Although you can easily spend thousands of dollars on authentic renaissance costume tack for you and your horse, it’s easy to make your own horse costume by upcycling tack you already have and making a few extra costume pieces using easy to find materials and basic sewing supplies. In this article, I’ll be walking you through the materials needed and steps for making a long Medieval style saddle pad, plus a breastcollar and hindquarters strapping (technically called “barding”) to make your horse’s renaissance costume complete.

This costume was made for under 60 bucks, simply by combining regular horse tack I already owned and a few extra items picked up mostly from fabric store clearance bins.

 

I made this costume in two parts: the breast collar + hind strapping (called barding) and the saddle pad. I’ll tell you how I made each using a basic sewing machine and a few extra supplies.

Supplies needed For Barding:

  • 2 inch wide nylon webbing (can be DIY’ed if you learn to make your own bias tape)
  • Qty 5 x 2″-3” wide O rings. (The hardest to source! You can potentially make your own with heavy gauge wire, or buy online here)
  • 1.5-2” wide trim – I scored this metallic Celtic inspired trim in a moment of serendipity at the craft store. You can find something similar here.
  • 4-6 2” wide tri-glide slides
  • Sewing machine

Supplies needed for  Renaissance style Saddle Pad:

  • 1 standard English/dressage saddle pad
  • 2 to 3 yards of a luxurious fabric (I used a velvet brocade)
  • Heavy scrap material to weight the bottom of the saddle pad on each side (I used an old thick bedspread that I cut up)
  • Sewing machine

Making Barding for a Horse Renaissance Halloween Costume.

  1. Step one is creating a pattern that fits your horse. There are patterns of online, but your horse is different than any other horse, so I think the best results comes from creating a pattern on your horse.
    • One easy way to do this is to pick up some cheap duct tape (the cheap works great for this application because it tends to not stick “too well”). Standing next to your horse, begin placing duct tape on your horse’s hindquarters, experimenting with how you want the barding to look.
    • The duct tape allows you to place and replace a pattern material while you develop a sense for where on your horse the barding should fall to look correct.
    • When you have the duct tape in the proper place, use a sharpie to label the pieces, and remove.
  2. Use this duct tape pattern to create your custom fit barding.
    • Cut your nylon webbing to length, place the metallic trim on top of it, and then stitch the embellished webbing together around the O-rings.
    • Remember that the duct tape pattern was created skintight, so you’ll need to add an inch or so to most of the straps to accommodate a looser fit and freedom of movement.
  3. You can secure the barding to your horse by attaching the barding to the saddle pad in three places: the right side, on the left side, and on the top.
  4. Create a breast collar (optional) using the same method.
    • Begin with an O-ring at the center of the chest, and affix three straps to it. Sitch a loop into the bottom strap to hook onto the girth.
    • The breastcollar can be made to match the hind barding or, if desired, more velvet brocade can be used for a more ornate best collar.

Making a Renaissance Style Saddle Pad for Horse Halloween Costume

  1. Make your own pattern for converting your saddle pad into an extended length Renaissance pad by using a large piece of scrap fabric – such as a sheet – under your saddle pad and cutting it down to size.
    • Making the pattern live on the horse helps create a pattern that is custom fit to the horse.
    • (See below, but this is also an excellent opportunity for desensitizing your horse to the costume you are creating)
  2. Once you know how long your costume saddle pad needs to drape, you can compare your homemade template to a standard saddle pad and calculate how much additional length you need to add to the pad.
  3. You can see in the image below how, working in layers, I was able to use a standard saddle pad to ensure that my equipment would be comfortable for my horse. By adding a layer over the standard saddle pad I kept the saddle pad functional while adding a decorative layer over the top.
  4. You’ll need to add slots for fastening the horses girth, but if you’re looking for a one – use costume you won’t need to hem those edges.
horse costume custom saddle pad
The underside of the costume saddle pad shows how it was first extended using a heavy scrap fabric, then covered with a fabric matching the horse’s costume.

The Most Important Part of your Horse’s Costume

The most important part of making your horse’s Halloween costume is making sure that you can enjoy it with your horse. Understandably, horses are often unsettled when asked to wear unusual Halloween costumes, or be ridden by a rider costume. To work proactively with this issue, you’ll want to begin preparing your horse – preferably weeks in advance – for the special equipment you will be riding in when in costume.

 

Training a horse for barding

The barding described in this article includes straps are on  the hindquarters – a particularly unsettling thing for many horses. Expect that this will require special training. You should ride your horse in the barding before the costumed exhibition, but I recommend starting sooner.

A good costume class horse is unflappable- exposure to objects hanging off or flapping during movement is essential prerequisite training.
A good costume class horse is unflappable- exposure to objects hanging off or flapping during movement is essential prerequisite training.

A great way to get a horse is to barding over there hindquarters is to first start with lunging with two lunge lines. Attach the first lunge line to the halter or lunging cavesson on the inside, then attach a second lunge line to the outside. Run this second lunge line around the far side of the horse’s body and around behind the horse- held with some tension above the horse’s hocks- and stand in the center of the circle or round pen holding both lines. Though it will take a little getting used to for both you and your horse, this helps the horse learn – in a way that doesn’t feel like being trapped – to get used to the feel of a rope on their hindquarters while moving.

A modified version of ground driving- in which the handler stands in the middle and the horse moves in a circle similar to lunging, is helpful for teaching horse’s to tolerate how the barding will feel when their costume is worn.

Once the horse is not reactive to having a rope around their hindquarters, you can begin training them to the actual barding you’ve made.

 

Costume Bridles and Saddles

You can use a standard bridle for your horse’s costume, or upgrade to a costume bridle. Unless you invest heavily in training and equipment to learn how to make costume tack, You should not make your own saddles and bridles- the quality of these products is simply too important for the safety of horse and rider. Many older bridles, however, look great with a renaissance horse costume. I paired this costume during our first class with a simple studded western headstall embellished with flowers, and when I’d roll it out for Halloween horse shows later, I typically paired it with a traditional English bridle and dressage saddle, and once with a Spanish baroque bridle.

If your horse is quiet, you can also add embellishments to your reins- such as fabric covers with scalloped or fringed edges, or flowers.


 

 

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