When was the last time you cleaned your horse’s tack? Is your tack spotlessly clean? Does your tack need a repair job? There are many important jobs associated with horse ownership which let’s be honest, just isn’t much fun at all. Cleaning tack is probably one of the least desirable jobs that come with horse ownership and is a task that routinely gets forgotten and pushed to the side for another day.
Tack can be pretty expensive to buy and in theory, should last a reasonable amount of time providing you take good care of it. The bulk of most tack items are made from leather which is a highly durable and long-wearing material. It does however require regular care and maintenance to really stand the test of time. It never ceases to amaze me how many riders refuse to clean tack weekly let alone daily.
Why Do I Need to Clean Tack?
Cleaning tack is such an important part of riding, not only for you and your pocket but also for your horse that has to wear said tack. Most tack items such as saddles and bridles take an enormous amount of abuse on a daily basis. They endure dirt, sweat, and horse slobber that can break down the leather and stitching over time. Leather can also become pretty stiff if it is not taken care of properly. This can become frustrating when trying to secure or undo keepers and can make adjusting the stirrup leathers a challenge.
Cleaning tack regularly can make such as difference not only to the functionality and overall look of the equipment, but also the tack safety too. There is no doubt about it, when leather gets hard and isn’t as supple as it should be it is very likely to break. A bridle or saddle that breaks during a ride is a dangerous situation, to say the least. Cleaning the tack also gives you a good opportunity to give saddles and bridles the once over to make sure there are no breakages or loose stitching.
Tack cleaning is also important for the comfort of your horse. A saddle or bridle that has collected dirt in certain areas can be very uncomfortable for your horse which can lead to behavioral issues.
How Often Should I Clean My Horse’s Tack?
The very simple answer to this is – daily. Ideally after each ride. Think of it from your own hygiene perspective. You wouldn’t wear the same clothes over and over again without washing them so why should your horse? It’s true to say that life gets hectic and trying to get all the chores complete at the stables with limited time available can be challenging. If daily tack cleaning is not possible, try to commit to at least 3-4 times a week as a good compromise.
How Do I Clean Tack?
Cleaning tack is pretty simple once you know-how and the more you do it the quicker you will get at the process. You won’t need to take your bridle fully apart for cleaning every time, but you will need to do so ideally once a month for a deep clean.
- Make sure you have all the necessary cleaning equipment to hand before you start. You will need a sponge, a cloth, clean warm water, glycerin soap (which usually comes in the form of a bar), and a quality leather balsam product.
- Use the dampened sponge with some warm water to wipe down the tack and remove all the dirt, mud, and sweat. Try to do this as soon as you have finished riding so the sweat doesn’t dry out which can leave it engrained in the stitching.
- Next, take your glycerin soap and a new sponge soaked in warm water. Apply a small amount of the soap to the sponge and give your tack a good going over. Pay particular attention to stitching, seams, and crease in the leather.
- Remove any soap residue by wiping over the tack with the cloth.
- Make sure all your buckles are clean but ensure any soap is fully wiped off afterward.
- Always make sure you clean your horse’s bit after every riding session. DO NOT use any chemicals on the bit, running it under a tap is sufficient.
- Always cover the saddle once you have finished cleaning to ensure moisture stays locked in, otherwise, it will dry out the leather.
- Don’t forget about girths, saddle cloths, and bits! They are important to keep clean too.
- It is recommended that a couple of times a month you condition the leather with a good quality leather balsam. This should not be carried out for every clean.
- Once a month, take your bridle apart fully and apply a light application of the leather dressing. Your bridle should be left for a day without use to allow the dressing to soak in.
- If tack has got particularly wet during a ride, give it a good wipe over and apply some light dressing to restore the moisture and keep the leather supple.