How to Care for Leather Tack
Day-to-day tack maintenance is essential to keep your tack functional for many years while also creating a more comfortable experience for your horse. However, doing the minimum to keep your tack in decent shape will only go so far, especially if you're gearing up for a show or other competition. That's why NRS is here with saddle oiling tips and instructions on how to clean tack.
Leather Care Supplies
Before you head over to the tack room to get to work, make sure you have these leather care products on hand — they'll help restore your tack to its former glory!
- Saddle Soap: Used for the first stage of tack cleaning; comes as liquid sprays, like Farnam Leather New Self-Polishing Glycerine Saddle Soap, or as a paste, like Fiebing's Saddle Soap Paste.
- Sponges: Tack sponges can be used for both dry and wet cleaning and maintenance, depending on their texture.
- Conditioner: Penetrates the leather's surface for a deep conditioning that prevents cracks and other signs of aging; Lexol Leather Conditioner is great for saddles, boots and more!
- Oil: Softens, lubricates and moisturizes leather — darkens it as well, in the case of Bickmore Pure Neatsfoot Oil.
- Hooks: Having access to a bridle hook will make cleaning and drying tack easier.
- Racks: A saddle fit stand or rack that stands at waist height is ideal for a comfortable cleaning process.
How to Clean Tack
It's recommended that you give your saddle a thorough cleaning 2-3 times a year, or whenever your tack gets excessively dirty. However, you can clean your tack as much as you see fit to make your riding experience (and your horse's) as comfortable as possible. Just be sure not to over-oil or condition your tack, as this can soften the leather too much and cause it to lose its shape. Follow these steps on how to clean leather the next time your tack could really use some elbow grease:
- Remove the cinches or other extra pieces to clean them separately.
- Turn your saddle upside down on a blanket or feed bag to vacuum the sheepskin to remove excess hair and debris.
- Put the saddle on a stand in a warm, dry location and remove any dirt or debris on the leather with a saddle sponge and a bucket of clean water mixed with a bit of detergent soap.
- Use a natural bristled brush to clean tougher messes.
- Break out the saddle soap! Since it's formulated for leather tack, use it judiciously over the leather surface. However, we recommend not using it on any rawhide or sheepskin parts.
- Rinse all the soap off with a sponge dipped in clean water.
- Allow your tack to air dry — NEVER use a hair dryer, heat lamp or direct sunlight to rush the drying time, as this can cause your leather to shrink.
How to Condition Tack
Tack conditioner helps your leather stay pliable and prevents it from drying out. Conditioner should be used about once a month if you live in a dry climate. You should also condition your saddle before storing it if it will be put away for some time — saddles and tack stiffen up when they sit idle for long periods of time. Follow these steps to condition your saddle:
- Make sure all soap residue is rinsed off of your saddle.
- When it is just about dry, apply a light coat of conditioner.
- When your saddle has completely dried, apply a second coat of conditioner.
Saddle Oiling Tips
Oiling a saddle is best done infrequently. How often depends on what kind of riding you do and the condition of your saddle. In most cases, a very light coat of oil two or three times a year is plenty. However, if your tack gets soaked with sweat or water, you may want to apply another coat. Use these tips on how to care for oiled leather to find your happy medium:
- Don't slather too much oil on your tack. Excess oil can soak into the leather too much and make your leather weak and prone to stretching.
- Don't oil the underside of your stirrup fenders — the rough leather will quickly absorb too much oil.
- NEVER oil rawhide parts.