By definition, it’s the place you store your tack. In practice, it’s so, so much more. In our “More Than” series, we’re taking a more meaningful look at aspects of our horse life.
It’s more than a tack room.
When you took your first riding lesson, the tack room was an endless space full of sweet-smelling leather, each comfortably-worn saddle shiny in all the right places, the bridles so neatly in order. Before and after your lesson you liked to stand at the bridle hooks and read to yourself the name of each horse, running your fingers over the mysterious bits, their various purposes still cloudy to you but nonetheless tallied in your mind (“full-check snaffle,” “French link,” you remember from studying your horse books).
The highest racks were for the advanced horses, the fastest, trickiest ponies or the biggest jumpers that your barn contained — the saddles were kept up high, while the old schoolmasters were down low for your child arms to reach easily, carefully bundling your girth and saddle pad on top so you could march proudly down the barn aisle to your horse’s stall. The saddles were still so heavy to you then.
As you got older, it became a source of pride for you to straighten the girths or cinches that were put away crooked by the tiny lesson kids, to organize the bridles and re-wrap the figure eight, while gossiping with your new barn friends about the tiny lesson kids who couldn’t ever put anything away properly. That was you only last year, but you’re older now, and you know some things. When the lesson kids ask you for help, though, you’re as helpful as you can be, carefully loading saddles into their arms and sending them on their way.
When you finally convinced your parents to pay for a half-lease on your favorite lesson horse, it was a mark of personal pride that one of the associated privileges was keeping your own trunk in the boarder’s tack room. All you have in it is a bag of horse treats and some brushes you won at the last schooling show, and your sweaty helmet makes the whole trunk smell like gym socks, but it’s your trunk, and that lesson horse is yours too — at least part of the time. You liked to complain with an exaggerated exasperated tone to your fellow lessees that the lesson kids were always changing your stirrup length on the lesson saddle. You bought your half-lease a set of polo wraps and a matching ear bonnet, so that you could have more things to store in your tack trunk.
As you grew older, you begged and pleaded and finally you and your parents together scraped up enough money to buy you your first horse: perhaps he was a bargain green-bean from another farm in the area, or maybe your trainer even agreed to sell you that lesson horse. You worked off part of your board, mucking stalls and turning out and maybe helping those tiny lesson kids get tacked up for their own lessons. You really wanted to spend your free moments sitting with the other boarders in the boarder tack room, that gang with its undeniable cool, but you had a lot of work to do.
The tack room witnessed many changes in styles and fads: there was the summer that everyone had to get the fanciest, busiest-patterned polo wraps they could find and wear a different pair every day. Polo wraps festooned the boarder tack room like party streamers, rolling across the floor or sticking to each other’s velcro, mixing and matching in combinations both charming and atrocious (the leopard print and the argyle plaid was never a winning combo). Then it became the autumn of coordinated shirts and saddle pads; you had that one friend who had so many saddle pads that she had to shift a big stack of them just to get her trunk opened up every day. You had another friend who insisted on changing her bit every week just because she could, and the other friend who collected bridles like they were going out of style.
Every spring your trainer made you all collectively clean out the tack rooms, dragging the trunks out into the aisle so you could sweep the cobwebs and dust bunnies and dead flies and dead mice and forgotten ear bonnets and ribbons from last summer’s schooling show out of the corner, and every spring your trainer threatened that she was going to take away everyone’s tack trunk privileges if you all couldn’t keep the room a little tidier. She never actually went through with it, and your tack room remained your clubhouse, your little corner of the horse world that was all yours.
Years later, you’ll walk into your very own tack room at your own little farm, which despite your best efforts to keep neat and tidy has somehow found a way to collect things you didn’t even know you owned. Reins seem to multiply when you’re not looking, and there are old horse blankets slowly gathering dust every time you turn around. Some day, you tell yourself, I’m going to clean everything out of here, go through it all, sell what I don’t need, and finally get this place organized. And then you laugh, because this is your tack room, your little corner of the horse world, and it’s a little messy and a little imperfect but still gets the job done just fine, just like you.
It’s more than a tack room.