Horse equipment is EXPENSIVE.
Most likely, if you own or care for a horse, I don’t need to tell YOU that. As my husband has long said, “it’s not the buying (of the horse), it’s the keeping.”
How then should we care for this expensive equipment so it lasts as long as possible and functions as it should?
First, Store it Properly.
Saddles generally run in the thousands of dollars, and while they can last for decades if properly maintained, they need to be stored carefully. Whether that saddle fits you or the horse for decades is unlikely, but hey, there’s always resale value.
Best way to store a saddle? Like this:
This saddle is on a “Saddle Mattress” (yes, nicely personalized) so that the rack underneath will not damage the wool flocking of the saddle (http://www.saddlemattress.com). The padded saddle mattress can be made in almost any color with custom piping and name or initials, and it slips over the saddle rack to protect your saddle. You can also easily take it with you if you move to another tack room.
If I store a saddle on a tubular metal saddle rack with no padding, the metal will compress the flocking that I have paid a saddle fitter to adjust to my horse and the saddle will become lumpy and uncomfortable for my horse; the rack may also stretch the leather, compromising the saddle.
Wooden racks that are curved and shaped to fit saddles with no hard edges can be fine if you can find them. They are usually quite expensive but they are an elegant solution; however, you cannot easily take them with you so I prefer the portable saddle mattress.
Bridles should be hung on rounded bridle hooks, NEVER ON NAILS, which will weaken the leather. Here’s a lovely example:
Note that these bridles are hung on proper hooks, but many of the saddles in this backroom are right on the metal racks. Alas. Some saddles have covers but others have the sweaty pad placed over them to dry. Even upside down, that pad will get some dampness on the saddle, not good (see below).
Second, Cover Your Saddle. If your saddle did not come with a dust cover, buy one. All tack rooms are dusty (barns are dusty!). A dust cover helps reduce the dust on your saddle. NEVER store your sweaty, damp girth directly on top of the saddle. Preferably wipe it clean after use (o.k., I admit I don’t always do this), and then place it on top of the dust cover so the dampness does not contact the seat of the saddle. A dust cover also protects your saddle from UV rays if the tack room has a window. UV (sunlight) will fade and dry out tack badly. We’ve all seen those formerly black saddles, now blotchy brown…
Damp and sweat are the enemies of leather: remember that. Metal saddle racks are bad, too.
Third, Clean and Condition Your Tack regularly. I did not grow up in Pony Club and I’m not British so I do not do this daily. God bless you if you do. But when it gets dry and crusty it is uncomfortable for the horse and bad for the tack. Don’t go there.
Find a schedule you can live with and make it work. I get it done by simplifying it this way:
- Don’t try to do all the tack on the same day. Too tiring. Don’t take bridles apart except maybe once or twice a year. Otherwise the task becomes overwhelming (especially when you have a double bridle!).
- Use warm water only to clean the tack and remove dust and sweat. Most experts believe that soap just adds gunk and is another thing to get off.
- Allow tack to dry slightly, then condition well with a good conditioner like Passier Lederbalsam or Effax Lederbalsam. Apply generously with a small tack sponge. Let soak in while you are finishing the rest of the tack.
- Take a cleanish dry towel (small one) and wipe the excess off, polishing the tack.
- Wash the bit off every single day. I just run it under the faucet quickly. If you don’t have running water, dunk it in the horse’s water bucket or wipe it with a cloth. Leaving it with spit or chewed carrot on it will make it crusty and uncomfortable for him to put in his mouth. Keep it clean.
- Voila! Clean, soft, beautiful tack. Not my bridle at right, but a nice one.