October 14, 2022
Written by Suzanne Flaig, Director of the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center
In the equestrian world, “tack” is the term we give to the equipment we use on the horse for handling and riding. We most commonly think of saddles and bridles as our primary tack, but other accessories also fall into this category, like bits, girths, halters, etc. This equipment is important for the safety and enjoyment of both horse and rider, so proper care will ensure your equipment serves its duty and lasts for a while. Tack can be expensive to replace so knowing its purpose and how to care for it, will save you money down the road!
For saddles and bridles, leather is a popular choice. While there are sometimes synthetic materials used, leather is traditional and most common. The quality of the material used is important because tack should be well fitted to the horse and strong enough to hold the equipment in place. You would not want to be riding a 1,000-pound animal and have your equipment break mid-ride!
First, leather (when properly maintained) is a supple product. It has some give to it which is generally more comfortable for the horse carrying the equipment, and for the rider using it. Second, leather also is slightly “tacky” (no pun intended), so it sticks to itself and will not easily slip through your hands while working with a horse. Third, leather is durable and versatile. Quality leather tack can remain useful for many years. It can also be crafted into various styles and designs depending on the intended purpose of the equipment.
Leather tack needs to be cleaned routinely to ensure its integrity. As it is used, tack will pick up dirt, sweat even saliva from the horse. These types of organic matter need to be removed to prevent cracking and deterioration. Many choose to clean bridles and saddles after each use or, frequently with mild glycerin soap, often termed “saddle soap”. We typically use a damp sponge and a small amount of soap to wipe down all of the leather pieces. Some areas will require a little more elbow grease than others to remove any dirt. Less frequently, you will likely need to do deeper conditioning of the leather.
There are several products on the market including “neatsfoot oil” that provide softening and preservative benefits for leather. Tack is in better condition when it is used and cleaned regularly. Sitting idle for long periods is not good. The leather becomes brittle and may even develop mold.
Besides saddles and bridles, there are a gazillion other pieces of equipment you may see around the barn (ok, that might be a mild exaggeration, but there are a lot). A general rule of thumb is that equipment needs to be clean and in good repair. Cleaning tack is a necessary way to routinely inspect for any areas of wear like cracking or tearing. Those pieces should be replaced as needed, you do not want to take a chance of an equipment failure. Take the time to care for your tack and equipment and it will take care of you and your horse!
Looking for a way to get plugged in at the Equestrian Center? Visit our website to learn more about the programs we offer.