Tacking Up. What We Ride In.
Merlin uses a hand-me-down wool saddle pad in tan plaid. Wendy gave it to me at last summer's fiddle camp and I use it nearly every day. It is thick, wicks sweat, and gives an amazing cushion for Merlin. I have used plain old blankets, thinner synthetic pads, and such but nothing seems to work as well as a real wool pad.
I use a western black leather bridle, 6" snaffle "mule" bit, and a ten foot long pair of black cotton reins. The black cotton is so comfortable for trail riding, thick and beefy to hold. It takes me out of the dressage ring or english lesson mindset, too. Last night I wanted to get back into the lighter English saddle I have and I did, but I still used the big reins and western bridle. Merlin seems to like less pressure on his mouth (I imagine most horses do!) and I give him control of his head while we amble along.
On long outings Merlin has canvas saddlebags and I roll a blanket over his rump behind the cantle. I can pack drinks, hoof pick, fly spray, halter and lead, first aid gear, rain gear, a pocket knife, weather alert radio and whatever book I am reading. Sometimes there is a cold hard cider in a small lunch cooler with an icepack, sometimes there is just ice water. Other times (after a rough day) I just stick a flask of whiskey in my sporran and that's the end of that. I do not suggest anyone ride while drinking but a sip of good bourbon on top of a horse on a mountaintop view never hurt anyone, by god.
So that is Merlin's gear. I always ride in the same thing: cowboy shirt, straw hat, kilt, full-seat breach bloomers, paddock boots and half chaps. I'll get a picture of us together in our updated highlander gear eventually. But I wanted to share what we use here in words (even if the picture is older, showing a plain blanket and our old lesson bridle). If you have any questions or suggestions for good trail stuff, let me know!