There’s no denying it: cleaning your horse tack is a chore. At the end of a long day of other barn chores and schooling or showing, you’re tired, your body aches, and the last thing you want to do is more work. Cleaning your horse tack, however, is essential to preserving the life of your tack and keeping it in working condition. Having tack that functions as it should keeps accidents from happening while you’re using it. Dry, cracking stirrup leathers or bridle parts can snap, putting you in a risky situation. Make sure you have what you need to take proper care of your tack items, and set yourself up to clean everything in a streamlined process.
The Essential Tack-Cleaning Supplies
There is a multitude of tack cleaning products available, from various soaps to many ways of conditioning and keeping your leather horse tack supple. Start with finding your favorite of these:
- Tack Sponges – You’ll need these to apply whichever products you select to clean your tack with. The tried and true standbys are the little round sponges, which come in a 12 pack so you always have extras. There are also natural sponges which many riders swear by. Combined with a rag to scrub the tough to remove grime, any sponge will work great.
- Leather Cleaner – A good leather cleaner will remove dirt and sweat from the horse tack you use daily, and also clean away mildew and grime from any leather tack that has been sitting in improper storage. If you’re not sure which leather cleaner to buy, one of our favorites is the Belvoir Tack Cleaning Spray. Using leather cleaner is the first step in the horse tack cleaning process.
- Leather Conditioner – Once your tack is dry from the cleaner step, you may wish to apply a leather conditioner. New leather tack needs conditioning frequently to help stiff leather become suppler in its early life, but a good conditioning is beneficial to tack of all ages. You can use a formulated leather conditioner, or go with straight Neatsfoot oil. If you use oil, it is best applied with a brush- our hoof dressing applicator can works as a great holder and applicator for leather oil as well.
- Glycerine Soap– Glycerine works to seal the pores of the leather, providing a like-new glossy finish and protecting it from dirt. Wiping your saddle with glycerine after the cleaning process will allow you to just wipe down the leather quickly with a damp cloth for the next ride or two, instead of doing a full cleaning.
- Bit Wipes – You can always give your bit a good rinse and scrub with water and a sponge, or run it through your dishwasher for a super clean. If you want to treat your horse though, bit wipes provide a great cleaning and leave a tasty flavor for your horse to enjoy on the next ride. These are a favorite of ours to stock the horse trailer with for on-the-go wipe downs.
Create a Horse Tack Cleaning Station
Setting up an area in the barn where you routinely clean your tack can make the process easier and more inviting. The same way you have a specific location for things like pitchforks and brooms, and feeding supplies, dedicate an area to tack cleaning and related products.
- Start by hanging a chrome tack cleaning hook from the ceiling to make cleaning hanging items a snap. This kind of hook holds really securely, and keeps bridles from falling down as you stretch out the reins to wipe them clean, giving you leverage for those tough to scrub out dirt spots. Your tack can also then air dry for a bit on these hooks, rather than piling up in the corner.
- Stash a saddle rack near the cleaning hook for easy saddle cleaning. A portable saddle rack is easy to store and can be used in whatever location you need- at home or on the road.
- Store all your tack cleaning products in a utility bucket near your cleaning station. You’ll want to include sponges, rags, cleaning solutions and leather conditioner as the basics. When it’s time to clean your tack, the bucket can be used to hold the water for cleaning. Bonus if there is a water source in your tack cleaning area.
Caring for your tack regularly may require some extra work, but it’s worth it. By taking care of your horse tack after every ride, you’ll extend its life and save money on replacements. Put together a tack cleaning kit, allocate a space in your barn to get the job done, and clean away!
As the most important piece of equipment you will use when riding, your riding helmet does a lot of work for you, so make sure you return the favor and keep it protected and in perfect working condition. Helmet care and maintenance isn’t hard, but it is important. Follow these 7 steps to help ensure your helmet is there for you when you need it.
- The most important aspect of your helmet is that it remains in good, working condition. Should you fall off, your helmet needs to be replaced if it touches the ground. This is also often the case if the helmet simply falls or is dropped from a high place while not being worn. Despite appearing undamaged in many occasions, the design of a helmet prevents you from seeing internal damage, which is often caused by an impact.
- Whether your helmet has become wet from a hard sweaty ride or an accidental dip in a water element, it should be allowed to air dry out of direct sunlight. Never apply heat or place directly in a heat source, as extreme temperature can damage the integrity of the helmet.
- Similarly, helmets should be stored in a dry location with consistent, moderate temperature. Keeping your helmet in a barn without temperature control can harm it, as temperatures will reach both hot and cold extremes throughout the year.
- Helmet cleaning starts with keeping the outside sparkling clean- on velvet or velveteen helmets, mud and dirt is best if left to dry and then brushed off with a stiff hard brush. Helmets of this material should never be cleaned with detergent or water on the outside. Microsuede helmets can be wiped with a soft, damp cloth to remove debris. Plastic helmet exteriors will shine up nicely with mild detergent and water.
