Get in the habit of regularly cleaning your riding gear!

Chores, chores, chores… I know you probably don’t want more of them, but tack cleaning is an essential part of being a rider! Brittle bridles and reins can be dangerous, while dirty girths and saddle pads can be uncomfortable for your horse. If you get in the habit of cleaning your tack on a regular basis, then it will likely last you much longer. It will also be safer and more comfortable for your horse.

A Tack Cleaning Strategy

Tack like your saddle, bridle, breast collar, etc… should be wiped down after every ride. A once-over with a damp rag can eliminate caked-on dirt and dust.

Once a week to every few weeks, you’ll want to give your leather a deeper clean. Some tools you’ll need include small sponges, clean rags, a toothbrush, and warm water. An all-in-one leather cleaner works well or you can use a separate saddle soap and conditioner. 

  1. Start by brushing off dirt. You can even use a damp sponge. The goal is to remove as much mud and dust as possible to avoid rubbing it in with step two.
  2. Use your soap to get a deeper clean now. A small amount of soap goes a long way. Try to avoid making the saddle or bridle foamy, as that’ll require a lot of rinsing. A toothbrush can be used in small places or on tooling.
  3. A damp sponge or towel should be used to remove the soap, unless it’s an all-in-one. Always follow the directions on your saddle soap! A conditioner can be worked into the leather. Avoid over-conditioning the stitching of the saddle and bridle. This can cause rotting! You may need to unbuckle straps to get the whole bridle.

Tack Cleaning Tips

Silver accents like your horse’s bit, saddle irons, and buckles can be cleaned with a metal or bit polish. Start by letting them soak in a warm, soapy bucket of water. Some riders even put their stirrup irons in the dishwasher.

Once your saddle, bridle, and girth are cleaned, place them in an area that isn’t humid or hot. Excess moisture can cause your leather to mold. Additionally, a saddle cover can be used to keep dust away.

You’ll also want to remove hair and dirt from your saddle pad. A stiff horse brush can do the trick after each ride. Make sure you hang them up to dry with the bottom side up. When they’re starting to look really dirty, throw them in the wash. A gentle soap will get them clean and safe!

Miscellaneous items like protective boots and fly bonnets should also be cleaned regularly. It’s helpful to brush them off after every ride and wash them after a few. 

Tack cleaning will keep your riding gear looking and working great! Always consult your saddle manufacturer for more detailed directions. Your leather cleaner should also have instructions on the back. Hopefully, these tips can get you started though!

Emily Fought

Emily Fought discovered her passion for horses early on in life. When she isn't writing about them, you can find her in the barn riding. Although Emily's background is in dressage, she enjoys cross-training and is an avid trail rider. She resides in Northeastern Ohio with her husband and small dog. Together, they own and operate Humblewood Farm. Emily not only writes for but as well!