You’ve spent hours researching the various equipment options available for your horse. You’ve made an informed decision on which piece of equipment would best suit your needs. You’ve skimped and saved until you could afford to buy your ultimate choice. You’ve carefully fitted it on your horse, ensuring you will not need to exchange it later. And now you cannot wait to ride and use your newly acquired gear. But wait! Before you use your new tack, it needs to be prepared for use.
Why? Preparing new equipment removes the waxy coating found on most new leather tack, enabling the leather to absorb enough oil to protect and soften it for use. If you don’t prepare your leather equipment, you risk damaging your brand new tack. Cracks, damage and breakages of dry leather can lead to you having to make expensive replacements at a later stage. Not to mention the safety risk involved.
Get out your tack cleaning supplies and follow these steps.
What will I need?
Glycerine Soap: This leather soap comes in a bar or tub and is readily available at saddlery outlets. The naturally occurring fats and oils in glycerine soap allow it to clean leather without a drying effect, and it also helps to preserve the quality and pliancy of leather tack. Glycerine soap is safe to use after each ride, so it is a good idea to ensure you always have a bar or a tub on hand.
Good quality leather oil: Leather oil will help to supple new leather quickly and safely. Purposely manufactured leather oil is a rich compound and will not rot the stitching of your new equipment. It is also an excellent product for restoring leather tack after a long storage period or prolonged use in adverse weather conditions.
Tack Sponges: Any type of clean sponge will do. Ensure that the sponges are of a convenient size to get into all the little tight spaces on your tack.
Soft Cloth or Towel: A clean soft cloth or towel is ideal.
Small Bucket: Any small bucket or medium sized plastic container will do.
How to checklist:
Ensure all buckles are undone and bridles are taken apart before you start. This is to ensure you can reach and treat each individual piece of equipment with ease.
Fill the small bucket with warm water.
Wet your tack sponge and squeeze out excess water.
Rub the damp sponge over the glycerine soap to get it soapy, but not overly sudsy. If a lot of suds appear, the sponge is too wet.
Rub the soapy sponge over every piece of leather, including the back sides. Rub briskly enough to remove the thin wax coating. DO NOT clean suede portions, like knee rolls, with glycerine soap. Suede needs a separate purposely made leather cleaner.
After each use rinse, re-wet and re-soap the sponge as needed. If you are cleaning or preparing a lot of tack you might need to replace the water from time to time to ensure it remains residue free.
Remove all excess soap from your tack by wiping it with a clean, dry cloth. Wipe until your tack is dry.
Using a new cloth or sponge, wipe a thin layer of leather oil over every surface of your new tack. Repeat this process until the leather stops absorbing oil.
Gently wipe all excess oil off your tack with a clean and dry cloth or towel.
When your tack is completely dry you can put all the pieces back together.
It is well worth the time and effort taken to prepare new tack for use. The prepared leather will be protected from sweat and dirt prolonging its useful lifespan. It will also be soft and supple, making it much more comfortable your horse to wear and for you to use. Well cared for tack also repels moisture, protecting it from rain, humidity and mould.
Well prepared tack is easy to maintain. Simply wipe it down after each use and thoroughly clean and condition the leather about twice a month. There is a number of ideal leather conditioning products available on the market which is perfect for everyday use. Leather creams and beeswax work very well. Try out a couple until you find your favourite option.
Please note: The instructions given in this article are intended for use with smooth genuine leather tack and equipment. There are an increasingly large number of synthetic or leather/synthetic combinations as well as many new technologically advanced methods to stuffing and seating materials on saddles. It is always in your best interest to read all the manufacturer’s instructions before you clean or prepare your tack in any way. Many of the new materials used have special cleaning and care requirements.