by Olivia Kile March 18, 2020 6 min read
If you’ve read our Leather Care 101 blog, you may be asking yourself, but what about everything else!? Or, you just need a one-stop cleaning guide to everything horse.
When cleaning your horse stuff, you probably immediately think of just leather goods such as riding boots, bridles, halters, stirrup leathers and saddles. There are many other items that take on loads of dirt, dead skin and hair from being in contact with your horse. With just a bit of TLC, your tack and supplies can last much longer.
In this blog, we’ll describe how to properly clean all of your horsey things - not just tack!
So, let’s start with the basics-
While cleaning leather may not be everyone’s favorite past time, you'll certainly feel accomplished afterward. As probably the most expensive items in our trunk at the barn, tack should be taken care of to make the most of your investment.
Leather was once a living, breathing organ-- skin! Skin is always releasing and absorbing moisture and offers flexibility and toughness without being rigid. It is a little morbid to think about, but these same qualities make it great for equipment that needs to mold to the horse’s body and stand up to tension, contraction and friction.
Before cleaning, make sure that your leather care supply is close by.
First, gently remove any visible dirt build-up from all leather goods. This can be done with a clean rag or your soft-bristled toothbrush in crevices. This will allow the cleaner to reach deeper into the leather. If you go right into cleaning a super dirty piece of tack, adding soap and water to it can often just make the situation into a muddy mess.
How to clean a saddle?
Once the surface grime is removed, it is time to use that leather soap and lukewarm water to create a gentle suds onto the leather. Carr & Day & Martin is a quality product that leaves your leather clean and ready to accept conditioning and is available as spray-on or glycerine bar form! This is giving a deep clean to the leather and the lukewarm water opens the pores for dirt to escape and for the leather to accept and absorb the conditioner later.
Saddle soap (leather cleaner) is a compound of several ingredients. Containing a mild soap, this acts as a cleaning agent that lifts and removes dirt like built-up sweat, hair and collection of coat oils that stick in specific places. Leather cleaners often contain lanolin or beeswax that acts as moisturizing and waterproofing agents. These are important qualities to have in order to preserve the natural affinity for moisture that leather has while allowing the pores to release moisture carrying the dirt and grime you want to remove.
After the leather is all sudsy, removing as much of the soap and moisture is important. Too much moisture that lays on the leather or soaking for long periods of time without proper drying can make the leather start to break down prematurely.
When your leather is ready for conditioning, grab a clean rag or tack sponge- whichever you prefer. Depending on if you are using a spray applicator or just a container of a solid product, you never need much. You can always add more, but it can become a mess to take the excess off. Conditioners often contain essential oils for a pleasant fragrance.
Tack Butter by Pixie Soaps is a perfect choice for conscious riders that want an all-natural alternative! Tack Butter is not just a conditioner, but aids in cleaning leather too, not to mention is available in a few natural smells like lavender and peppermint. This can be safely used as a skin moisturizer too, so you can ditch the sponge and rags and go all-in with your hands for a spa treatment at the same time!
Horse brushes and grooming supplies can often be forgotten about. Horse brushes should be cleaned for sanitation and hygiene reasons. Think about it as everyone in your household using the same towel, washcloth and toothbrush for days, weeks or even months on end until they are washed: G-R-O-S-S!
Horse brushes are used all over the body and shared barn grooming products make it especially easy to transfer bacteria and fungus from horse to horse. Having your own grooming kit for each horse cuts down on the cross-contamination- but they still need to be cleaned periodically. If brushes get saturated with grime, they will eventually just make your horse dirtier, making your life harder!
First, gently remove any dirt clumps and pockets while the brushes are dry. Flicking any dust out will remove excess dirt.
Before choosing a deep cleaning method, consider what your brushes are made out of and think about separating brushes that are made from different materials. Natural materials such as horsehair body brushes should be separated from the synthetic brushes like plastic combs and plastic dandy brushes.
Synthetic brushes are usually tougher (often made of a polypropylene plastic) and can handle a soak in lightly bleached hot water, so they are easy to disinfect. If there is suspicion that your horse has a skin fungus/bacteria infection, soaking the brushes in an alcoholic water solution such as mouthwash is another option. This will also give the brushes a pleasant scent as well.
Natural fiber brushes are loved by many grooms and make your horse ultra-shiny, but they can be easily damaged in bleach water. These should be combed through with a light fine-toothed comb to first remove excess hair. A gentle shampoo cleanses can be used for horsehair brushes, and any other natural fiber grooming tools, to protect the integrity of the natural hair, just as it does your own locks!
Find a sunny spot in or near the barn to set up a drying station for your grooming supplies. Sunlight does wonders to kill unwanted bacteria and parasites too. Be sure to dry brushes with the bristles down so as to allow for airflow and prevent water from logging wooden handles. When the brushes are completely dry, store them in a covered, dry area.
Check out the Madden Method for cleaning horse brushes:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZnmuvWQu1g
Saddle pads and protective leg equipment are notorious for collecting sweat, hair and providing a lovely breeding ground for bacteria. As a general rule, always lay your saddle pads and horse boots inside out and open for airflow and evaporation to occur after use. This will cut down on the bacteria and odor build-up.
Saddle pads and polo wraps can be treated very similarly. Brushing the side of contact with a stiff horse brush will remove hair clumps that often can clog washing machines. If your barn has their own washing and drying machines for saddle pads and polo wraps etc., be thankful!
Take pity on the horse people that sacrifice their personal washers and dryers as they most likely go to the grocery store with as much hair as their horse!
Washing by hand with dish soap and leaving to dry out in the sunlight is another option as well, this avoids a washer and dryer and is usually just as effective.
Protective horse boots generally have a rigid outer shell, so they cannot be used in the washer and dryer. A little elbow grease, a hose with decent water pressure and some gentle soap should do the trick. The lather, rinse and repeat method is a good process to use for boots.
Horse waterproof blankets can be a little tricky, this is why they are often sent to professionals for cleaning and repairs every year. If you only have 1 or 2 with no repairs needed, you can easily DIY it and save a few extra bucks!
First, remove any solid dirt and debris before adding any type of water or cleaning agent to the blanket (are we sounding like a broken record yet?). Use a stiff horse brush to whisk away any dirt on the body of the blanket. Don’t forget about all the fasteners and hooks! Hook and loop tape grabs onto hay and horse hair like it’s a magnet. A stiff, wire brush takes care of these quickly and is a cheap tool to find.
At your nearest tack shop, you can usually find waterproof safe detergent. Following the directions on the bottle is crucial to successfully cleaning your blanket as the settings on your washer, water temperature, spin cycle etc. may be different for each type of detergent available. Never use regular detergent to wash waterproof horse blankets as it may damage the waterproofing treatment. If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer or the tack shop and they may have some advice.
When your horse blanket is clean, leaving it out to dry is key to preventing mold and rot. Before storing your blanket away, ensure your blanket has been hung to dry in a sunny/dry spot. This can take several hours or over a day depending on the amount of heat and sunlight available.
Now that all of your horse tack, grooming supplies, boots and blankets are clean, enjoy it while it lasts!
Olivia has a passion for all things equestrian and equine health and still enjoys riding. Olivia earned a bachelor's degree in Equine Science from Delaware Valley University and currently works as a sales and marketing assistant at Breeches.com
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