- Make the inside of your helmet just as fresh as the outside by cleaning once a week with a deodorizer and cleaner to remove dirt, hair grease and sweat, as well as kill bacteria. Make sure you use a cleaning product that is specifically designed for helmets so you do not damage the interior. Helmets should never be put in the washing machine or dishwasher to clean.
- Those pesky flies chasing you while riding can be annoying, but avoid spraying your helmet with bug spray, as the chemicals can deteriorate the helmet and cause staining.
- Make your helmet care job a tad easier by keeping your helmet stored in a protective riding helmet bag, and utilize a protective helmet cover during daily use while schooling. This will keep the daily dust and grim associated with barn life off of your helmet and help it to look new and show ready for as long as possible.
Regardless of routine and careful helmet care, no helmet will last forever. Normal lifetime degradation should be expected, and as a general rule helmets should be replaced every 5 years. Additionally, advancements in helmet technology are always happening, so replacing at the end of your helmet’s life will ensure you have the best of what helmets have to offer.
High-quality saddle pads and girth covers not only ensure your horse’s comfort, they also help to protect an expensive saddle. Horse tack and equipment that’s intended to last for years is an investment. If you want a new fleece saddle pad or girth cover to provide your horse with the comfort and protection it needs for an extended period of time, you must take proper care of it. Use this guide to clean and maintain your fleece tack, and ensure your favorite items ride the distance with you.
After Every Ride:
- Shake or brush the fleece. Dirt and moisture get into the fleece fibers during each ride. Since over-washing isn’t good for it, shake and brush your fleece tack in an open area to loosen and remove dirt, while also fluffing up the dampened fibers. Using a face and leg curry comb is a great trick to loosen the hair and dirt that is stuck to the pad, particularly in the hotter summer months when your horse has been sweating. A brisk brush with a stiff hard brush after will clear the pad of hairs and dirt left behind.
- Protect from sweat and moisture. Allowing the fleece saddle pad and girth cover to completely air dry is important. Place them with the damp fleece-side-up in a location that’s out of direct sunlight and away from any other heat sources that could dry out the fibers or cause shrinkage.
- Store properly. Between uses, it’s important to store a fleece saddle pad or girth cover in a dry location. If longer amounts of time will pass between uses, you can store the saddle pad in an airtight container after it’s properly dried. This will keep it clean and protect it from pests.
Deep-Clean Your Fleece Saddle Pad:
- Remove excess sweat, soil, and dirt. Occasionally, you’ll need to give your fleece saddle pad and girth cover a deeper cleaning. Always use cold water to do this and a gentle cleansing solution. Washing the fleece saddle pad and girth cover in the washing machine on the gentle cycle is fine, just double check that they are in fact fleece and not sheepskin.
- Dry properly. It may take a bit longer to hang-dry a fleece saddle pad, but you’ll extend the life of it by doing so. Heat from the dryer or the sun can damage the fibers and cause shrinkage, leading to an ill-fitting pad. Always hang-dry the saddle pad in a shady, cool area until it’s completely dry.
Getting the Most from Your Investment
Both you and your horse profit when proper care is taken of fleece tack items. A clean, fluffy, fleece saddle pad protects your horse from rubbing, chafing, and painful pressure that can affect him during training or performance. Additionally, proper saddle pad care also prevents the development of bacteria that can lead to irritating skin conditions.
It’s much easier to get into a routine of cleaning and caring for a fleece saddle pad and girth cover than it is to try to remove several weeks’ worth of sweat and grime. Make the short process of cleaning and drying your fleece saddle pad part of every post-ride routine. With the right products and processes, it’s an easy task to complete.
When it comes to your barn, maintaining a clutter-free space is more about safety than aesthetics. Debris, clutter and disorganization can spook your horse, increase the risk of injury and lead to other safety hazards. As you care for your horse, barn cleaning and maintenance should be a regular part of the routine. Make it easier on yourself and more effective by incorporating these 11 organizing tips to keep your barn clutter-free.
Create and Maintain an Organized, Clutter-Free Barn
- Clear the Barn Aisle. A clear barn aisle is important as you walk in and out of the barn to ensure your horse doesn’t bump into clutter and get cut or bruised. Likewise, if he acts up on the cross ties, you won’t have to worry about injuries.
- Maintain a Cobweb-Free Space. Cobwebs or spider webs are a fire hazard and are best removed.
- Monitor Surfaces. Periodically check to ensure that no nails have popped through the walls and that the surfaces are splinter-free.
- Keep it Well Lit. Replace burned out lights to prevent your horse from becoming spooked in the barn or from getting injured as you walk to and from the stall.
