Horse tack is a fairly large investment for an equestrian. It doesn't take long for these items to show wear and tear from the daily grind you and your horse put in.
Things like saddles, bridles, halters, and girths are all necessary items you should regularly clean and maintain.
But if you're new to horse riding and don't know much about tack cleaning and maintenance, you're in the right place. Here are the basics you'll need to know to keep your tack looking its best!
Why Should You Clean Your Horse Tack?
Leather is one of the best materials for making saddles and bridles because it offers comfort and durability. But sooner, it becomes dirty and gets damaged when not properly maintained.
Cleaning leather tack is more than just a matter of aesthetics. It’s an important part of horse care. Saddles, bridles, reins, and other gear can become wet, dry, or dirty in many ways when in use. These include sweat, rainwater, mud on the trail, dirt kicked up by a horse’s hooves, sweat stains from riding in hot weather or simply dust accumulated over time.
So, back to the question, why should you clean your leather tack? There are several reasons, but what matters the most are:
- It helps your tack to stay in good condition for years to come and keep its value when selling or trading.
- It makes your horse look more professional on the trail or at competitions.
- It's an important part of horse care, where cleaning prevents saddle sores and other skin problems. This is more common if your horse is always exposed to dirt and sweat.
Without proper care, tack will start to look old and worn out in no time at all.
The leather used in horse tack is a delicate material that is hard to maintain and clean properly. It also requires special attention as it can be damaged easily during cleaning. A little bit of research into the best methods can go a long way towards protecting your equipment while making it look new again!
Signs that You Need to Clean Leather Tack ASAP
You know how important leather tack cleaning is, but what signs do you need to take action? Here are a few signs that your dirty tack needs some cleaning.
- Crusty or sticky surface - If you've been riding in muddy conditions, tack items and parts such as girths, bridles, reins and stirrups may start to feel sticky when they get wet again. This is a sign that they need to be cleaned thoroughly.
- Rusty surface - Rust can develop over time on metal pieces of tack, especially if they're exposed to moisture or have been stored in damp conditions (like in a tack room). This rust can cause injury to horses if it gets inside their mouths while they are being ridden or eaten off by them when they groom themselves after being ridden.
- Foul odor - If the saddle smells like sweat, dirt, or manure, it needs to be cleaned. A well-maintained and clean tack will not have an odor at all.
- Signs of stiffness - Your horse's tack should feel smooth and supple when you touch it, but if it feels stiff or cracked, then it needs to be cleaned.
- Turns into non-absorbent - Leather does have an elastic quality, but if your saddle hasn't been conditioned for a while, it can turn into non-absorbent.
What Do You Need to Clean Horse Tack?
- A damp sponge, rag, or a piece of cloth
- Clyde's Leather Cleaning Foam
- Clyde's Leather Conditioning Cream
- A brush or an old toothbrush
- A bucket of water
Horse Tack Gear and Accessories
- breastplate and martingales
- saddle pads, and more
How Do You Clean Horse Tack?
For Your Leather: (Saddles, Bridles, Martingales, etc.)
- Disassemble Your Horse Tack - Dirt can hide in your tack's tightest and most creviced parts. Remove stirrup leathers, irons, and other metal or plastic pieces, then clean the rest thoroughly. This is a crucial step in cleaning your leather tack.
Apply the Cleaning Foam - Others use a block of saddle soap, but we do it differently. Using a damp sponge, a rag, or a piece of cloth, massage Clyde's Leather Cleaning Foam into the leather in circular motions. Clean horse tack with more leather cleaner and brush.
You can also use toothpicks to clean beneath the stitching of your saddle and Q-Tips to get into hard-to-reach areas.
Be extra careful during this step to ensure that your work is flawless. Check areas such as the creases in stirrup leathers or buckles where the metal shows signs of wear.
- Wipe the Cleaning Foam Off - Dry the leather surface with a towel. Do not soak your tack in water as much as possible, and use minimal water to wash away all traces of the leather cleaner.
- Allow Tack to Dry - After cleaning horse tack, ensure your leather is completely dry before you put it away or use it again.
Condition the Leather - For best results, use Clyde's Conditioning Cream. This will restore its natural moisture and prevent it from cracking or drying out in the future. Apply a small amount of leather conditioner using a clean cloth, then rub it into the leather using circular motions. The leather conditioner doesn’t need to dry, but it may take a couple of hours to absorb fully.
After 5-6 hours of curation, you are ready to use your new leather!
For Your Fabric: (Girths, Halters, Saddle Pads, etc.)
- Remove Excess Dirt - Get rid of clumps of mud or excess horse hair using a brush or shedding blade.
Put the Fabric on the Washing Machine - Wash the dirty fabric on the washing machine, then wash it cold. If you're about to wash a halter or any material that's not a fabric, you can put them inside a cloth bag to avoid any damage.
More importantly, make sure you're not putting any leather on the washing machine. This can definitely damage the item, and you may end up ruining your horse tack. After you've washed the dirty fabric, dry it on a dryer or hang it to air-dry.
- Let it Dry - After you've washed the dirty fabric, hang them to air-dry. You can use a dryer, but set it on its lowest setting.
For the Metals: (Bits, Buckles, D-rings and Stirrup Irons)
- Scrub with Water - Scrub the bit with warm water and remove all dirt, sweat, or buildup. If you have trouble removing buildup from a bit, dunk it in warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes before scrubbing off the debris.
- Add Some Polish - Next, use a toothbrush to polish the bit with non-toxic metal polish. Make sure that the product is designed for horses because normal metal polishes could be toxic!
- Let it Dry - Lastly, wipe it dry with a towel.
Is Cleaning Not Enough?
Cleaning horse tack is vitally important to the life of any leather product. It means cleaning all the muck and grime that has built up over time. But is it enough?
Has it improved its appearance and overall condition? If you're not satisfied, then it needs to be fully restored.
At Clyde's, we have invented the "Clyde's 4-Step Restoration Process," backed by years of trial and error, thousands of customer reviews, and tons of professional feedback.
Unlike others, our process works for both absorbent and non-absorbent leathers. On top of that, our products are free from toxic chemicals (excluding the leather deglazing solution).
Here's what the process looks like:
- Clean the leather surface using Clyde's Leather Cleaning Foam and a sponge.
- Do a quick water test to see if your leather is absorbent or non-absorbent. Place a few droplets of water on the surface of the leather. The balm only works if the water gets absorbed. If it didn’t, remove its original finish using our Clyde's Leather Preparer and Deglazer.
- Once you’ve assured that the leather is absorbent, apply Clyde's Leather Recoloring Balm conservatively. Allow 24-36 hours for the balm to cure.
- After curation, apply Clyde's Leather Conditioning Cream to protect your leather from damage.
For detailed instructions, visit here.
Cleaning Tack 101
Your tack is an investment, so it's just reasonable to keep it in good shape. Proper cleaning, maintenance, and full restoration make all the difference. By following the steps above, you can make sure your tack stays clean and in good condition for years to come.
If you have any other questions or concerns about your tack, please feel free to contact us. We'd be happy to help!