Get Your Tack Cleaner Out!
You have made a significant investment in your tack and so it makes sense to take good care of it. If you are busy or have had a tiring day it is all too easy to neglect your tack. But if you get out your tack cleaner and spend just a few minutes after every ride it could save you hours or a lot of heartache further down the line. So how do you take good care of your tack?
Your tack’s main enemy is simple neglect. It should last for years but will deteriorate within months without regular TLC. Improper storage will also be problematic. Damp conditions in your store room or a good downpour can see mould setting in and exposure to sunlight will degrade the leather. Store your tack in a dry environment and cover your saddle when it is not in use.
Your riding attire could also damage your tack. The seams in jeans, full chaps and boot zippers can all represent a hazard to your saddle. Make sure that your clothes and the clothes of anyone who rides using your tack are suitable. You should also be mindful that dogs and cats may scratch or chew your saddle!
Cleaning and Conditioning
It is best to clean your tack after every use. If nothing else, wipe down your tack at the end of the day, especially your girth which can get sweaty and muddy from rides. If possible, use warm water and saddle soap with glycerine or a proprietary leather tack cleaner to do this but even a quick wipe with a damp cloth will get the worst off and make all the difference. An accumulation of dust will soon start impacting your leather as dust particles are sharp and will grind into the leather. You can invest in wipes which you can use when you are away from the stables for shows. These will enable you to remove the worst of the grime and dust when you don’t have access to all of your gear.
It is also important to wash off your bit after each ride, as saliva and any vegetation your horse has managed to cheekily swipe on your ride will gunk up moving parts and be more difficult to clean once dry. Also you wouldn't want to put a dirty bit into your horses mouth next time you ride.
How often to give your tack a proper clean will depend on how much you use the tack and how dirty it gets. For some people this may be weekly but for others this time consuming task could be monthly. For a deeper clean you would need to disassemble your bridle (after making note of the buckle positions if it's not clear enough from the marks) and take off any loose parts on your saddle. Clean all of your tack parts with warm water, a good saddle soap or tack cleaner and then apply a coat of conditioner. This will remove all particles from the leather and feed it so that it remains supple. There are a variety of at Equi Supermarket.
Before choosing your cleaning products it is a good idea to check with your saddle’s manufacturer as tanning processes vary. The various cleaning products will effect leathers in different ways. Your manufacturer may be able to give you good advice about the most appropriate regime for your particular tack.
Raising the Dead
If you have neglected your tack then you could find that you are faced with leather that requires a bit more than just tack cleaner. You may be able to rescue it but it could be hard work! Start by cleaning the leather. Dry it off and then oil it. The leather may require several treatments but be careful not to apply too much oil each time as it could soak into the padding beneath the leather. Good quality leather is easier to bring back from the dead than lower grade leather.