How to keep your riding gear and equipment in good shape
By Scott Bish
Whether you ride, show, compete, breed, raise, or rescue, you invest a lot of time, energy, money, and love into your horses.
Keeping equipment in top shape ensures you’re getting the most out of your investment in horse tack. Properly cleaning, maintaining, and storing your tack will keep each piece working hard, and, more importantly, it will keep you and your horse safe.
Know How to Spot and Prevent Wear and Tear
Every time you tack up your horse, inspect your equipment. When you’re putting leather gear on your horse, check for signs of wear, tear, and age, including cracks in the leather and loose hardware. Leather can naturally dry out and snap under strain, especially pieces that are exposed to a lot of rigor, pulling, and pressure. That’s why it’s best to wipe dust and sweat from your tack immediately after use, and regularly clean and condition your equipment.
Pay special attention to pieces with buckles, such a headstall, bridles, breast collars, and off billet. Look for hole elongations in the straps. Because holes can tear out easily, if you spot stretched out holes, don’t take chances; replace that piece of tack. If pieces break, your gear could come loose and cause serious injury to you and your horse.
Another important area to inspect is the screws on your headstalls and reins. If those pieces have Chicago screws (the type most commonly used to fasten belt buckles onto belts), make sure they are screwed in all the way.
TIP: Paint Chicago screws with clear nail polish. It acts like a lock-tight glue, and because it’s removable, it makes replacing screws easy.
Stay On Track with Cleaning Tack
Get into the practice of cleaning your horse tack every time you return to the barn or stable. The reasons go beyond looking your best in the arena or on the trail. You’ll protect equipment from microorganisms that are drawn to your horse’s sweat and saliva, including mold, which is hazardous to horses and humans. Mold can thrive on damp leather stored in dark tack rooms, and can quickly penetrate the pores in the grain of the leather, breaking down structural fibers, which causes stains and weak spots.
To avoid this, after every ride, wash the accessories you’ve used, from the saddle to the bridle to the halters.
For leather tack, use glycerin soap, which won’t dry out the material. After scrubbing these pieces, use a soft towel to rub in a leather conditioner, such as Neatsfoot Oil, then wipe off any excess. The result will be a smooth, soft sheen.
For tack made from synthetic materials, such as nylon halters and neoprene splint boots, the cleaning products and process differ slightly. To wash nylon tack, use a mixture of gentle soap and warm water. If you need to loosen up dirt and grime, soak synthetic materials in the gentle soap and warm water solution, then use a soft brush to work the dirt off. If you have a synthetic saddle with leather parts, keep the water off the leather areas.
Another way to protect your gear from mold is to ensure your tack room isn’t an environment where mold can thrive. Keep an eye on the space’s humidity, and use a dehumidifier when the room feels damp.
TIP: Spot mold on leather tack? Take the item outside and clean it away from your other equipment. Use a conditioner that contains a fungicide and is pH neutral. Next, air out the tack room and let in some sunlight.
Rein In Clutter With Smart Ideas For Tack Storage
A major component of preserving your horse tack is how you organize and store it.
Maximizing every area in your tack room is key. On walls, prioritize hanging large items like saddles and bridles using hooks to free up valuable floor space and keep gear clean. If you have more wall space, hang additional hooks for items such as halters, spare bits, crops, spare reins, and girths.
Store saddle blankets and other items that aren’t meant to be hung in tightly sealed tote boxes. This will protect your gear from barn mice and other critters. Just be sure the blankets are clean and dry before packing them away so they stay mold-free and ready for your next ride.
For horse medications, sealed treats, brushes, and miscellaneous supplies, consider adding a small storage unit. Even some heavy-duty milk crates can do the trick.
While time, expenses, and work go into owning, riding, and raising horses, meticulously caring for your horse tack means you and your horse will have that much longer to enjoy it.
TIP: Choose stackable tote boxes. You can pile them in a corner so they take up less room. This’ll also prevent potential tripping hazards and make it easier to keep your tack room clean.
For more ideas for storing and maintaining your horse tack, visit your local Tractor Supply and ask an associate for help.
Scott Bish is a writer who hails from Ohio.