- Clean Away Dust and Debris. A daily cleaning makes it much easier to maintain a barn that’s not cluttered with dust and debris. Toss trash immediately and give your horse’s area a quick sweeping.
- Store Grain Securely. Secure metal trash bins or containers are best for storing horse feed to avoid attracting rodents.
- Store Tack and Equipment Safely. Horse tack, blankets and other equipment should be stored securely on hooks or in cubbies where your horse can’t get tangled in them. Organized storage will also make it easier to find what you need.
- Remove Glass and Cardboard. Glass can accidentally break, causing a health hazard for horses. Likewise, cardboard is attractive nesting material for rodents.
- Have Separate Grooming Kits. To avoid the spread of skin conditions or bacteria, it’s important to have a separate grooming kit for each horse. Use a bucket, grooming bag or box to store brushes and other supplies.
- Keep an Equine Medical Kit Nearby. In the event of an emergency, an equine medical kit or first aid kit should always be kept handy.
- Store Tools Out of the Way. Brooms, shovels and manure forks should always be stored on a secure wall rack where they can’t be knocked over and become a hazard.
Turn Tips into Habits
If you’re beginning to clear out a messy barn or preparing a new area for your horse, these tips may feel overwhelming. Tackle them one at a time, allowing sufficient time for each task to be completed. As you continue incorporating these organizational tips into your daily routine, you’ll find that they will easily become a matter of course. Once they become habits, you’ll find that these tips take less time to include, while continuing to provide you and your horse with a multitude of benefits.
Spring has arrived (at last!) in many regions of the country. If you’re like most riders, you’re enjoying the fresh air and sunshine and the warmth of the sun as you ride. Spring is also a time for organizing your barn. Tack and riding equipment have a funny way or piling up and getting disheveled during long, cold winter months, and the thaw of Spring is a perfect reason to tidy up the barn.
Here are a few tips to help you organize your barn for Spring:
1. Remove out-of-season items from the barn
Winter riding apparel and heavy fleece coolers should be cleaned and packed away. A large tack trunk is perfect for stowing away winter gear during spring and summer months. You can use the same trunk to store summer riding gear and equipment when cool weather returns in the fall. Look for a sturdy trunk or rodent-proof bin.
2. Clean and store horse blankets
That heavy-weight turnout blanket you used all winter? Stow it away! Bulky winter horse clothing takes up space; clean horse blankets and store them in an air-tight container. Products like Nikwax Rug Wash™ are ideal for use on waterproof horse clothing. You can also search for a professional horse cleaner in your area.
3. Add cedar blocks to tack trunks to deter pests
Nothing is more frustrating than taking seasonal horse gear out of storage and discovering it’s full of holes. Rodents, moths, and other pests can wreak havoc on your horse tack and riding apparel – gear you’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on. Protect your gear by placing a cedar block inside your tack trunk and securing the lid tightly before stashing it away for the summer.
Organizing a barn for spring can be a tedious, time-consuming chore, but it’s worth it. You’ll extend the life of your tack and spend less time rummaging through clutter when it’s time to ride.
In honor of Helmet Awareness Week we will be sharing valuable information about helmets with all of you all week! Today, we cover how to care for your helmet!
Here are 7 tips for you to keep your equestrian riding helmet clean and in good shape when not riding.
- Keep your helmet in a place with a moderate temperature – this means not too hot or too cold as extreme heat or cold can impact the integrity of the shock-absorbing properties of your helmet. Be careful about leaving your helmet at your barn, if there are rapid temperature fluctuations your helmet may become damaged.
- If the inside of your riding helmet gets wet, allow it to air dry rather than applying a heat source. While applying heat might allow your helmet to dry quickly, this too can damage the integrity of your helmet.
- Replace your helmet after a fall in which your riding helmet touches the ground, even if the helmet itself appear undamaged. Helmets are designed in a way that you may not be able to see internal damage.
- Replace your helmet at least every 5 years. Over time, helmets may degrade and may no longer provide the same level of protection of a new helmet. In addition to this, helmet technology is improving rather rapidly so it’s always important to make sure you have the latest advances in helmet protection.
- Avoid applying bug spray to the inside or outside of your helmet. These chemicals can damage the helmet.
- Try keeping your helmet is a protective riding helmet bag. This will prolong the life of the helmet and keep it looking new.
- You should clean your helmet weekly with a cleaner or deodorizer to keep it fresh. Dover stocks a wide variety of riding helmet cleaners that help keep your helmet clean, remove dirt and hair grease from the interior of your helmet, and kill bacteria. Remember to always use a cleaner that is specifically designed for helmets. If your cleaner isn’t designed for helmets there is a chance you may damage the interior of your helmet.
For more tips on riding helmet storage and cleaning check out this article in the Dover Saddlery library. Check back in tomorrow for some more helmet information!