Cleaning our tack and leather goods. Some people hate it. Some people find it relaxing and use it to find their qi (whatever that is exactly). This really separates the detail-oriented people from the git ‘er done people. Picking grime off of leather, in between buckles and straps can be time-consuming, but very beneficial.
Proper cleaning and conditioning will lengthen the life of your tack and is pertinent for preparing for a show. An experienced judge can pick out a dirty saddle from a mile away! Cleaning tack and general leather care is a very important skill any equestrian should know.
This requires several steps to ensure a deep clean without doing damage to or drying out the leather. The leather used to be part of an animal’s skin, so it is porous and absorbs product easily. This can be a blessing and a curse. Before starting, make sure you have all of the proper products and tools is important.
First, you’ll need dirty tack (this is the easiest part!). The cleaning process for saddles, bridles and leather girths is generally the same across the board, so no need to worry you can start with anything.
Second, there are some tools you will need to gather. Necessary tools include a soft tack sponge, no not your horse bathing sponge. Tack cleaning sponges are smaller, easier to hold and usually soft to the touch. You do not want anything that will possibly scratch the leather (it’s expensive!).
A few clean rags will be helpful as well. Make sure your piece of tack is properly hung/resting on a sturdy hook or saddle stand (anywhere but the ground, we are trying to CLEAN after all).
Another one of our favorite tack cleaning tools is a toothbrush for those hard-to-reach places. You will want to loosen as much dirt and grease as you can with a damp rag first. For saddles, pick out that gross green stuff from your tarnished metal parts and dust off the inner crease near the stirrup bar.
For bridles, start by wiping off all of the green slime that dries onto the bit (bits should be rinsed off after every ride!) and the extra grease that likes to build up underneath the noseband and crown piece; this is the same for the girth and the inner side of your tall boots that presses against the horse. Now, what the heck do you use?
The first product we recommend to use is the Belvoir Step-1 Tack Cleaner.
With the 360 spray nozzle, it dispenses a product evenly across your tack. This is achieved by spraying a smaller amount for a longer period of time. No runny mess and very easy to apply.
This lifts sweat and dirt that has been harboring in the pores of the leather. With an antifungal formula, you’ll be sure your leather will be protected from further mold and mildew build-up. Gently massage the leather with your soft tack sponge to release all of the dirt and build up.
Make sure you are getting into all of the nooks and crannies with that toothbrush and don’t forget about all of the keepers on your bridle and stirrup leathers! These are perfect little pockets for dirt build-up which can start to rot your leather, without you even realizing!
Now that your leather is clean and the leather pores are open (finally!), it is time to condition. Many conditioners leave tack sticky or slippery and sometimes have unpleasant odors.
Belvoir Step-2 Tack Conditioner is next for perfectly supple leather.
Available in the 360 spray bottle, a glycerine bar and convenient wipes (perfect for shows). Pick the application method that best suits you. A good conditioner will fill in those open leather pores and form a barrier against dirt, sweat and water. Your leather will be soft and shiny in no time, not to mention leave your tack smelling fresh and new!
If you’re looking for an all-natural tack conditioner, check out Tack Butter! It’s created by a Pony Club family in Northeast Pennsylvania using cocoa butter, beeswax, almond oil, avocado oil, lavender essential oils and eucalyptus essential oils. Developed with the assistance of super-groom Emma Ford, Tack Butter is safe to use on all leather goods (and is a lovely skin moisturizer)! It works wonders, smells great, and a portion of sales goes toward the recovery of fellow equestrian, Lee Lee Jones. Give Tack Butter a try!
Carr & Day & Martin also has several other products to use after step 1 and 2 that keep your leather supple and protected. Belvoir Leather Balm provides a deep condition and prevents watermarking. This product is ideal for cracked leather and provides a nice shine without being slippery (also gives off a flowery aroma).
The Brecknell Turner Conditioning Soap is an alternative to the Belvoir Leather Balm for those that prefer more of a matte finish.
For storage of tack, Ko-Cho-Line Leather Dressing provides protection against mold and mildew and prevents rust build upon all metal pieces. This will not damage stitching and is easy to apply.
Easy to use products and simple instructions make tack cleaning a little more bearable, hopefully. Now you have no excuse to not clean your tack (sorry). If you are cleaning ornate western show saddles- godspeed.