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!