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Tips for Horse: Prep Your New Leather Tack

Preparing New Leather Tack for Use

You've spent hours researching the perfect tack for your horse.  You've scrimped and saved until you can afford to buy it.  You've carefully fitted it on your horse, so you know you will not need to return it.  Now you get to ride, right?!  But, WAIT!  Before you ride in your new tack, you need to prepare it for use. 

The goal?  Remove the waxy coating that comes on most new tack, so that it can absorb enough oil to protect and soften the leather. If you don't, you run the risk of damaging your brand new tack.   

Get out your tack cleaning supplies and follow these steps.  Remember, you can't return your new tack after you have cleaned it, so be sure it fits!  

What You Need:

  1. Glycerin SoapGlycerin Soap comes in a bar or tub.  The natural fats or oils in glycerin soap allows it to clean leather without drying it out, and also help preserve your leather.  Glycerin Soap is safe to use every time you ride, so make sure you always have a bar or a tub on hand.
  2. Neatsfoot OilNeatsfoot Oil will supple your leather quickly and safely. This is a rich compound that will not rot stitching. With deep, penetrating oil, Neatsfoot is excellent for restoring leather after storage or prolonged use in the rain.     
  3. Tack Sponges:  Any sort of sponge will do, but tack sponges are a convenient size to get into all the little tight spaces on tack.
  4. Soft Cloth or Towel:  Keep  a pile of old (clean!) soft towels around, or purchase barn towels if you don't have any old ones.
  5. Small Bucket :  And sort of small bucket, or large plastic container will do.

Step by Step:

  1. 1. Make sure all buckle are open and tack pieces are taken apart before you start.  This will ensure that every piece of tack gets treated.
  2. 2. Fill a small bucket with very warm water
  3. 3. Wet your tack sponge, then squeeze out excess water
  4. 4. Rub the damp sponge over the glycerin soap to get it nice and soapy, but not sudsy.  If you get a lot of suds, your sponge is too wet.
  5. 5. Rub the soap over every piece of smooth leather, including the back sides.  Rub vigorously enough that you remove the thin wax coating. (Note:  DO NOT clean suede portions, like knee rolls!)
  6. 6. Rinse, re-wet, and re-soap the sponge as needed (with a lot of tack, you may need to dump and replace your water)  
  7. 7.Wipe all excess soap and suds off your tack with a clean, dry cloth.  Wipe until your tack is dry
  8. 8. Using a new cloth, wipe a thin layer of Neatsfoot Oil over every surface of your new tack.  Repeat until the leather stops absorbing oil. (Alternately, for bridles and small items, you can fill a small bucket with oil, place the tack into the bucket and let it sit for a few minutes.)
  9. 9. Wipe all excess oil off your tack with a dry towel (leaving on excess oil just causes dust to stick to it)
  10. 10.  When tack is completely dry, put all the pieces back together!

It is worth it to take the time to prepare tack for use before you use it. The oiled leather will be protected from sweat and dirt.  It will be soft and supple, and therefore more comfortable for you and your horse.  Well oiled tack also repels water, keeping it safe from rain, humidity, and mold.
All you have to do to keep your tack in good shape from here on out is to wipe down after each use and condition it about once a month. There are a number of wonderful cleaner/conditioner combinations on the market that are good for everyday use.  Try out a few until you find the one that works for you.

Note:  These instructions are intended for traditional smooth leather tack.  Increasingly, there are synthetic options, leather/synthetic combinations, and endless new high tech approaches to stuffing and seating materials on saddles.  Be sure to read all the manufacturers instructions before you clean or prep your tack in any way!  Many of the new high tech material options have special cleaning and care requirements.                  



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