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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cleaning Tack

Let's talk about cleaning tack.

Is your reaction as pictured above? (look at all that tack to clean!!!!) Fear not! It's an important part of caring for your tack. I save time by spending time where it matters (on my leather tack) and taking short cuts where it doesn't (synthetics tack).
Leather is my first choice for tack. With regular care it will last a long time. It is strong enough to hold up to regular use, yet will break under pressure (a good thing if a horse gets hung up in their tack)
(Pictured - Duett CT with mohair girth and biothane breast collar)

When I bought my first good quality, modern saddle (Duett Companion Trail) I wanted to take the best possible care of the leather, so I asked their saddle fitter and repair person what to do. Here was their advice.

Every day cleaning (Saddle soap) -

1. Take a dry rag and wipe any dust and dirt off the saddle. You may need to moisten the rag to be effective.
2. Rub a slightly damp rag into a saddle soap bar. Rub into saddle
3. The saddle soap should not foam on the leather. If it does, it is too wet.

(Pictured - a very dirty Duett CT in need of a good oiling! Taken at DVE 2009)

Periodically -

1. After cleaning as described above use neatsfoot oil (NOT neatsfoot compound) on a rag and wipe the saddle down.

These steps also apply to other leather tack. I end up cleaning tack ~1/month (or less...) and oiling tack 1-2 times a year.

1. Spray off with a hose or wipe down with a damp rag
2. Let dry throughly
3. (now you know why people use synthetic saddles and tack.....)
4. Biothane tack such as breast collars, cruppers, bridles cleans up well in the dishwasher.
5. Bits also clean up well in the dishwasher.
6. Rope halters can go in the washing machine
7. I have washed my rope (synthetic reins) in the clothes washer after removing the hardware. They came out looking great (make sure you don't wash standing wraps with velcro on them with the reins....they might come out a little fuzzy....)

(pictured: sometimes it's not the cleaning that's hard work, it's putting it all back together!)

I own one mohair string girth and I love it. It does require more care than other synthetic girths, but I feel the extra effort is worth it. A mohair girth will last a long time, in heavy riding if taken care of.

1. Wash by hand in cold or lukewarm water.
2. Do not wring the girth while wet or it will "mishape"
3. Lay out flat on towels and blot dry.
4. Lay girth out flat to dry. Do NOT hang to dry.
5. Oil the keepers on the girth if they are leather.
Saddle blankets/pad
In my experience there is not good way to clean a saddle blanket. Putting pads in the wash seems to wear them out, especially the Toklat woolbacks. All of my blankets are wool based. I suspect the Skito pad will be easier to clean and maintain (canvas duck top with 100% wool underneath, inserts that remove).
My perferred method for cleaning blankets/pads is to fill a large container with water (trough or bathtub) and soak the blanket. Every so often swirl the blanket and step on it and replace the water. When the water runs clean, the blanket is clean.
Living in Central California I don't have to wash horse blankets very often, mostly just spot cleaning when I use them at Endurance rides. :)
Other notes
Use tack cleaning as an opportunity to inspect your tack for wear! Leather is most likely to break down where metal touches leather, such as bit hangers, buckles, etc. Any surface cracking or tearing of the leather should be noted. Inspect the stitching on both synthetic and leather tack. I learned the hard way to inspect bolts such as those that hold the top bar onto the easy ride strirrup. They are suppose to be locking nuts, but I had a top bar come undone in the middle of a 55 mile ride. Very inconvient....

I have to admit I have been known to clean tack ON my ambulance team. During breaks I pull out a can of black saddle soap and do touchups. It's not the same as a full cleaning and inspection, but it's something!

A thorough cleaning and inspection can be a lot of work, but I feel it's well worth the time. Well cared for tack will last me a long time AND I have the comfort of knowing my equipment is functioning properly and safely.

Thought for the Day (TOFD)
Does anyone else have tack cleaning ideas? How often does your tack get clean?


  1. hrmm...I'm getting used to the green
    why a picture of Our Mutt?

  2. Thank you for the tack cleaning post! Very timely - I had actually been contemplating how I would accomplish cleaning my beta breastcollar and bridle (did people REALLY put them in the washer??) and so now I won't feel so strange doing it! :-) I guess the synthetic stuff really is that easy.

  3. What do you mean green?

    Bingo is pictured because after doing all this tack cleaning, I promise you will be "dog-tired". This picture is of Bingo when I took her on a 15 mile conditioning ride, at a trot (in Yokhol) in KILLER hills. :)

  4. I should mention that the round object in the top right of the bingo picture is an egg. :) She was so tired she brought the egg over and didn't even want to eat it. The mud is from her playing in the ponds during the ride.

  5. Hey, someone else that rides a Duett CT! How do you like yours? I got mine about 2 years ago, and absolutely love it!


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