Cleaning it, Feeding it, Keeping it
Tack Care – regardless of what type of riding you do, where you live, naturally kept or traditionally kept horses, tack comes with owning and riding horses.
It can be expensive and deserves time and thought as to the best way to look after and care for it.
Organisation in your tack room will help you with cleaning your tack. For more ideas see Tack Room.
With leather horse tack if it is not cared for eventually it will become:-
- brittle and stiff.
It is then difficult to use as it takes longer to undo and do up the buckles and fastenings. It eventually will break and can then easily cause an accident when riding.
If it is kept clean and fed regularly while doing this you will spot any tack that needs repairing long before it becomes a safety hazard for you when when riding.
When you are cleaning and checking over tack you need to be checking that:-
- The stitching is not rotten.
You need to be fussy, if you are unsure it is better to get it repaired. Sometimes it will look fine, but if you try and split the leather pieces apart, which are held together by the stitching, it will just break away very easily once the stitching has gone rotten.
You need to find a local saddler who will help you with any repairs and restitching that may need doing.
There is nothing more lovely than seeing and riding with tack that has been cleaned and well looked after.
Good tack care creates tack that almost has an aroma about it.
If used for years and cared for, it can be a delight to feel, use and experience.
Basic Steps To Cleaning Tack
Here is a brief simple outline to achieving this.
- Wipe all tack over with a damp cloth after use.
- If always done, after being used, even just quickly, this will help prevent dirt and sweat from building up.
- Then use a leather cream on your horse tack and wipe over.
This will nourish the leather and help prevent dirt adhering/sticking to the leather.
I.e. The cream can act a bit like a sealer. There are some creams on the market which will also give the leather a lovely shine.
If you do the above your tack will stay in excellent condition.
Strip Cleaning Tack and Putting it Back Together
Apart from daily wiping over and cleaning tack there will be times when the tack needs to be taken apart and stip cleaned. By this I mean undoing all the parts of the bridle.
If you have a number of horses that you are cleaning tack for, after stripping bridles and cleaning all the parts separately you could keep an index card with notes on, showing how each ‘horses bridle is set’ and where the buckles do up.
A little bit of administration can solve a lot of time fiddling with bridles when tacking up after the bridles have been stripped, taken apart and cleaned.
Additional Tack Care Cleaning
Any lumps of sweat that build up on saddles needs removing, you may have to scrape these off with a knife, take care not to damage the leather at the same time.
Take the bridle to bits regularly and check the stitching. If it is looking weak and beginning to break and separate, get it repaired, before it breaks, when you are riding.
Once sweat and dirt has built up it will take longer to clean your tack. Most often warm water will be enough but you may need a leather cleaner if it is very mucky. Have an old toothbrush to hand so you can clean areas which are difficult to get. Once clean, wipe dry.
Then use a leather cream as above and wipe over.
Some tack care creams are very sticky and not very pleasant to use. You want one that will nourish the leather but is not sticky and gungey. Shop around you may need to try several before finding a good one.
Be careful you don’t put too much on as this can then clog up the leather.
Some can leave a lovely shine if that is what you want. (Below are the ones we use.)
Tack Cleaning Stuff We Use
Below is a list of products that we use. We have found that these alone are all that is needed to keep tack in good order, clean and well nourished. We have tried many of the products out there and have found some are difficult to apply and others leave a sticky residue on tack and then dust and dirt sticks to the tack.
- Urad Saddlery Cream
- Urad Oily
- Urad Tenderley
- NeatsFoot Gel
- NeatsFoot Oil
We use the Urad products for daily cleaning.
They have a number of products on the market. We use their saddlery cream which leaves a lovely shine. You need very little. When it dries it is not sticky or gungey.
If the tack feels like it needs a bit more feeding or is a bit drier we then use the Oily cream. This is more nourishing but does not leave a shine. We also use this on the saddle flaps and the underside of the saddles.
