My Mom Says To Clean Your Tack

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Supplies

My mom used to gather all her charges in the 4-H horse group that she led and have us painstakingly take apart our headstalls, undo the Chicago screws that held our reins to our bits, and take the stirrups off our saddles. Once all the pieces of our tack were laid about us on the floor, she instructed us to close our eyes and reassemble them in less than ten minutes or we would be kicked out of 4-H.

Ha! Just kidding. But I remember looking at all the pieces and thinking “How in the heck am I ever going to know where all these little pieces of hardware go?!” It’s the same feeling I had yesterday when I unpacked the wall mount for our TV. But back in the ’90s, Mom had a solid plan. She taught us to dip our rag in warm water, spray a little Leather New on our rags, and then rub it into all the leather pieces until they were dark, clean, and smelled like a brand-new pair of boots.

Cleaning and oiling tack is a big chore, and it’s one that is easy to neglect. Taking apart all those buckles and individually washing and applying leather conditioner to every rein, strap, string, and saddle skirt is a tedious project. It’s not nearly as fun as saddling up and going for a ride, so it often gets put off for far too long.

Neglecting to clean and condition your tack can be dangerous, though. Leather dries and rots over time, especially if dirt and grime is allowed to build up in its creases. If the leather is under stress, such as where it’s folded and under tension in the latigo, it can wear through and break in half. This would be very bad if you were sitting in a saddle that was strapped to your horse at the time of the break.

Cleaning and inspecting the big, highly visible pieces of leather such as the saddle seat and latigo is done fairly regularly. Don’t forget to carefully examine your cinch hobble, though. This little piece of leather has a big job – keeping your back cinch from riding too far back and becoming a flank strap. More than one person has gotten bucked off from their cinch hobble breaking and scaring their horse. Don’t let that person be you. Check your cinch hobble. I’m a mom and I say so.

Cleaning your tack is best done on a warm, sunny, fall day. The weather should ideally be about 75 degrees with no breeze. Leaving your tack outside in moderately warm weather will help it absorb the suppling oils better. Don’t leave it out in hot sunlight, like on a 90-degree July day. That would essentially cook the leather, which is bad. Alternately, winter provides ideal tack cleaning conditions if you move the project indoors. You can leave leather close (but not too close) to a wood stove or furnace to help it absorb the oils.


It’s also a good project to tackle each winter. That way, your tack gets a thorough cleaning, and you don’t have to sacrifice riding time to do it since it’s cold, wet, and muddy anyway.

Now, go clean your tack. My mom said so.


Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Supplies

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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