Your tack – saddles, bridles, girths and other paraphernalia that your horse wears – are a big investment so you want to be sure to care for it properly. Not only will it last longer and hold its resale value but it will also be more comfortable for your horse and show the pride you take when your horse is well turned out.
Caring for your tack involves storing it properly and keeping it clean. All tack should be kept in a warm, dry location. If it is very damp or humid where you live, you may choose to keep your tack in the house if your barn doesn’t have a tack room that is warm and dry. Because we live in a rainy climate, we keep our tack in an insulated tack room with a heater set on low during the colder months. If you choose to use a heater in a barn, you must be absolutely certain that it is not a fire hazard and that there is nothing that could come in contact with it and potentially start a fire. The barn we were at previously provided each boarder with a locker to store her tack in. It felt damp to me so I put a little dish containing a desiccant at the bottom of my locker. This helped to absorb moisture. Desiccants are usually made from silica gel. (You see those little packets in shoe boxes and in some food products). I used a product sold by Uline that I ordered off Amazon. It wasn’t that expensive and really helped keep the moisture out of my locker. I was also meticulous about never putting anything damp away in my locker – saddle pads in particular, can easily be put away damp, creating a cycle of damp, mold and mildew that is hard to get rid of.
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When it comes to cleaning your tack, how often and what products should you use? Well, in an ideal world, you’d clean your tack every single time you rode. And some dedicated individuals do this. But if you are like me, your busy schedule doesn’t allow for this luxury. One thing I do clean after every ride though is my horse’s bit. A bit with hardened, dried on grime can cause mouth sores which can be very painful for your horse and mean giving him time off to heal. I fill a small bucket with a bit of warm water, dip the bit in it and then use a slightly abrasive pot scrubber to get it sparkling clean. Never use a dish scrubber that has soap in it. Any soap residue left on your bit will taste terrible to your horse and may make him less likely to accept the bit when you are tacking up.
I like to clean my tack every couple of weeks or so though I must admit that I sometimes leave it a little (okay, a lot) longer than that especially during the cold winter months. In the summer though, it is a joy to sit outside in the sun and clean tack. I always start off with a high quality leather soap. Right now I’m using Feibing’s saddle soap. They offer a wide range of saddle care products but there are many other equally effective brands on the market. I apply the soap with a damp sponge and work it thoroughly into the leather of my saddle or bridle. Make sure you take your bridle apart otherwise soap and leather conditioner just builds up around the buckles and makes your tack look dirtier than ever. If you already have some of this build up on your tack, you will need to physically scrape it off. (I find that my thumb nail works perfectly for this). Some saddle soaps also include a leather conditioner but if yours doesn’t you will want to condition your leather after cleaning it. Lexol offers a full line of leather care products that many horse owners use, including a very nice leather conditioner. Conditioning your tack keeps it from becoming hard, cracked or brittle over time.
If you have a synthetic saddle such as a Wintec, you can vacuum any excess dirt or hair off it. You can also rinse it off with a hose. You may want to use a stiff toothbrush to get the dirt out of the nooks and crannies. If you are going to hose it off, I’d suggest only doing so when the weather is warm enough that you can be sure that it will dry thoroughly.
Well cared for tack will maintain its value for many, many years. In fact, I still have a saddle that is over 30 years old and you would never know it. If you have any tack care tips or products that you’d like to recommend, please send us a note.