Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Do Wednesday: Tack Edition

As we all are well aware, there is not much to do in winter in the ways of riding unless you live in the south (I hate you bitches!). If you're like me, you become a giant slug that doesn't get anything started because why bother.

I decided to put an end to all that because no one likes slugs, especially unproductive ones. So going along with the "New Year" motivation garbage, I made some mini goals for my winter equestrian endeavors, sans riding.

Like making blanket hooks. Check. Clean chicken coop. Check. Organize back half of barn. Check. Organizing feed bins and labeling properly/updating feed list. Check.

And cleaning tack.

And then I remembered its winter and everything is frozen, including my saddle soaps.

So whilst they're defrosting in my house into a useable consistency I figured I would bang out a post about tack cleaning.

My mind tends to wander endlessly when there are no distractions and so I began to think about my love/hate relationship with cleaning tack.

I rarely do it for one. I am a seriously bad tack whore. I think it stems form the fact that growing up I owned worthless pieces of leather that no amount of cleaning could glamify and no amount of drowning in conditioner could soften. So I just didn't do it.

Enter Pony Club.

We ALL know how that goes. You're basically considered useless if there's a speck of dirt anywhere on you, your tack or your horse. Practically impossible to succeed at any of that and only solidifying that tack cleaning was worthless and futile.

After PC, I continued to not care. I also still owned nothing of worth. Almost all my shit was pleather, including my saddle, so I just hosed it off when it got sweaty. None given.

I think my parents were trying to teach me something by not just giving me everything I wanted, like shiny, soft, pliable, nice leather goods, even though they could easily afford it (thank you rents).... but teenage me hated it.

Then, I tuned 16, my mother was deployed, and she gifted me a drool worthy dressage bridle from GER as apologies for missing such a monumental b-day.

Yankee modeling fancy bridle like a Sir (bridle is 8 yrs old in this pic)
This changed my tack cleaning ways forever. Kind of.

Once I started making my own money and buying nicer pieces of tack, I also took better tried taking better care of it because HOLY GOD was it expensive.

FFW through college and into present day, I now own all mediocre brand, real leather, second hand tack that I love to death but also take TERRIBLE care of. I am the worst.

I don't know why its so hard for me to clean my fucking tack but it is. I put it off. And off and off and off. I HATE sticky fingers and more than normal dirty nails. I despise having to change clothes just to clean tack.  I hate the mess. I hate nasty tack sponges. I hate tack hooks. I hate scrubbing bits. It requires so much effort ...and its just a PITA.

Jesus, what first world problems.

But seriously, my main issue has always been finding a product thats easy to use and does the job. WHAT in the hell do you use? What is best? WHY? WHO KNOWS THESE ANSWERS?!

In college I had a BO who made us clean our tack after every use. She had reallllllly nice leather cleaner from GER, but I could never afford that shit so I just used Leather New. Doesn't do a very good job.

Then I moved barns and it was the dustiest place on earth and cleaning tack was basically pointlesss. So I rarely did.

I dabbled with Horseman's OneStep for a while when I did my semi-annual cleanings, and found I like that best for quick wipe downs but nothing gets tack shinier and cleaner than regular tack soap and water. But then, for crying out loud, you have to condition it too. MANY PRODUCTS. HOW DO. So I just get stuff from TSC and call it a day.

My main WD question is what brand of tack cleaner do you use? AND how often do you clean yours? (And how do you make yourself do it)
Since I haven't cleaned anything of mine since, oh, September, don't feel embarrassed if its equally as shameful. Spill it!! What do?

Feed me your secrets. 


  1. I use a dual leather conditioner. Cleans and conditions in one spray bottle! It's sticky, but it's quick and painless. I basically only clean my tack before shows and after being wet (i.e. rain or beach trip). All my bridles were under $100 when they were new, and majority of my saddles are synthetic or ridiculously old (Except one. That one lives in a saddle bag and is meticulously groomed). So I don't deem it necessary to go overboard on the cleaning.

  2. I clean tack about 2 times a year. Once before show season and once it has grown too much mold to show/ride in it again. I am right there with you, who has time to clean tack?!?!

    I use Lexol leather cleaner and water to wash tack, one tack sponge for the cleaner/water and one sponge to wipe it all off with clean(er) water to rinse. Then use Passier Lederbalsam slathered on very liberally and left overnight. Wipe any excess off in the AM with an old sock and done. Most of my bridles are finally Bobby's or equivalent ($100-150ish in quality) but it this routine works really well on the cheap leather also. I have been using this routine for about 6 years now.

  3. You need to get off the Leather New/Horseman's One Step train and get yourself some Higher Standards soap. It will change your life. Tack cleaning might not be FUN, but it won't be miserable, if you just change what you're using! It cuts through the nasty sticky grime like nothing else I've ever used, there is no sticky residue, it doesn't make your hands feel disgusting, and there is minimal scrubbing involved. As far as bits go, I just rinse them off with the hose/sink/dunk them in a bucket post-ride, and toss them in the dishwasher before shows to really deep-clean them. I TRY to clean my bridle after every ride, but sometimes I am lazy and it doesn't get done. However, the more often you do it the less time you will spend digging nasty noseband crud out of your fingernails. Though if you use HS, the fingernails aren't necessary. My second-favorite cleaner is the Belvoir spray, but you do need to condition after you use that stuff since it can be pretty drying.

