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If you ride, you clean tack, but let’s not plan to spend most of the day doing it. Tack cleaning can be quick, enjoyable and organized, or it can be messy, confusing and guilt inducing—the latter by not doing it or not having a good system.
What are we trying to do here?
Basically when cleaning your tack you are checking your equipment for the next ride, cleaning the dirt and sweat off it without removing too much of the oil that keeps it supple and lively, and replenishing any oil lost. Then you put it away in the easiest possible manner to use next time.
The set up.
Have a tack cleaning hook hung near a source of water. The water can be a bucket, a sink, or even a thermos. Make it as close as possible to your grooming area and the eventual place you store your tack.. On that tack cleaning hook hang two small absorbent towels--one for your bit and one for your hands—more on that later If you’ve got them, you can hang your “Woolies” there as well.
The moment you take your bridle off the horse and tie him or her up, take your bridle to the water and rinse the bit. Don’t worry too much about getting the base of the leather reins or cheek pieces wet. You have a towel right there and you are going to dry them off. Wipe away any green grunge that has accumulated, quickly dry the leather, and leave the bridle there for now and go attend to your horse.
You should also have a towel in your grooming kit. If your girth or leg gear for the horse are muddy or sweaty wipe them of now, before a crust forms. This thirty seconds saves time and a lot of effort.
Every now and then you will want to completely take apart your bridle and clean the metal residue from the buckles and bit connections. But on a daily basis, with the right soaps, oils and cleaning tools you don’t have to do more than wipe it down. The trouble people often have is that they don’t separate the tasks involved and get either dry or sticky and gooey tack., First you clean, and then you condition as needed.
Your tools are saddle soap. The clear glycerin type in bars is my favorite. Beware of additives in your bar, which might be a nice idea at first, but in my experience makes a sticky mess after a while, leaving an unfortunate residue, which you will have to wash off in a bucket. For cleaning, I don’t use anything you can’t see through, they leave a=2 0residue you can’t see through either, and I stay away from anything with silicone. If you have a “Loaded Wooly” it will have pure German glycerin soap incorporated into it.
Then you have oil and grease. I have a favorite kind of oil, which you can see elsewhere in the site, but a non-petroleum based oil is a must. Olive oil is better than most commercial saddle oil. It does not go rancid or rot stitching, and is readily available. The German beeswax grease is nice for some applications.
If you don’t read German, what they are saying on the beeswax product label is that its use is as a water proofing agent. It is not a cleaner. But it is great for billets, and any leather that gets wet—for instance girths and the areas around your bits. It contains mostly emulsified fats and beeswax. Good stuff, and a jar, though pricey, will take you a long way.
Then you will need a towel or two and some natural sponges or a wool cleaner, which you can see on this site as well. (Synthetic sponges really do not work very well—though they are included in almost every saddle cleaning product. Go figure.)
So, saddle soap is meant to be used as a cleaner with some, not a lot, of water. It is supposed to melt away the salt and sweat, but once melted, you have to actually remove the grime. You do this by rinsing the sponge—otherwise you just get layers of soap and dirt. Not nice.
But, rewetting often leads to too much water and too much suds. A wool cleaner is the best tool for this, as you don’t have to rinse if very often. The wool fibers pick up an astonishing amount of grunge without being actually abrasive. And they hold a lot of it without giving it back to the leather--you don’t have to rinse so often
Re rinsing and wetting and suds.
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