September 14, 2022 5 min read
Bridles are an important piece of safety equipment. If they’re not well taken care of, they can break and you could find yourself in a life threatening situation. Luckily, the right supplies make it easy to take good care of your horse bridle. We recommend choosing top brands like Fiebing’s and Lincoln for your saddle soap and conditioning products.
Before you start cleaning your bridle, make sure you have the following supplies:
Taking the bridle apart is the easy part. Putting it back together is what’s difficult! When you’re taking the bridle apart, try and remember which piece goes where. It’s helpful to have a properly put-together bridle on hand to use as a guide when you’re putting yours back together.
To take your bridle apart, start by removing the bit by undoing the buckles or snaps on the lower end of the cheek pieces and the reins. Then, undo the upper buckle on the cheekpieces and remove those, as well. The noseband should have only one buckle that needs to be released on the left side of the bridle.
Undo the throat latch if it’s not undone already and slide all the pieces apart. The noseband should slide out of the crown piece after the cheekpieces. Once the noseband and cheek pieces have been removed, slide the browband off the crownpiece, ensuring you slide it off the end without the buckle for the throat latch. Many browbands will not fit over this buckle and keeper.
Before you pull out your leather soap and sponge, start by cleaning your bit. Even if you dunk your horse’s bit in water after every time you ride, it can still become filled with gunk. Particularly if you have a horse or pony who likes to eat grass with the bit in, food and saliva can get stuck in the joints of the bit, both in the middle and at the edges.
All of these food particles and dried saliva can stop your bit from working properly, as it interrupts how easily the bit will move and slide. Plus, a bit that hasn’t been deep cleaned in a while is actually unsanitary. Old food and grass can become moldy, while the dried saliva and other debris alters the taste of the bit. Either way, your horse will definitely appreciate a nice clean bit!
The easiest way to deep clean your bit is to give it a good soak. Get a bucket that’s deep enough to fully submerge your bit. Fill it with very hot water, not boiling as it may melt the bucket or damage rubber mouth bits, but hot enough to help kill any germs or bacteria. Place the bit in the bucket right after you take it off your bridle. This way, it can soak the entire time you’re cleaning and should be pretty much ready to go once you’re done cleaning and conditioning the rest of your tack. Some bits that are exceptionally dirty may require a longer soak.
Use a different water bucket to wet your sponge while cleaning the rest of your tack– you do not want to get any soapy residue on your bit.
While something like EHI’s Bit Wash is a great way to improve your horse’s acceptance of the bit and keep the bit disinfected, there’s nothing like a good soak in a bucket of clean hot water to really get all of the gunk out of your bit.
Cleaning and conditioning your bridle can take patience as there are a lot of little nooks and crannies for dirt to get into. Using a tack sponge can really help, as it’s small enough to get into these spaces, while durable enough to hold up to scrubbing and soft enough so as not to damage the leather.
Start by wetting your tack sponge with hot water, not so much that it’s dripping, but enough that it’s moist to the touch. The heat will help to gently loosen and remove dirt. Use a small amount of high-quality tack soap and start scrubbing. You’ll want to get both sides of the leather. The side that lays against your horse’s face is likely to be extra dirty.
After the bridle is clean and all visible dirt has been removed, it’s time to condition. Keep in mind that it is possible to over-condition your bridle. Leather that has been conditioned too often or with too much product will feel sticky to the touch. It may even appear as though it has a white film over the leather. As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to apply a fine layer of conditioner than a thick one and it’s best to only condition your leather tack once a month.
Scoop a small amount of leather balsam onto a soft cloth or a dry sponge. Go over your bridle with the balsam after all soap residue and moisture has been removed. Just like while you cleaned your horse bridle, you’ll want to get into every nook and cranny.
Apply one coat of conditioner and wait to see if your bridle soaks it all up. If it does, you can try to apply another coat. It’s better to apply multiple thin coats that your horse bridle will absorb, instead of one thick coat. If there is any excess conditioner left after application, use a clean soft cloth to blot it away.
If you’re trying to bring an old horse bridle back to life, deep conditioning may be your best friend. Deep conditioning is only for bridles that are extremely stiff or dry. You should not deep condition a bridle that is already supple and flexible as you may over-condition it.
In order to deep condition a bridle, place the clean bridle in a gallon ziploc bag with a small amount of neatsfoot oil. Then, you can place the bag in a sunny spot to gently warm up the leather and encourage it to absorb as much of the neatsfoot oil as possible.
After a few hours have passed by, remove the bridle from the sun and take it out of the bag.
Remove any excess oil with the help of a microfiber cloth and gently bend and flex the leather to help it regain its suppleness and further soak in the oil.
Keep in mind that neatsfoot oil will darken leather, so you should only do this with a horse bridle that is already dark or that you would like to darken.
Now, for the not-so-fun part. It’s time to put the bridle back together. Work through all of the steps listed under “Take the Bridle Apart” in reverse. For example, start by sliding the browband back onto the crownpiece and work backwards.
It’s extremely helpful to have a knowledgeable friend standing by to help if it’s your first time taking a bridle apart and putting it back together. Having a horse bridle that has been put together correctly on hand for reference is also extremely helpful.
Remember, your bridle is an extremely important piece of equipment that will drastically change how you communicate with your horse, so take care that it’s put together right.
Breeches.com has all of the tack cleaning supplies you need. With high-quality brands like Fiebings, Lincoln, Effol, and Leather Therapy, our customers have access to the right products to keep their bridles, saddles, and leather accessories clean and beautiful.
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