  4. I use Higher Standards soap and either their conditioner or Effax lederbalsam. I usually clean every couple weeks, and wipe down with a wet rag after every other ride. Oh and it was 80 degrees here yesterday. ;)

    1. Amanda stop gloating about your life in Texas with your tropical temperatures and not-frozen riding arenas!

    2. I have to gloat while I can, we'll be melting by May!

  5. If I used leather new and horseman's one step I would also hate cleaning tack! Get some higher standards, or Stubben soap, I'm a fan of passier leather balm for occasional conditioning. But seriously girl the higher standards is da bomb. My skin feels nice when I'm done, plus there is the whole aroma therapy aspect and oh yeah, my tack feels, looks, and smells amazing! I wipe it off every or every other ride and condition maybe every other week.

  6. I am the same as you. I didn't care, and then I bought nicer tack that I can't afford to replace and could hardly afford to buy, and now I care. My secret is diluted ammonia wipedowns after every ride (although I often skip it in winter). It makes it last longer between true deep cleanings, and bonus, it inhibits mold growth as I found out last summer when everyone's bridles were green except mine. 1 part ammonia to 10 parts water in a spray bottle, spray lightly on sponge, wipedown, done. Then I use HSLC about once a month, and Passier Lederbalsam once every 3-6 months depending on the tack and season.

  7. I'm as bad as you (I've never cleaned my bridle) so I'm no help, but the comments are fascinating!! I use Leather New too, so I'm enjoying learning about the other (better) options out there. :D Thanks for asking this question! I'm feeling very motivated to clean tack right now.... too bad I have to be at work in ten minutes... *snicker* Procrastination queen right here haha.

  8. Yeah, step one get leather care products that don't completely suck. (I use higher standards soap and butet leather conditioner.)

    Step two use it. :-)

    I clean every other day (ish) in the dry months because dry rot is a real thing here. About once a week in the winter because so is frostbite.

  9. I clean my bridle 2x a month (take appart, full clean, soak bit) and my saddle 1x a month. I use Fiebing's Saddle soap and no conditioner.

    I have my mom to thank for my tack cleaning ways --- specifically, when I was young, I was not allowed to clean tack in the house. I had to clean it on the porch and it was a mother f'ing pain in the ass.

    Now that I have my own house, I clean my tack in my living room in front of my tv. HAHA MOM!!! Middle finger to you! LOL So tack-cleaning is kind of rebellious and fun :)

  10. I'm lazy as all get out so I don't do it often. However, in the winter we get rain and our tack sprouted mold, so everything has been cleaned a bunch recently.

    I also had a saddler out recently to fix my mule's saddle andI had him look at my old (15+ years) prestige saddle that I use on Dijon while he was there. He said it was in great condition and didn't need any re-flocking (it hasn't in 15 years), but I did need to clean and condition it more often as the panels were getting stressed from sweat. So I've started cleaning it much more often as it's the only really high end tack I own, I cannot afford a new one, so I need it to last many more years.

    I use High Standards. Using this might actually help you get more inspired as it smells really good so it's not nearly as annoying of a process. The cleaner also does some conditioning so you don't need to condition as often.

  11. I'm a Pony Clubber, so clean tack makes me irrationally giddy.
    I like to bring all my tack home and clean it while watching a movie. Seriously that's the most fun thing ever.
    My favorite for cleaning is just plain castille bar soap. It's really foamy but soft on the leather and works well. My absolute favorite conditioner in the world is this German stuff in a little orange bucket. The label is completely in German, so I can only read some of it, but it's amazing. I also found this conditioner some Australian guy was selling at USPC champs last year. He makes it using natural waxes and oils, and it waterproofs. It's absolutely fantastic on boots!

  12. I clean my jump saddle once a month, bridles and other junk about every other or right before a show, boots about once a month also. Higher Standards all the way, Im almost out of the conditioner thats how much a love it

  13. i'm equally terrible bc i have a crap bridle and a wintec... so uh, yea not a lot of fancy leather cleaning going on. but if i can ever find a nice saddle that meets my needs, i will probably be cleaning the ever loving crap out of it with some effax leather balsam

  14. I'm pretty bad about tack cleaning too...pretty much only do it before show. I use the Leather Therapy brand "wash" because it's pretty easy. Just spray it on a damp sponge, squeeze said sponge, and voila! Beautiful foamy foam to clean with. But then you have to dunk the sponge in water to get the dirty foam off and that gets cold in the winter, so screw tack cleaning in the winter.

  15. I use the passier cleaner and oil. In the summer I clean after every ride and oil before and after shows. In the winter I probably clean once a month and oil then also.