Tack Care 101: The importance of cleaning and oiling your gear

Importance of Taking Care of Your Tack

By Marilyn Darrell

On a recent ride out at Maverick Horseback Riding in Lockhart, Texas, part of my day’s lessons (as a newbie to horses and the riding experience) was learning about tack. One of the most important aspects of horse riding is taking care of your tack. You know… the gear and equipment used to ride your horse. Bonus information: Tack is short for “tackle”.  And that’s what I am going to do in this post – “tackle” (muahahah) the importance of caring for and inspecting your tack.


As I mentioned, tack is the gear used to ride the horse, including: saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, and the like. When you are riding your horse, your tack is gonna take some wear and tear and get dirty. During my rides out at Maverick Horseback Riding we are taking on some pretty good dirt trails through creeks and all points in between. In my opinion, for maximum fun there should be some mud and dirt involved! And then, also consider the horse who is doing all the work. Four words: sweat and horse slobber. Sometimes rider slobber as well. Needless to say, tack gets dirty.


So, much like telling jokes at church, it’s important to keep it clean. I’ve talked to friends who were raised taking care of horses and riding. They said that while growing up they were taught the importance of taking good care of their tack and it was a significant part of the responsibility of horse ownership. They would spend hours meticulously cleaning, oiling, polishing, and caring for their tack whether it was just part of their chores, or for shows, barrel racing, or competitions. So, maybe you don’t have a competition to spit shine everything for but it’s important to keep your gear in good shape for the safety of you, your horse, and the longevity of your tack.


It’s a good idea to do a quick wipe down after every ride so things don’t get out of hand. Use a damp (not wet) cloth and wipe all the surfaces down. Remove all dust and mud. For major cleaning time have some old toothbrushes handy for getting in the nooks and crannies. Undo all the buckles and wipe off every square inch of surface. Give some extra time to caring for those areas of tack that get extra wear and tear. Follow with a sponge or cloth and work some saddle soap into the leather. Wipe off again with a clean damp cloth. Remember: If you apply oil on dirty leather it actually sets the dirt. Then over time you just have a build-up of layers of dirt and oil. Not the treatment you are going for. So, take the extra time to do it right.


After cleaning, it’s important to condition the leather with a conditioner or leather oil. The leather needs constant oiling. Remember it was once skin (sorry vegan readers) and needs constant conditioning. Note: don’t oil the reins. It’s a lot like greasing your steering wheel. If you don’t take care of the leather in your tack it gets dry and will snap on you. This is a safety issue. Speaking of safety, this cleaning time provides the perfect opportunity to carefully do a safety check on your tack. Look for wear and tear and rips and basically anything that doesn’t look safe or like it’s capable of doing what it is meant to do.


Happy trails!


Marilyn wrote a two series piece for us after pitching in for some saddle and ranch maintenance to learn a bit more behind the scenes about what we do.  If you are interested in getting involved, or getting your children involved in an educational program that will teach them more than simply how to ride, this may be a good option for you.  Contact Us directly for more information.


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