Written by: Doug Breen

Humour columnist Doug Breen is bewildered by the amount of tack that crops up all over his house.

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I went down into the basement today, and there was another saddle down there. I have no idea how many saddles we own, but I know that we own more saddles than horses. On top of the saddle, there was a bridle. We own more bridles than saddles. In truth, I have no idea how much tack we own, but I know that in a pinch, we could suitably outfit a cavalry regiment. We even have a leathery, buckley thingy that would allow a person to attach a sword to one of our many saddles – can’t begin to guess why we own one of those.

And I have no idea where all of it comes from. I had suspected for a while, that there was a family of elves living in the abandoned cistern in the basement, and that they came out every night to cobble together a martingale or a crupper, or whatnot. It seemed like a reasonable explanation to an unreasonable situation. But then I started looking at the credit card statements, and sadly came to the realization that the elf responsible for the ever growing pile of tack – was me.

But even my unwitting participation in the stockpiling couldn’t explain the magnitude of the pile. That’s when I found out about ‘basement tack migration.’ It was my son, Walker, who told me about it. Apparently, whenever horsewomen get together, they trade tack amongst themselves, like a bunch of 12-year-olds swapping hockey cards. They don’t play ‘bounce backs’ for stirrup irons, or put hoof picks in the spokes of their bikes, but the trading is just as intense. So, every time my wife goes to a Pony Club meeting, she comes back with more tack from other people’s basements, in exchange for stuff that I didn’t even know we had. Often, the same piece of tack will circulate between dozens of basements, before it ever lands in a place where it actually gets used. Sometimes, I’m told, the tack will go full-circle and end up back where it started. Once a year, the local trail riding association rents the community hall, and everyone brings their basement tack to the same place, give each other a bunch of money, and go home with a slightly different pile of unnecessary tack.

This is something that could really only happen in the world of women. Ask me if I need another shirt, and I’ll say, “No, I have a shirt. As you can see, I’m wearing it right now.” Imelda Marcos had over 2,700 pairs of shoes when her husband’s regime was overthrown. I’m sure that Ferdinand had the shoes he was wearing during the coup, plus a pair of work boots that he wore on weekends if he was building a deck, or digging a hole in the back yard to dispose of a political rival. Imagine what the pile of tack in their basement must have looked like!

And I won’t lie to you, the revolutionary new tack – which we so desperately need to own – looks pretty much exactly like the tack we already had. I went to the Museum of the Horse in Lexington, Kentucky a while back, and the equipment from 2,000 years ago looks pretty much exactly like the equipment we’re buying today. Sure, stirrups were legitimately revolutionary, but even that was 1,000 years ago. And since then, the only truly new thing about tack is the tentative use of new materials – and I say tentative, because most attempts to use materials like nylon, polar fleece, or plastics, have not been well-received. I find it odd that we’ve so quickly adopted dry-fit, microfibre, ultra-light, weather-proof, super-insulated clothes for us, but tack still needs to be made of leather, steel and wood – like it was 300 years ago. I don’t see many people trail riding in the rain, wearing a wool coat and linen breeches.

So, we have tack. Lots and lots and lots of tack. In the basement. Hanging on the walls like art. In the back of the truck and in the trunk of the car. Yesterday, my daughter slammed the truck door on a full can of hoof paint, and it exploded all over the seat, dashboard, and windshield. Krista explained that she couldn’t believe that it could happen, when that can had been in the truck for more than a year. I replied that I couldn’t believe that the truck had become such a rolling tack box that having a can of hoof paint in the back seat for over a year seemed reasonable to her. I suggested that perhaps she should get her equine accoutrements out of the truck; which I suppose, is what led to me finding a new saddle and bridle in the basement this morning. Maybe if she’d left them in the truck, she’d have traded them next Monday for something else we don’t need.