The third product of theirs which we use is the tenderley. This is their nourishing product. If the tack needs feeding, we would use this first before either of the above two.
Another product which is good to use for tack care is Neats Foot Gel. It goes on easily, you just use a damp cloth. You only need a litte. It feeds the leather, more so than the Urad products, although it does not leave a lovely shine like the Urad saddlery cream.
This product can replace oiling tack. (It is easy to use than the Neatsfoot oil.)
If however, the tack has got very wet, after letting it dry out slowly, if it is needing to be “really fed” we would then possibly oil the tack with Neatsfoot oil and not the Gel.
If you use Neatsfoot oil the easiest way to apply it is with a small paint brush.
With your tack care if you set up tack cleaning hooks so that it is easy to hang up your tack and clean it. Do whatever you can do to make it easy, it will be then become enjoyable and you will do a better job. If you have small children helping you, you can lower these bridle hooks simply by attaching a piece of string and lowering them. Have plenty available.
The ones here are brass and although not expensive, you can get them from any DIY shop, they look lovely which for many of us makes a difference!
Get cloths the right size so they are not too big when wiping down tack. Find a nice cloth, you can then cut it in half or quarters, as a smaller cloth is easier to use on bridles and saddles. If you wash these cloths regularly, they are nicer to use and last for ages.
Cloths We Use
Of all the many cloths on the market the ones we find that last the longest and are the nicest ones to use are the Vileda all purpose kitchen cloths for tack care.
If you get these cut them in half or even quarters. They are then the perfect size to wipe clean tack. They last for ages and can be put through your washing machine.
If the tack begins to go stiff it is time for you to do an additional feed. Some of the tack care creams may well do this, but you may find you need something more nourishing that will really feed the leather in order to get the leather soft and supple.
You can use Neats foot oil to feed your horse tack. Like everything, there are good and bad ones on the market. Some products sold as ‘Neats foot oil’ are actually diluted with petroleum oil, which is bad for leather. So read the labels.
Continue feeding your tack and saddles until they feel soft and supple.
Cleaning Saddle Seats
With your tack care, be careful what you use on the saddle seats.
You may find you can get away with using nothing on the seats and can just nourish the underside.
If new and not worn in, oiling them will help if the leather is very new slippery but be aware, if you do oil the seats, after oiling them this can mark your clothing, especially the ‘seat of your jodhpurs,’if they are a light colour.
New tack can take time to wear in. You can oil it first, two or three times, this will help it become supple and pliable.
Supple bridles are less likely to rub the horses. Stiff tack and bridles can rub and make the horse sore. Well fed tack is like wearing a comfy pair of shoes that are worn in, as opposed to a new pair that are stiff and hard.
As mentioned earlier it is well worth finding a saddler who can help you with any tack that needs repairing. With you tack care if it is cleaned and cared for, you will easily spot any tack that has got worn and needs repairing, before it becomes dangerous to use.
Be fussy if the stitching is looking weak and rotten get it repaired. If you are unsure, by gently pulling on the leather where the stitching is, if it is weak it will begin to break and come apart.
With your tack and your tack care the temperature of the room where you keep it all tack needs to be considered. If the room is too warm and dry, or too cold and damp, you will get tell tale signs on your tack.
If cold and damp mould will build up on your tack.
If the room is too warm your tack will start to dry up.
Heating Solutions For Keeping Tack
If the room is too warm and the heating is not adjustable get a dehumidifier. If the room is too cold and damp get a small heater to help dry up any dampness in the air. You can put the heater on a time switch in order to keep it economical.
Another important aspect of tack is fitting it all. Bridles and saddles not only need to be cleaned and cared for, they need to fit your horse properly. For more details see saddle fitting and bitless bridle fitting.
Some of the above points are small and easily achievable. However, like everything, if you address problems you may be having with your tack you will enjoy the benefits of your tack care.
Small problems solved can make such a difference on a day to day basis and alleviate some of the frustrations that can occur with tack care.