When was the last time you cleaned your tack? A few days ago, weeks, months, years? If you answered months or years, chances are that it’s dry, hard, and cracked. To be kept in good condition your tack should be checked over and wiped down after every use and thoroughly cleaned and conditioned often.

Anyone who has horses is bound to find some leather in their tack room, and its important that you know how to properly care for it. Leather bridles, saddles, halters, and harnesses will last you for decades if they are cleaned regularly.

Every time you use a piece of leather tack, run over the entire piece with your hands to check for any cracks or stitching that is tearing.  Check all the buckles and screws to ensure that they are is in safe condition. You wouldn’t want something to brake or tear while you’re riding. Checking them every time you use them will prevent an accident and extend the life of your tack.

What tack needs to be cleaned? It’s not just your saddle and bridle that needs to be cleaned. It’s everything thats leather. You would be surprised at all the places you can find leather hiding in your barn. Leather whips, gloves, leads, boots, etc. There are many different types of leather and they should all be cleaned on a regular basis.


How Often

How often you clean your tack will depend on how frequently you use it. You should always check over your leather tack when you’re finished using it. Use a damp clothe to remove any dirt and mud.  Use a dry clothe to remove any moisture such as sweat or rain before you put your tack in storage to prevent the growth of mold. 

If you use your tack daily or every other day, you should do a quick cleaning after every use and perform a thorough cleaning once every 1-2 weeks.  If you use your tack once every 1-2 weeks, do a quick clean after every use and perform a thorough cleaning once every 1-2 months.

If you have tack in storage that you don’t use very often, such as a show tack or tack stored for the winter months, it’s important to take it out of storage about every 1-3 months for a cleaning and to check for mold or mildew. You should check over all the tack for any signs of rodents or insects that may have gotten into the storage container.


Cleaning Routine

Step 1. If you are cleaning a halter, bridle, or harness, disassemble it and clean each piece separately. Remove all the screws, conchos, metal plates and hardware. Before you disassemble your tack, however, take photos or write down how each piece fits back together and where all the buckles and screws belong. Then if you forget exactly how each piece fits together you can look back at your photos. Use a small scissors to trim any fraying threads to prevent the stitching from coming undone any farther


Step. 2 Clean the leather with tack soap. I use two types of saddle soap, Fiebing’s Liquid Glycerine Saddle Soap and Fiebing’s Saddle Soap. Use an old rag to remove any dirt, dust, or mud from the leather. Next, use a rag or a tack cleaning sponge to apply the saddle soap. You can use liquid leather cleaner for large areas or cracks. Make sure to give special attention to areas that touch the horse, which can be exposed to sweat and dirt. Don’t be to gentle, put some elbow grease into it to ensure that all the dirt and mud that has worked its way into the leathers pores is removed. If the buckle holes become filled with leather cleaner be sure to use the buckle prong to clean them out. You can use a toothbrush to remove dirt from from the stitching of the leather. 


Step 3. Next, after you have finished cleaning the leather with leather soap, use leather conditioner to preserve the leather and protect it from dirt and mud. Use leather oil to condition and soften the leather. Rub the leather vigorously,  the heat from the friction will cause it to absorb the oil better and give it a shiny appearance. When you’re finished, place the leather in the sun to dry. The protective oil doesn’t last forever and the leather will have to be cleaned and the oil replenished often. 


Step 4. You can use silver or metal polish to shine the metal hardware that you removed earlier. Metal plates from show halters especially. Once the leather has dried completely, reattach any metal pieces and ensure that all the screws are tight.


Why do you need to oil the leather? Leather tack is a natural product and has natural oils. Over time the natural oils are diminished and need replenishing. The leather oil I’m using is called the Original Outback Leather Seal. It naturally repels water and mold and won’t rot the stitching. It’s completely organic with no chemicals.


Leather Storage

Always store your leather in a cool, dry area, such as a large plastic trunk. Places that are too warm or damp will cause mold and mildew to grow. Be sure that insects and rodents don’t have access to any of your tack. Storing leather in direct sunlight will dry it out and make it brittle. Make sure your tack is completely dry before putting it into storage to prevent the growth of mold. Properly cleaning and storing your tack will add years to it’s life.