Tack 101

Cleaning Tack: Be a Super Soaker!

Cleaning Tack: Be a Super Soaker!

washing two bitsYou might think your horse pal doesn’t care about having clean clothes. He rolls in the pasture, slurps water from his bucket and couldn’t care less about the shavings in his tail.

But what if your mom never did your laundry? Wouldn’t that be gross? So don’t give your tack the “smell test” to see if it is clean enough.

Good AQHYA members and Junior Master Horsemen know it is important to take the time to clean their tack.   Make a habit of putting saddle soaping high on your to-do list.

Make a list and check it twice:

  • Bucket with clean, lukewarm water
  • Clean sponges
  • Clean towels
  • Scouring pad
  • Saddle soap or glycerin soap
  • Leather conditioner
  • Neatsfoot oil
  • Saddle rack
  • Bridle rack or hook to hang bridle

Here’s how:

  1. Wipe tack clean after every use, because dirt and sweat can create and promote bacterial growth. Bacteria can break down the leather, and we all know how expensive new saddles and bridles can be! Regular cleaning and conditioning will keep your tack supple and in shape, protecting both you and your four-legged friend.
  2. Make sure your bucket has clean water in it. If you’re cleaning a bridle, scrub the bit with the scouring pad to remove all debris. Using a flat-head screwdriver or other dull object, remove particles of caked-on dirt from your saddle and bridle.
  3. Get your sponge wet and wring out as much water as possible. Apply saddle soap with your sponge to the leather, working in small, circular motions to create a lather. Rinse your sponge periodically to remove excess soap and dirt. Don’t forget to clean the undersides of the tack and all the parts that have contact with the horse — they’re the ickiest!
  4. Dry your tack with a towel.
  5. Apply a leather conditioner like neatsfoot oil with a clean sponge or rag.  This replaces the oils in the leather that were lost during the cleaning process. Let the conditioner absorb into the leather.


  • Leather conditioners should only be used periodically, but leather cleaners and soaps are OK for everyday use.
  • Periodically take your tack apart, buckle by buckle, and do a thorough cleaning. Use a toothbrush, cotton swabs, or even toothpicks to nudge any accumulated dirt from the stitching lines, holes and tooling.
  • Proper storage of your tack will ensure that your clean tack will last a long time. Tack should be stored away from heat, direct sunlight or extreme cold. Also avoid storing tack in a damp place where mildew could grow. Mildew causes smelly tack, and nobody wants that!

3 thoughts on “Tack 101”

  1. I like to clean and condition all my tack in November when I put things away for the winter cold. This keeps them in Great shape so in the Spring when I get things moving again everything is supple. November is also a great time to inspect and do repairs on my tack.

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