the Large Riding Horse and Reserve Champion CSF Cummer Paradise Audrey owned by Tony Reynolds and Michael Cook.


Most importantly your saddle must be fit well and you and horse must feel happy and comfortable. Show saddles are usually fairly straight cut to show off the horse’s shoulder and I prefer a plain dark brown leather saddle.  We use the show saddles at home as well because this ensures everything is familiar to the horse and we the know we are both comfortable working in it. 

I prefer a plain leather girth to go with the saddle, especially on the hunters but I do sometimes like a white girth on the hacks.  This does help to lift everything when you have a very dark coloured horse.  I also use a white girth on a grey or coloured horse that has a lot of white.   


Stirrups and Leathers 

It is very important to be able to accommodate the judge should they need to ride your horse. This means suitable sized stirrup irons for potentially larger feet and long enough leathers if the judge is particularly tall or vice versa.  If you need to shorten the stirrups a lot, then make sure the horse is used to the ends of the leathers flopping against his sides.  

Saddle Pads and Numnahs  

We are careful to choose a saddle shaped numnah that goes with the horse, and make sure that it is neat and shaped to suit the saddle with minimum fabric showing.  We have the sheepskin ones shaped to fit the saddle.  Colour is also important; a white numnah on a grey and dark brown on a bay, and on coloureds it should be whichever is least obtrusive.   

We choose tack that looks good, is comfortable and that the horse will go best in. The team are important when making decisions on tack as when I am in the ring, it is the onlookers and the judge who can see what looks best.  We spend a lot of time at home deciding which item of tack looks good, changing nosebands, bits, girths and numnahs until we find what works best for each horse – it really makes all the difference and is worth the effort in the end. 

Casino III riding horse championship 2021 HOYS c 1st-class-images