I am very particular about my horsey things. Aside from my horse, my tack and stall are what I obsess over the most…That’s a lie. I obsess over everything being clean: horse boots, saddle pad, polos, organized locker, water buckets, etc. If you keep things clean on a daily basis they…spoiler alert!…stay clean. Here’s my step-by-step how-to for cleaning tack…
Step 1: Gather your supplies! You will need a clean small/medium sized bucket with HOT water, a bottle of Ivory dish soap (I use this for everything), sponge(s), 1 medium or 2-3 small towels/wash rags, Lexol conditioner, glycerin saddle soap, and metal/silver polish.
Step 2: Dilute a small amount of Ivory soap into the bucket of hot water. Do this after you have already filled up the bucket as opposed to putting the soap in first to avoid excessive bubbles. You should put in just 1-2 drops and swirl gently with your hand to mix the soap throughout the water. The water should look a bit cloudy as in the picture to the left. The Ivory/hot water mixture will be used to “strip” your tack of any dirt and sweat before applying any product to the leather. You may have to repeat this step as your water becomes dirty throughout the cleaning process.
Step 3: Use a small rag or one end of your towel. Get the towel damp with the hot water. Squeeze out as much excess water as possible. You do not want to put too much water directly onto the leather. You will repeat this very often while stripping your tack. You want the towel to always remain hot.
Step 4 (I accidently deleted the picture, sorry!): Rub the towel over all parts of your tack. You may have to use some elbow grease if your tack hasn’t been stripped clean in a while. Slight pressure but don’t scrub too hard. Don’t substitute excess water for elbow grease, be sure to follow step 3. Be sure to get all of the nooks and crannies where dirt and sweat build up. This step allows the leather to get direct contact with the product you will apply in the following steps and avoids piling product on top of product without ever actually cleaning the leather. Repeat step 3 as needed during the process. Depending on how dirty or clean your tack is, you may have to change out your hot water once or more during this process. DO NOT use dirty water. That is counter productive.
Step 5: Grab a clean sponge (doesn’t have to be new, just no left over product on it!). Dunk it into the hot water, squeeze out excess water, and pat it on a dry towel to make sure it is only slightly damp. Apply Lexol leather conditioner to the sponge. I have the larger container of condition, so I simply turn over the container one time to get the right amount of conditioner onto the sponge. If you use the spray bottle, spray the sponge 2-3 times on the “spray” setting. Squeeze the sponge a few times to get the conditioner to soak into the whole sponge.
Step 6: Rub the sponge with Lexol condition onto a bar of glycerin soap (preferably one not broken in half like mine!). Rub the sponge on the bar about 13-15 strokes. Again, squeeze the sponge a few times to mix the glycerin and Lexol mixture into the whole sponge.
Step 7: Apply the glycerin/Lexol mix onto all leather parts of your tack. You should not be “lathering” the leather during this step and their should be no white residue. If there is, or your sponge seems “foamy” then your sponge is too wet or has too much Lexol. Simply squeeze the sponge with a dry towel a few times, and then run it over the glycerin bar a few more stokes and continue applying the product. Put some elbow grease into it as you apply your product. Use slight pressure and work the product into the leather. You will have to dunk your sponge into the hot water and repeat steps 5 and 6 multiple times throughout this step. DO NOT repeat steps 5 and 6 without first dunking your sponge in the water (removing excess water, pat dry, etc.) in order to clean the sponge. That would be counter productive as you would be layering clean product on top of dirty product and a dirty sponge. For an entire English saddle I clean my sponge about 5 times. For a bridle 1-2 times. Again, you may have to change out your water and repeat step 2.
Step 8: Time for an important step that many people skip! I always polish all metal parts of my tack. This includes the very small buckles on the bridle, stirrup bar on the saddle, stirrups, spurs, bit, etc. Polishing metal will remove any dirt, sweat, or soap build up and produce an extra shine. It gives the overall picture a more polished (punny!) look and emphasizes attention to detail. There are many different types of metal polish that can be found in most grocery stores. Any will do, but my personal choice is Brasso.
Apply the metal polish to a dry rag. Rub a generous amount of the product onto all metal parts of your tack. “Never Dull” is not liquid so would not require this step, you would simply tear off a piece of the treated cotton and using pressure rub all metal pieces.
Next, use a dry rag (or dry section of the rag you used to apply the polish) and buff the metal. You will want to use a lot of elbow grease and remove all of the polish so there is no residue. You want to make the metal shine!
Which equipment?: I use this method on all of my tack (leather horse boots, spurs/spur straps, bridle, girth, martingale, breastplate, etc.). DO NOT use this method for tall boots. For my tall boots I use steps 2-4 (only without as much pressure) followed by a boot shine with boot polish and a buffing brush. As opposed to tack, where we don’t want to layer on product, layering boot polish is a good thing.
How often?: I do not do this entire process every time I ride. I use the entire process once a week for my saddle and 2-3 time a week for my bridle. The remaining days I simply follow steps 2-4 (I call it “wiping down” my tack). You can use the hot towel and some elbow grease (shocking, I know) to clean your bit and any dirt/sweat off your spurs rather than using polish throughout the rest of the week. I always put my tack away clean, bridle wrapped, and saddle cover on…it takes maybe an extra 5 minutes for at least a quick wipe down.