I Clean Tack

By Terry Golson

I hear that many of you are filling your hours cleaning out closets and hunting dust bunnies and drifts of dog hair out from under the furniture. But if you are equestrians then you have something even more satisfying to do. There’s tack to be cleaned!

I pride myself on keeping my gear in excellent condition, especially the leather goods. After each ride I rinse off the bit and swipe the bridle clean. Every so often, I unbuckle it to clean the hidden parts.

I am very fussy about how I care for my tack and the products that I use on it. I remove sweat, horse dandruff and dirt before applying leather conditioner. Saddle soap doesn’t clean as much as it rubs all of that gunk in. So, first I use a product that cuts through and removes the grime. Then I apply leather conditioner as needed.

For the last week, in order to avoid spending time in the tack room, (coronavirus protocols) I haven’t done my usual bridle cleaning routine. Yesterday, I grabbed it and brought it home.

The light in my kitchen revealed an appalling sight!


It was time to take apart the bridle and to give it a deep clean and condition. First, though, I always take a quick photo. No matter that I use this item everyday, when I go to put it back together I invariably forget what hole to use, or which way that ergonomic crown piece faces. A photo makes sure that I get it right.


That grey dandruff clings to the leather. A wet sponge will rub it off, but that leads to the leather drying out. Instead I use a rag and a leather cleaner which is formulated to cut through grime. The Sterling Essentials product is made in the USA.


One side of my reins are rubber. Those are scrubbed with an old toothbrush.


I also use that toothbrush on the part of the cheek pieces that holds the bit.


As I clean, I check all of the stitching. Conitioner and sweat can rot stitching. I run my fingernail along the stitch lines to remove old gunk and check that there aren’t gaps in the threads. I know people who have been riding along and have had their bridles come apart!

Once the leather is thoroughly cleaned, it’s time to use the conditioner. Splurge on the good stuff. I like Passier and

. I use a clean rag to apply the leather salve. Use more than you think you need. Then use a dry rag to rub it in, and remove the excess. Be generous with your use of rags. I cut mine into small squares, and throw them out when used up.

At this point your fingernails will be black, but your hands will be soft and smell great from the leather conditioner!

Put your bridle back together, hang it up, step back and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.


Then, if you can, go out and ride.


I arrived at the barn this morning to hear the news that it would be closing for two weeks, per a government order. Maine has not been hard hit by covid-19, and we want to keep it that way. The people who care for the horses will be able to continue to do their jobs, but we boarders need to stay home. Tonka will be in very good hands.

I will do my best to keep my sanity without my horse time. I brought home my grooming box. That’ll get a deep cleaning next.

5 thoughts on “I Clean Tack

  • Lizzie in Cornwall

    One of the best smells (after the aroma of horse, of course!) is clean leather – imho

  • Rebecca Stedman

    Very handsome picture of Tonka. Tack looks great.
    Good job, must be very rewarding to see it all spiffed up. Take care.

  • Jan

    We are under lockdown, my girls give me sanity. Tonka will be well looked after, but I know it will be hard. Shame Steve could not set up video link to keep an eye on him. Stay safe everyone 🙂

  • Daisy

    Satisfaction of the work well done ! Love to see handsome Tonka and I know you will miss him and for sure he’ll miss you ! I can imagine his ears checkin for you in the distance ! Take care !

  • Gin

    Sorry you can’t go and see Tonka. At least you have your property and wilderness area in which to spend outside time.
    I have a Phoebe starting to build a nest on my porch light, not a really safe place for her babies, she has only just started her nest, so I’m putting the rubber snake there again. I don’t think it will help as one year it scared her, the next year they didn’t try and build there, then the next year she just built it on top of the snake. So we will see.
    Stay well and safe everyone, “this too shall pass”.

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