Your horse’s tack will be some of the most expensive equestrian purchases you make but, with the right cleaning and care regime, you can ensure that you get your money’s worth out of these pieces. Here, Sean Whiting from equestrian supply specialist Houghton Country discusses the importance of caring for your horse’s tack and how you can keep your kit in great condition for longer.
Britain is a nation of horse lovers, with reports revealing that roughly 200,000 of all UK horses are owned as pets (Statista). And, while the animals themselves can come with a pretty price tag, it’s also important that you understand all of the other costs – with one of the most expensive being your horse’s tack.
Horse tack is a riding necessity and includes your saddle, girth, bridle and reins, among other things. All of these are essential for enhancing your riding experience so keeping them in good condition is crucial. Here, I’ll be sharing my top tips for looking after your horse’s tack.
Determine how regularly you need to clean your tack
Your tack will look and perform at its best when it is cared for regularly so it’s important that you take the time to clean and maintain it, no matter how tempting it is to leave it once you’ve returned to the stables. There are no set rules as to how often this should be done but many riders will give their tack a quick wipe-down with a clean, damp cloth whenever they finish using it, while others feel that it’s enough to do this once a week. Thinking about the weather that your kit has been exposed to can help you decide how often to clean your kit.
Similarly, what your tack is made from may also help to dictate how often you need to give it some TLC. For example, synthetic saddlery and bridles typically require less care and attention than genuine leather, which will need to be maintained with specialist cleaners, conditioners and oils. It’s important to read the instructions for these products to find out how frequently they should be used.
Dismantle your tack for the best results
Some pieces of your horse’s tack will have multiple components to them so it is crucial that you are cleaning every nook and cranny of these. The best way of doing this is to dismantle your horse tack wherever possible.
For example, when thoroughly cleaning your bridle, you’ll need to take it apart. This includes taking the browband off the head piece, as well as dismantling the cheek pieces, noseband, bit, and reins. Doing this will ensure you can identify any areas with a build-up of dirt and debris, which may need extra attention. Remember to make a note of what hole number all the parts are set to so you can reassemble the bridle to exactly the same size – especially on older tack where it may not be clear which hole you had been using.
Only use specialist horse tack products
To preserve the original condition of your horse tack, it’s important that you only use specialist products, rather than trying to use home remedies that could cause discolouration, drying, and irreparable cracking of your leather tack.
There are specialist products that will help you to gently but thoroughly clean your horse tack. Leather soap will typically come in a liquid or solid bar form, which can be applied directly to your tack with a sponge or cloth and excess wiped away – remember, wet leather stretches and wet metal could rust. Allow your tack to dry naturally as if it is dried too quickly it can get hard and crack. Once your tack is dry, you can then use tack conditioners that will properly nourish your leather as well as give it a polished sheen. Bits and stirrups can be cleaned using hot soapy water or a specialist cleaner. Bits should be thoroughly rinsed and dried before they are put back in place.
If you are looking to further your money, it’ll be a good idea to invest in products that are multi-functional. For example, there are conditioners that have stain-repelling properties so your tack can look greater for longer. There are even products such as oils and leather dressings that have been designed to improve and preserve the suppleness of brand new leather as well as improve the condition of old and worn leather tack.
Check for any damage
Each stage of the cleaning process will present an opportunity to spot any areas where your equipment has been damaged. This could be anything from cracked or worn-down leather, to broken stitches and splits. Pay special attention to the top of girth straps where it joins the saddle, the straps themselves, as well as stirrup leathers, billets and buckles. Any damaged tack should be repaired by a saddler if possible or replaced immediately, as it can pose a risk to both you and your horse.
Remember to properly store your tack
Caring for your tack doesn’t end when the cleaning process does. Storing your equipment properly is particularly important after cleaning, as the materials may be softer and more flexible than usual, meaning it can be easier for your tack to become misshapen.
To avoid this, you’ll need to know how to properly store your kit. For example, your saddle should be rested on a saddle rack above ground level when you’re not using it – preferably with a cover over it to keep it clean and prevent scratches. The rack will imitate the curve of the horse’s back so that your saddle keeps its shape. Keeping your bridles and reins hung up on hooks well out of the way will also ensure you can always find them and that they’ll be safe from accidental damage.
Caring for your tack may seem like a tedious chore but, when you’ve spent a pretty penny on your kit, you’ll want to make it last as long as possible. Follow my top five tips to ensure you’re caring for and cleaning your tack frequently and in the correct way.