The Nitty Gritty Guide to Cleaning Your Tack
If you want to get the most mileage out of your horse tack, proper cleaning goes a long way to boosting durability (and beauty). Here are some tips to help you clean your horse tack and get showpen ready.
Supplies: Before you get started, you'll need a few essentials. Pick up a washcloth, a tack sponge, a small bucket, a toothbrush, leather cleaner, and a good leather conditioner. Whether you clean your tack after each ride or set aside a day to clean it all in one sitting, it is important to have all your supplies ready to work!
Bridle: Taking apart your bridle is the only way to get a deep clean. This allows you to get to where the fittings lay on bridle straps and to get access to the underside. If you have a bit that has stuck-on grime, hot water will do the trick! Just drop your bit in a bowl of hot water for about 10-15 minutes and then wipe away any buildup or residue. To clean the leather of your bridle, first wipe it down with a damp cloth and then use your leather cleaner with a toothbrush to scrub away the dirt, dust, and sweat left behind after riding. Once squeaky clean, apply a good quality leather conditioner with a damp tack sponge and work it in with a circular motion. Let your bridle air dry before putting it back together, and consider using a bridle bag to to prevent dust from settling on your freshly cleaned bridle.
Saddle: Since your saddle can't be taken apart that easily (or at all in some cases!), it's not as easy to deep-clean as a bridle. Whether you ride English or western, you'll get good use out of that trusty toothbrush! Especially for the often intricate details on a western saddle, a toothbrush can help to clean out crevices. Again, use a damp cloth to wipe down your tack so it's dirt and dust free before applying leather cleaner. Then, as you work in your leather conditioner be sure to get to the hard-to-reach areas so the leather is evenly treated. It may feel taxing, but it's worth the little extra elbow grease.
Saddle Pad: The frequency of washing your saddle pad may be more of an individual preference or based on the care instructions (and also dependent on laundry facilities available to you). Your saddle pad is the protective layer between your horse's back and your tack, so the faster it gets dirty - the more frequently you'll want to wash it. If you encounter stuck-on dirt, a metal shedding blade can help to rake dried dirt, sweat, and hair from the saddle pad. Just don't overdo the elbow grease here to avoid holes or damage to the stitching! Always follow care instructions on the label and wash with mild, scentless liquid detergent and budget time for air drying if required.
Horse Boots: Horse boots get undoubtedly dirty from mud, footing, or whatever you are walking through with your horse. Since the inside of the
boot is what is laying against your horse's skin, make sure that you use a hard bristle brush to scrape off the dirt and sweat from inside the boot. Adding a Velcro brush to your tack cleaning arsenal comes in handy to remove stuck-on hair, hay, and other hard-to-remove particles.
When cleaning neoprene boots, use a mild laundry detergent or shampoo in a bucket of warm water and swish your boots around. Then rinse off with clean water and let them air dry. Leather boots, on the other hand, can be cared for in the same way as your bridle or saddle as described above. Polo wraps and bandages can be placed in a mesh laundry bag before putting them into the washing machine to help protect them, and should be line dried or put on a low setting. When fully dry, just roll them up for easy storage.
Safety always comes first when working around horses and paying regular attention to your tack helps ensure that it is all in working order. Not only does regularly cleaning your tack keep it looking shiny and new, but it also protects your investment to help it last for the years to come. So whether you're riding through rugged trails, showing in a hunter derby, or just out hacking, clean tack will keep you and your horse comfortable, safe, and photo ready. Show us your best shot by tagging @hobbyhorseinc!