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How to Maintain and Clean Horse Tack

Updated on December 26, 2012

Tack

Tack refers to any equipment used on the horse, including the saddle, girth, bridle, and miscellaneous equipment such as martingales, side reins, etc.

Tack can be extremely expensive. Whether your saddle and bridle are made of leather or synthetic materials, regular cleaning, storage, and repair will:

  • prolong the longevity of your tack,
  • keep the horse more comfortable,
  • and prevent dangerous accidents from broken equipment.

Jockeys

Dirt and sweat have accumulated on this girth to create little chunks of dirt called 'jockeys.' Jockeys, old dirt and salt can cause sores when it rubs on your horse's skin.
Dirt and sweat have accumulated on this girth to create little chunks of dirt called 'jockeys.' Jockeys, old dirt and salt can cause sores when it rubs on your horse's skin. | Source

Clean & Condition

Tack must be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of sweat and dirt, which can cause the horse discomfort and sores.

Daily Cleaning

Each day, after riding:

  • rinse or wipe off the bit with clean water (would you want a dirty bit in your mouth?)
  • wipe a damp cloth over all of your tack, especially areas like the girth where the leather touches the horse's skin.

Weekly Cleaning

Every week or so, perform a full cleaning of all tack. For synthetic materials, wash the surface with warm water and a mild soap if desired. Leather is more high maintenance, and requires the following materials to keep the leather supple and strong:

  • a few sponges or rags,
  • warm water,
  • leather cleaner,
  • leather conditioner,
  • and leather protector.

Leather requires maintenance even when it isn't used. Although your equipment won't become dirty, you'll need to care for the leather every few months so that it won't become moldy or dry out and become stiff.

Cleaning leather tack:

I always set up in the living room, where it is warm and I can watch the television as I work. Place the saddle on a saddle rack or saw horse (never place your saddle flat on the ground because it can damage the tree). Take everything apart, stirrup leathers, bridles, etc. This may be annoying, but it is the only way to clean all parts of the leather. Plus, it is a good way to be very familiar with all parts of your tack.

The bit and stirrup irons can be placed in warm water to soak. If your are preparing for a show, you can use metal polish on the stirrup irons and any buckles, but don't ever use metal polish on the bit. If you want to get the bit extra clean, use a toothbrush and toothpaste. Your horse will appreciate it!

Step 1

Rub a damp cloth or sponge in circles all over the surface of the leather. Try to remove any visible hair, sweat, or dirt. Never soak the leather, because the evaporation of water leads to dry, cracked leather.

Step 2

Use a leather cleaner to remove any remaining dirt. The sponge or cloth should be slightly damp, but never wet enough to cause the soap to lather. The cleaner should not be left on the leather, so wipe away the soap with a clean, damp cloth or sponge.

Step 3

Condition the leather, if needed. Over conditioning can damage the leather and degrade stitching, but some conditioning is necessary to replace the natural fat and oils the leather loses over time. If you live in a dry climate or if your tack is very old, you will have to condition more often.

To condition your tack, paint the conditioner onto the unfinished side of the leather, and gently bend the leather and rub the oil in with your fingers to help the leather soak up the oil. Wipe off any excess oil.

Step 4

Protect the leather by applying a glycerine soap. Take a damp cloth or sponge and rub it along the glycerine bar. There should not be enough water in the sponge to make any lather. Apply the glycerine in small circles to the surface of the leather. This will seal the pores of the leather, and helps to prevent dirt from gathering in the texture of the leather.

Storage

Keep your tack in a safe, dry place, and never next to heater where it can dry out and crack. Hang halters and bridles on the wall, and keep saddles on a saddle rack. If a saddle rack is not immediately available, never set your saddle flat on the ground. To protect the tree, always tip the saddle along the front of the legs straps. Always flip the saddle pad over and place it on top of the saddle to dry.

This stirrup leather was stored in my basement, where the air is damp. As you can see, quite a lot of mold has grown on the leather.
This stirrup leather was stored in my basement, where the air is damp. As you can see, quite a lot of mold has grown on the leather. | Source

Saddle Cover

Cotton Fleece Saddle Cover - Navy - One
Cotton Fleece Saddle Cover - Navy - One

A saddle cover will keep hay, dust, and moisture away from your saddle.

 

Bridle Rack

Intrepid International Horse Bridle Rack, Black
Intrepid International Horse Bridle Rack, Black

Never use a nail to hang your bridle-- the rounded shape of the bridle rack will keep your bridle up and out of the way and keep a dent from forming on the crown of the bridle.

 
Leather most often cracks along areas where the leather bends or at a buckle. Cracked leather is very dangerous, and often the cracks will develop dry rot. Dry rot is characterized by dry, brown powder, and any equipment with dry rot must be retired.
Leather most often cracks along areas where the leather bends or at a buckle. Cracked leather is very dangerous, and often the cracks will develop dry rot. Dry rot is characterized by dry, brown powder, and any equipment with dry rot must be retired. | Source

Safety Check & Repairs

Use your tack cleaning routine to check the safety of the tack. Notice if there are any:

  • particularly worn areas that may potentially break

Wearing usually occurs at points of contact with metal, such as billet straps (where the buckle of the girth connects with the saddle), reins, and cheek straps.

  • cracks in the leather

Leather should be supple. Do not use any tack that has cracks or dry rot, because it has a high risk of breaking.

  • loose stitching that may come undone

The stitching holds important parts of the tack together, so don't ignore loose or missing stitching.

Send your tack in for repairs or buy replacement parts. Repairs will prolong the lifespan of your equipment.

Stitching keeps your equipment together! The thread can degrade from damp environments, or simply come loose, and it is important for you and your horse's safety to repair any loose or damaged stitching.
Stitching keeps your equipment together! The thread can degrade from damp environments, or simply come loose, and it is important for you and your horse's safety to repair any loose or damaged stitching. | Source

Works Cited

Most of this information comes directly from the USPC D Level manual by Susan Harris.

To learn more about everything to do with horses, or to find a club near you, check out the USPC website.

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    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Great info and hub sigiguere, even though I don't have a horse :-) ! Your layout and photos are awesome. Happy New Year.

    • sgiguere profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Giguere 4 years ago from Marlborough MA

      Thank you Glimmer! Happy New Year to you as well :)

    • profile image

      austinesmith 2 years ago

      These are some very helpful tips to clean the Tack, and the products you mentioned are also quite affordable. I buy the cleaning stuff from Ride4Less and usually get discounts also. The tips you mentioned are very useful, and I like it. Thanks for sharing it. See more at: http://www.ride4less.co.uk/

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