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After your horse, tack is one of the biggest investments for riders. Learning to properly care for and maintain your tack will help it last longer and prevent accidents and injury from broken equipment. While cleaning your tack seems like a common enough task, many people neglect their tack, especially leather. Establishing a cleaning routine for your tack can save you time, money, and keep you and your horse safe.
Since we started talking about cleaning tack, you are probably asking why we are now talking about your tack room. The answer is simple, a clean storage area for your tack will keep your tack cleaner. Leather is very susceptible to mold in damp environments, so you want a clean, cool, dry room for storing tack. Keep your items organized to prevent tangling and damage. Also, watch for critters in your tack room. Rodents will chew leather, eat saddle blankets and make holes in winter blankets.
You can do a tack check every week or every month — the main goal is to create a regular schedule for checking all of your tack. You’ll want to go through common areas where problems occur in tack (Chicago screws are notorious for coming loose!). Check straps, buckles, Chicago screws, and ties. Replace or repair any problem areas.
Treat your saddle and bridle to a leather conditioning treatment to prevent dry and brittle leather. There are many products on the market for leather conditioning and cleaning, some are combined into one for convenience! Make sure to read the instructions for each product as they do vary a little. After conditioning your saddle it will feel a bit different for the first couple of rides. Some people find conditioners will be a bit sticky for the first couple of rides. For the first ride, make sure you are in a comfortable area for you and your horse while you adjust to the new feel. This will go away when the residue comes off after a ride or two.
Sweat and dirt are very damaging to leather equipment. A quick clean after a ride (or every couple of rides) can help prolong the life of your leather. Sweat can get into the crevices of your tack and will cause rot and cracking if not cleaned. For general cleaning, you’ll need a sponge, rag, warm water, and saddle soap or preferred leather cleaner.
Saddle soap - it is a wonderful cleaner but can be incredibly drying to leather if left on. Make sure to use a saddle soap with a small amount of water to clean away dirt, but don’t leave it on to absorb into the leather.
Oiling - most new tack does not need frequent oiling to keep the leather supple. Leather dressing can be used occasionally when the tack gets wet. Be careful applying any product that will increase the leather’s flexibility on stirrup leathers or reins. These are items you don’t want to stretch too much.
Deep cleaning your equipment a few times a year is very beneficial. Take apart all of your tack, clean and use a leather conditioner. Aside from your leather tack, wash your blankets, saddle pads, wraps and grooming supplies. Blankets, saddle pads and wraps can all be washed in a washing machine. Grooming supplies can be cleaned in a bucket of soapy water and placed outside to dry.