Cleaning Tack

It is important to keep your tack clean, supple, and in good condition. It is especially important that the girth and saddle pad are cleaned, otherwise dirt will rub into the horse’s skin while riding, causing irritation. Use saddle soap on leather at least once a week, and clean off dirt after every ride. Check for wear, especially of the stitching, as you clean the tack. If it breaks while you are riding, it could cause an accident and injure both you and the horse. Take the bridle apart for a thorough check once a month, even if you do not ride that often; tack can still deteriorate even when it is not being used. You should keep all of your tack cleaning equipment together; you can store most of it in a bucket that can also be used for the cleaning. You must keep it clean; otherwise it will transfer dirt back onto the tack. The type of sponge you use is particularly important; you need to be able to squeeze it almost completely dry, and it should be replaced regularly. Other supplies that you should have on hand include saddle soap, a stiff brush, a damp cloth, polishing cloth, dry cloth, a towel, metal polish, saddle oil, and an oil brush.

Cleaning the Bridle
  1. Hang the bridle from a firm hook just above eye level. Wipe all parts of the bridle with a damp cloth. Hold each piece taut with one hand, and rub the cloth up and down it with the other. Be careful to include stretches of leather that are usually covered by a buckle or runner.
  2. Moisten the saddle soap and rub it on a damp sponge. Do not soak the sponge in water; putting more lather than soap on the leather will cause it to dry harder, rather than supple.
  3. 3) Soap all the leather on both sides by rubbing the sponge up and down. Remember to include the pieces from which the bridle is hanging.
  4. 4) The bit must always be washed after use. Soak it in a bucket of water to wash off dried grass and food. Also soak the stirrup irons to wash off any mud. Remove the stirrup leathers first, and wash the stirrup treads separately if necessary. Be careful not to put any of the leather in the water – it will be damage the leather and stitching.
  5. 5) Any metal work that shows can be buffed with metal polish. Do not use polish on the mouthpiece of the bit; it will taste unpleasant and irritate the horse’s mouth.

Cleaning the Saddle
  1. Remove the girth, the buckle guards, if they are detachable, and the stirrup leathers. Clean a leather girth and the stirrup leathers in the same way as the bridle. Turn the saddle upside down, and clean the panel and the underside first. Then rest the saddle on a saddle-horse while you do the rest. Start by washing off dirt and grease with a damp cloth.
  2. Apply saddle soap to all leatherwork with a circular motion. Soap all the crevices between the flaps and straps. Do not soap any cloth or suede areas; just brush them to remove dirt.
  3. Oil leatherwork periodically to protect it further; especially the rough underside, because this is the most absorbent. Oil only clean leather. Wipe off excess oil, which could stain your clothes.
  4. When cleaning non-leather girths, remove mud and hair with a stiff brush, and then soak the girth in soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Do not use detergents because they can irritate the horse’s skin. Clean saddle pads in the same way. Some girths and pads are machine washable. They must be completely dried before they are used again.


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