I don't know about you guys, but I actually love cleaning my tack. I love the way leather smells and I love how soft the leather gets. Nothing beats a buttery soft bridle that is conditioned and maintained. To me your horse tack is an investment, and with the amount of money I spend on it every year, I like to do everything I can and take care of it to ensure that it will last me for years.
Other than just keeping your leather clean and supple, tack cleaning also gives you the chance to inspect your equipment and make sure that it is still in good working condition or if it needs repair or replacement. Sometimes the inspection might also show you some changes in your leather and will prompt you to change the product you are using which in turn helps prolong the life of your leather.
What I find fun(and that's where you might question my sanity) is there are so many different types of products to maintain and condition your leather. Testing new products and seeing how they will react or behave once on my leather is part of what I enjoy. It gives me the chance to see which products work well to soft, condition, shine, clean or even darken it. Just so many products to work with!
Hopefully reading this post, you will give you some inspiration to develop your own tack cleaning program.
Tips and tricks
** Got mold? make sure your tack is always clean and dry before putting it away in a closed tack box. A leather cleaning product that contains a mold inhibitor (Leather Restorers & Conditioners are examples). The can also help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew between cleanings, especially in humid climates. Breathable bags are also great to store tack.
* Always make sure to keep your cleaning and polishing sponges and clothes separate. I have 2 different large ziplock bags that I have labelled and keep a sponge and a cloth in each for their designated use.
* Always take your tack apart(bridle and breastplate) apart when you are cleaning them. Most of the dirt accumulation is in the buckles, because the dust and grim has nowhere to go.
* Soft bristle toothbrush is fantastic in getting in those tiny nooks and crannies that you otherwise would not get access to.
* Keep bit wipes in your grooming kit for easy access when you are removing tack after you ride. Makes it easy to keep your bit clean.
Cleaning: Saddle soap
Leather damage on your saddle is often a result of an unbalanced pH level. When regularly cleaned with the proper saddle soap, the fatty acids in the soap combine with the salt contained in horse sweat to keep your saddle leather’s pH levels balanced properly.
Glycerine soap works to seal the pores of the leather, giving it a like-new glossy finish and protecting it from dirt.
Conditioning: Leather conditioner
I prefer using a cloth for this step because it gives you a better tool to work the conditioner into the leather than a sponge would. Make sure to condition all surface of your leather including those hidden areas under your flaps and the underside of those saddle flaps.
Brightening bits, stirrups, buckles and name plates
Once or twice a month, you should put all of your bits into a bucket for a thorough cleaning. Use a product like Bit Therapy Effervescent Cleaner, which fizzes when added to water, and let the bits sit for 8-1 mins. They’ll come out shiny and mint-scented, even in the hard-to-reach crevices. Another option is to put your bits in the dishwasher! even your stirrups do fantastic with a regular dishwasher trip!
If you don’t have time before a show, use a polish paste like Simichrome Polish on the rings of the bit to get them shiny. Your stirrups will also benefit from this-make sure you cover all aspect of the stirrup including the bottom, underneath portion. Be sure to select a non-toxic metal polish so you aren’t dyeing the surrounding leather, and allow the polish to sit for a few minutes before buffing it away.