Routine cleaning of your riding tack will help preserve its life and value. Horse sweat, water and mud dry out leather and cause it to crack and weaken. Unused saddles stored in humid tack rooms can develop mold, which can get under the surface of the leather and causes permanent damage and pitting.
Celeste Lynaugh of Piasa Leather and Tack at 5442 N. 2nd St. in Loves Park, IL, has been servicing and repairing riding equipment and boots for over thirty years, and shares her tack cleaning and care tips:
Clean leather with glycerin saddle soap, water and rags.
Use a brush to clean hard to get areas, tooling and stitching.
Keep stitching clean to prevent deterioration.
Separate products designed specifically for cleaning or conditioning are more effective than using one “all purpose” product.
For thorough cleaning, take everything apart. Remove stirrups and leathers, untie latigos, unbuckle buckles.
Brush leather with a vinegar/water solution to remove mold. Vinegar changes the ph and kills mold. Mold washed off with soap will grow back.
After removing mold, clean leather with saddle-soap.
Drying wet tack
Let cleaned tack dry before conditioning or oiling.
Never dry wet leather in the sun.
Oiling and conditioning
Always clean tack before oiling or conditioning it.
Leather Therapy by Lexol is an effective conditioner.
For oiling, use pure Neatsfoot Oil instead of a “compound” which darkens leather.
Oil lightly in layers.
Do not soak tack in oil. Over oiling stretches and weakens leather, and rots stitching.
Cleaning fleece and felt
Use Fabreze spray underneath the saddle on sheepskin fleece to remove mildew.
Brush off horse hair from fleece /felt.
Use pressure sprayer on felt lining of cinches, saddles or pads to remove sweat and dirt.
Allow felt to air dry for several days.
Cover unused tack to keep it dust free and clean.
Use a cover made of breathable material. Leather needs to breath.
Plastic/vinyl covers can cause molding.
When storing tack, don’t keep folded saddle pads on top of saddles, or stack saddles on top of pads, as it invites rodents to nest and cause damage.
Don’t soak new tack in water to break it in. It rots stitching and deteriorates saddle glues.
Don’t use duct tape on western saddle horns when stitching comes apart. The glue from removed tape makes re-stitching difficult. Use vet wrap that sticks to itself instead.