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This is a question I see asked regularly on social media and rider forums. I personally don’t feel like there is a straight forward answer to this. So in this post I will explore some of the common answers to how often you should clean your tack and you can decide which one works best for you.
Firstly, why do you need to clean tack?
Despite what you may have thought as a child, cleaning tack is not just so that it looks nice for when you go to shows! Clean tack is more comfortable for you horse. After all, how comfortable would you be wearing a t-shirt you got really sweaty in yesterday without washing it?
Clean and well maintained tack also makes it last longer. Cleaning leather tack helps moisturize the leather and stops it from cracking and breaking. Which means it will be with you for longer.
How often should you clean tack?
I think to answer this question, you need to think about how often you use your tack and how deep a clean you want to do.
After Every Use
If you are using your tack on a daily or near daily basis, it will probably benefit from a clean after every time you use it. Now this doesn’t have to be a deep clean every day! A quick wipe down with a damp sponge after each use is usually enough. You can then do a deeper clean where you take it all apart each month.
If you don’t have the time for a quick clean after every use, a weekly clean is probably the better option for you. If you are using it daily, I would give it a good clean with saddle soap once a week, taking it apart and cleaning under the buckles at least every other week.
2-4 Times a Week Use
After Each Use
If you have the time, it is probably best to at the bare minimum give your tack a wipe down after every use. As with the daily, this could just be a quick once over with a damp sponge. And then clean with saddle soap at least once a month or so.
Similarly with daily use, you could get into the routine of giving your tack a good clean once a week. It could just be a quick clean with some saddle soap, taking the bridle apart for a deep clean once a month or so.
If you are riding closer to 2 times a week, you can probably get away with only cleaning your tack monthly. But in this case I would recommend taking the bridle apart and giving a deep clean.
Even if your tack is rarely used and sat in the tack room for months on end, you should still take the time to look after it. How often will really depend on the conditions in your tack room. But I would recommend having a look at it at least every 3 months and in the bare minimum wiping any dust off of it.
Always rinse the bit!
No matter how often you ride or decide to clean your tack, always make sure to at least rinse the bit off after use. When are horses are working they salivate and there’s a good chance there is still a bit of food in their mouths. This can stick to the bit and harden in the air, making it quite uncomfortable for them.
When you may need to clean more often
If your horse has gotten particularly sweaty or if your tack has been splattered with mud or water, you are better off giving it a quick clean before putting it away. As not only will it be harder to remove at a later date, but it could also be very uncomfortable for your horse and be damaging the leather. Sometimes a quick wipe with a sponge is enough.
How often should you oil your tack?
You don’t actually need to oil your tack too often at all. Saddlers suggest oiling new tack, if it gets very wet or if it has dried out.
Play it by eye
As long as you keep an eye on your tack, you can be a good judge of how often you need to clean it. I don’t wipe my tack down after each use. When Scottie is in regular work I typically take it apart 2 or 3 times a year and deep clean it. But the rest of the time, I give it a clean every month or two with saddle soap. And if Scottie has gotten sweaty I will make sure I wipe it with a damp sponge before putting it away.
I probably should clean it a bit more than I do. But my method works for stopping a build up of muck and my bridle has never seemed dry or brittle. However, now that Scottie is coming back into work after about 6 months off I am going to give it a good clean and possibly oil it.
How often do you clean your tack?