Tack Cleaning

Tack cleaning, Love it or Hate it, it is a necessity when owning a working horse.

For those of us who own retired or un-rideable horses, feel free to gloat at the lack of this chore, which is hated by so many. I myself don’t mind doing it, however I have to feel that I have enough time to do it properly, or I don’t do it at all. Not the best practice to have I must say.

We all know that we are meant to wipe down are tack every time we ride, and I do know someone who does this religiously, and I must confess, I’m a little jealous of her, to have that level of dedication. But like the vast majority of us riders, it just doesn’t happen that way.

  • Clean your tack every day.

Cleaning your tack every time you ride does have some advantages thought, apart from the fact that it is a two minute job every day, it does mean that there isn’t this build up of grease that has to be practically scrubbed off the leather, the night before a competition.  Cleaning your tack straight after you ride also means that the tack is warm, as the body heat of your horse warms up the tack, meaning that the grease will clean off more easily from the tack. Keep a bucket with your tack cleaning stuff handy, so that you can grab it before you put your tack away.

  • Strip down your tack

Even though I don’t clean my bridle (or any of my tack) often enough when I do, I always strip it down, that is, I take it all to bits. Not only does this mean that you can clean every part of the bridle and saddle properly, getting into all the creases, and behind other parts of the leather, it also means that you can properly inspect the leather for cracks, splits, damaged stitching or other signs of wear and tear. Whilst you strip your bridle down, take the time to soak your bit in hot water, to get rid of any stubborn grime on it, it buffs up much shinier too.

  • Use hot water

You don’t need the water scolding hot, but really warm water makes the job a lot easier, in part because it helps to loosen the grease on your tack. Another advantage is that, particularly in the winter, your fingers don’t turn into little icicles.

Make sure you don’t put too much water on your tack, as it takes longer to dry.

  • Use the right saddle soap

With so many available on the market, picking the right saddle soap can be a little bit of a mind field. A  lot is down to personal choice. I like the spray soaps, but find that I use them too quickly, and get a bit ‘trigger happy’. I like my solid saddle soap bars, as I find that I don’t get that frothy white foam, which you want to avoid when cleaning your tack. The problem with solid saddle soaps, is that you can ofter be left with a bit at the end, which never seems to be big enough to use up. Which ever you choose, make sure your happy with it, as you’re more likely to clean your tack if your happy with the products you use.

  • Choose a decent conditioner

As with saddle soaps, choose a conditioner or leather balsam that you are going to use.  Having one you are happy to use will do your tack far better, than a really expensive one that sits in your tack locker looking good. Unfortunately finding a saddle soap and conditioner you are happy with is a little bit of trial and error. Most companies make small (100gm) tubs of saddle soaps and conditioners, so although in the long run it would work out more expensive to buy the little sizes, try a small size to see if you like the product. Also, don’t feel like you have to stick to one brand! You don’t have to use saddle soap and conditioner from the same brand.

  • Don’t put too much on your tack.

Putting lots of saddle soap and conditioner on your tack won’t keep it cleaner for longer, or make it last longer (SORRY!!) Little and often crops up a lot with the care of the horse, and it’s true for your tack. Wipe, clean with soap, wipe and sparingly oiling your tack is the best form of care it can receive, and doing this regularly will help to preserve your tack. Using a separate cloth or sponge for wiping down, saddle soap and conditioning may sound expensive and rather a faff, however, it actually means that you don’t end up putting conditioner onto your dirty tack when you want to clean it. It also means that you don’t end up washing half of your soap or leather conditioner away when you wipe down your tack. I use different colour sponges, but you could always write on them with perminant marker so you know which ones for what job.

  • There are No Cheats

Maybe I should have put this at the beginning, but I’m sure it would put a few of you off. But look at it this way, you’ve spent anywhere from £20.00-£200.00+ on your bridle. Whichever end of that scale your bridle fits, you want it to last.  Taking good care of it will help it to last years and years, meaning that you will be saving money (and time not looking around a tack shop for a replacement). The same definitely applies with your saddle. Caring for your tack also means that you can spot any defects with your tack. The last thing you want to do is be riding along and find that your stirrup leather or your reins have snapped.