If you need to know how to clean horse tack properly, we’ve got you.
Your horse tack is an expensive and long-term investment and if you do not look after it, it will weaken, crack, get stiff, and start to look pretty bad.
This is the last thing you want to happen, especially if you have paid hundreds, even thousands of dollars for your tack.
You can keep your tack in great shape and prolong its life by following these easy tack cleaning steps.
Let’s get started!
Supplies You Need to Clean Horse Tack
- To clean your horse tack properly, you will need some essential supplies.
- 2 Small tack sponges
- Two plastic bowls (you don’t want to use something that can break around the barn)
- Saddle Soap
- Leather conditioner
- Clean towel
- Leather buffing mitt (not necessary, but good to have, especially if you have high-end tack such as a CWD saddle)
- Warm water
- Soft toothbrush
Cleaning Your Saddle
The saddle is easier to clean than a horse bridle, as it has more large parts. Here are the steps
1. Place your saddle on a saddle stand. This makes it easier to work around the entire saddle. Next, remove your stirrup leathers and slip the stirrups off.
2. Using a clean, non-soapy sponge, dip it into the warm water. Don’t soak the sponge. Wipe over your entire saddle so it is slightly damp but not wet.
This will remove any dust or sweat. As you are wiping the saddle, check it over for any issues such as overly worn stitching.
3. Make sure your lift up the leg flaps, skirt, and wipe under them. Don’t forget to tip your saddle forward to wipe underneath it.
When you lift the leg flaps, check the girth straps and their stitching.
Also check the wear on the girth straps, especially the points where you commonly attach the girth.
4. After wiping your saddle with a damp sponge, dip and squeeze it well with warm water to remove any dirt.
5. Rub the damp sponge over your bar of glycerine soap. If you have a different type of soap, such as a cream or liquid, apply this to your sponge.
Apply the soap to all parts of your saddle, including under the flaps. Make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.
6. If you find areas with a lot of gunk build-up, dampen your soft toothbrush and use this on these areas.
However, if you have leather that easily marks, test the brush in a discrete area first.
7. After cleaning the entire saddle with saddle soap, use your clean cloth to wipe off any excess. This tends to happen in areas where there are crevices.
8. Use your second tack sponge or soft buffing mitt for the next step. Apply leather conditioner to this and proceed to massage it into the leather.
Don’t forget to apply the conditioner under the flaps and your girth straps.
If your saddle tends to get slippy, use a conditioner that will help add tackiness to your leather.
9. Clean your stirrup leather and condition them.
10. Clean your stirrups. To do this, use the warm water and a stiff brush to remove dirt from all the crevices.
Dry your stirrups and put them back on the stirrup leathers. Finally, put them back on your saddle.
Types Of Saddle Soap
There is a wide choice of saddle soap available for equestrian stores. Certain leather will require that you use only particular saddle soaps.
However, a traditional glycerine bar is always safe, so if in doubt, stick to this.
CDW makes a good saddle soap and conditioner. The conditioner doesn’t smell the best, but it does an excellent job.
Some saddle soaps come in a spray container. These are not bad, but you might find them drying. For deep conditioning, lederbalsam is a good choice.
For a quick wipe down of your saddle or bridle (without taking it apart), you can get a packet of tack cleaning wipes.
Lexol makes these with a container that’s easy-to-store, access, and close. You will also find saddles soaps as creams and foam sprays.
Cleaning Your Bridle
Cleaning a bridle is a little more tricky but still easy to do. Start by filling two bowls with warm, clean water.
Take your bit off the bridle, and put it into one of the bowls to soak.
1. Take your bridle apart into each of its individual pieces. Before you do this, take note of what hole each of the cheek pieces and noseband is on.
2. Just like your saddle, use a damp clean sponge to wipe over all the bridle pieces.
Some parts of the bridle are prone to gunk build-up and will take a little more work to clean.
These areas are generally the underneath of the noseband, browband, and crownpiece
3. Apply your saddle soap to your rinsed out sponge and clean each piece of the bridle.
A good way to do this is to put the dirty pieces on one side of you. As you clean each piece, place it on the other side of you.
Putting the clean pieces on a towel will prevent little bits of dirt from sticking to them.
4. Wipe excess soap off each bridle part as you go, instead of doing it all at the end.
5. Once you have all the individual pieces clean, use your conditioner and put the piece back in its starting position.
6. As the conditioner dries and soaks in, clean your bit. Use a clean towel and wet it with the water from the bowl the bit was soaking in.
Give the bit a good scrub to remove all the built-up dirt. When you are happy with how clean it is, use the other end of the towel (that you didn’t wet) and dry it off.
7. Put your bridle back together, tie it up by wrapping the throat latch around it and hand it up in your tack room.
How Often To Do Horse Tack Cleaning
Ideally, your horse tack should be cleaned after every ride.
You don’t have to take your bridle apart after every ride, but a quick wipe will remove any sweat and dirt.
It is also a good idea to rinse the bit off after each ride.
Try to do a deep clean of your bridle and saddle at least once a month. This is the type of cleaning we outlined in the steps above.
Don’t forget to clean all of your tack. This includes your girth and martingale.
It is a really good idea to quickly clean girths and martingales after each ride as these tack items get dirty very quickly.
If you buy a new saddle or piece of tack, especially from a premium brand, ask them what products they recommend, they will know what works best with their leather.
Keeping your tack clean and conditioned will help it stay supple, sturdy, looking good, and make it last many years.
- “Cleaning Your Horse’s Tack.” n.d. Pro Equine Grooms. Accessed June 8, 2021. https://www.proequinegrooms.com/tips/equipment-and-tack/cleaning-tack.
- “How to Take Care of Your Horse’s Tack to Ensure It Lasts ⋆ How to Dressage.” 2019. How to Dressage. February 18, 2019. https://howtodressage.com/horse-care/take-care-of-horses-tack/#:~:text=To%20clean%20your%20tack%20properly.
- “Tack Cleaning and Leather Care | Dover Saddlery.” n.d. Www.doversaddlery.com. Accessed June 8, 2021. https://www.doversaddlery.com/tack-cleaning-and-leather-care/a/402/.
- “What Type of Leather Cleaner to Buy for Your Horse’s Tack.” n.d. Pro Equine Grooms. Accessed June 8, 2021. https://www.proequinegrooms.com/tips/saddles-and-bridles/what-type-of-leather-cleaner-to-buy-for-your-horse-s-tack.
Do you have other ideas on how to clean horse tack? How do you do it? Please share with us!
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.