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CLEANING TACK -Updated Sept. 27, 2007

Harrowsmith Horse Country carries all of your tack cleaning needs including neatsfoot oil, Dubbin, shoe polish, and an assortment of sponges. We also carry saddle covers and carriers to keep your saddle at its' best.

Here are Heather's Tack Cleaning Tips...

Your saddle and tack deserve special care. Especially when you take into consideration the amount of money that you invest in your quality riding equipment. Saddle covers help keep your saddle cleaner and are fairly cheap in price.

If you properly care for your tack, then it can last a lifetime. If you don't, then your quality leather items will dry out, crack and deteriorate, becoming unsafe to use. Stiff, hard leather will also cause your horse unnecessary discomfort.

How often should you clean your tack? That depends on how much use it and the type of environment that you ride in. A dusty or sandy arena can be hard on tack. Daily riding generally requires a good thorough cleaning once a week.

I like to wipe down leather tack after each use. Storing them covered will assist in keeping your tack in good condition. This is better than just doing extensive cleaning 2 or 3 times a year as the daily grime and sweat  damages unchecked. Most tack rooms are not airtight and are humid as well as dusty. This encourages dirt and mold to accumulate. Cleaning your tack will also bring worn leather parts to your attention, which essential to your safety as you gallop 30 mile per hour over jumps, around barrels or across the field.

How to thoroughly clean your tack:

Tack cleaning is best done in the garage, basement or outside if weather permits as it is very messy.

A saddle rack would be handy as well as a bridle rack for convenience. The necessary items for cleaning are: a pail of warm water, 2 sponges. saddle soap (Feibing's bar saddle soap, Feibing's Glycerine spray or Horseman's One Step), a SOFT brush, a drying cloth. a bucket for soaking leather pieces' in neatsfoot oil, a ,steel wool pad (for bits) and/or old toothbrush (for tooled leather, hard to reach spaces behind keepers and for bits).

  1. Begin by disassembling your tack. Unscrew conchos, silver pieces, remove buckles, stirrups, cinches, etc. It is difficult to remove dirt from around these pieces otherwise and mould and dirt can weaken the leather at these spots.

  2. Remove dirt by wetting your sponge and applying the saddle soap. Horseman's One Step can be used by applying and wiping until dirt is lifted from the leather. Allow to dry and then buff. Do NOT rinse off the final application of Horseman's One Step. If you use one sponge just for applying your saddle soap and the other for cleaning and rinsing, you will get better results. Try not to apply too much saddle soap, as it has a tendency to stick in your tooling of the leather.

  3. Rinse your sponge often and change your water several times if need be. Saddles with certain types of tooling are difficult to get the dirt out and that is where your soft brush or toothbrush will be useful.

  4. Wipe your saddle/tack with your drying cloth. Do not dry your tack near direct heat such as a furnace or wood stove.

  5. After your tack is dry, next you will want to apply neatsfoot oil or a leather preservative. This will protect your leather and will put the moisture back into the leather.  Neatsfoot oil will darken leather, so you may not wish to use this on light colored tack. Horseman's One Step can also be used - it cleans, moisturizes and protects. Two or three applications may be needed to get the desired moisture content back into your leather. Drying your oiled leather in the sun will make for good absorption. Next, you will want to wipe off excess oil or preservatives. Then buff by rubbing with your soft rag.

Excessively dry leather pieces such as head stalls and reins can be soaked in a bucket of neatsfoot oil after being cleaned and dried. After soaking, wipe the leather with a clean soft rag and work out excess oil. Be careful as not to over do soaking, excess oil will bleed and also will attract dirt. Use your steel wool pad in warm water to clean your bits and buckles. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. Do not use brushes or steel wool on your conchos or silver pieces. For those, use a soft cloth and a silver cleaner, following the package directions.

There are lacquer spray products available to put the "shine" back on your saddle. However, they don't last very long and need to be applied often. After cleaning and assembling your tack, you will want to store in a cool, dry place. Cover tack with cloth or plastic if your tack room is subject to dust or humidity.

There are several cleaning products available for quick clean ups. Simply spraying the product and wiping with a soft rag is good for in between major cleaning tasks. But don't cheat and neglect saddle soaping when needed!

Always check your tack after each use and wipe off sweat with a damp cloth. Sweat will deteriorate leather fast. Wipe sweaty tack off after each ride - especially girths which will chafe your horse.

 When storing your tack for several months cover (i.e. show tack over the winter) with a layer of neatsfoot or other leather oil to prevent cracking. Allow to dry overnight, then cover with an old sheet or saddle bag, or even store in plastic ( I like to store show bridles in thick, clear plastic if you are sure that they're dry). Store items in a dry location to prevent mould. If you are worried about rodents, throw a mothball or two into the bag to ward them off -they hate the smell. In Spring, air out tack so YOU and your horse don't have to smell it. A little more work, but, again, protects your investment.

Taking care of your tack will keep it in good use for a long time and will save you money.


  • Neatsfoot oil: A combination of natural and synthetic oils is used by saddlemakers and bootmakers to soften, preserve and waterproof smooth leathers. It lubricates the fibres which restores suppleness.

  • 100% glycerine bar: Restores leather to its full-bodied suppleness and buffs to a rich, satin finish. An excellent cleaner and preservative.

Harrowsmith Horse Country carries all of your tack cleaning needs including neatsfoot oil, Dubbin, shoe polish, and an assortment of sponges. We also carry saddle covers and saddle, bridle and boot carriers to keep your leather at its' best.

Last month's feature: Nutritional Supplements.

Harrowsmith Horse Country 2007

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Phone: 613-372-5085
4930 Hwy 38,  Harrowsmith, Ontario K0H 1V0


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