BY JESS CLAWSON
I like tack cleaning, but don’t always have time to clean my tack to the extent that I’d like. Back when I had an office job I could stop thinking about after I left work, my tack was always show-ring ready, but now I don’t have that kind of time and I bet you don’t either. So here are my top five tips and products for keeping my tack serviceable and tidy between in depth cleanings.
One Step Cleaning Products
I confess that I used to shy away from anything called a “one step” tack cleaning product. I didn’t think they were as effective as glycerin soap and oil, and some of them left a weird greasy residue. But the universe has come through on this, and now the number one thing I can’t live without on a daily basis is the Effax Leather Cream Soap.
For one thing, this soap comes in a squeeze bottle so you can just hang it from your tack hook. You don’t have to go looking around for it. It also requires absolutely no water, which means I’m much more likely to clean my tack in the winter when my hands are already cold. I just squeeze some into my hand and rub it into my bridle and girth and saddle billets after every ride. Then I grab a rag and wipe it off and I’m done. My tack is soft and clean without sweat and dirt sitting on it to degrade the leather.
No matter how busy I am, the one thing I always clean is the bit. If I’m in a huge rush, I just rinse it in the sink. If I have one extra minute, I’ll use the spray and cleaning rag from the EHI Bit Wash Cleaning Kit to make sure I’ve really got the corners of the bit clean so it’s as comfortable in Mo’s mouth as possible the next time I bridle him.
I live in Virginia, and our summers are very humid. Even in my air-conditioned tack room, bridles I don’t use every day get gross mildew. No one wants that! I discovered that the Effax Leather Combi+ Mildew Free Formula Leather Care, which has mildew inhibiting ingredients, worked very well. It comes in a spray bottle, so I just sprayed it on a damp sponge, wiped it on the tack and finally toweled off any extra. It keeps tack from getting gross. (Note: This is not a conditioning soap, so follow up with Effax Lederbalsam for effective mildew deterrence and leather conditioning.)
You don’t want to let your zippers get so clogged with dried sweat, dirt and horse hair that they need to be replaced any sooner than they need to be, so I really recommend brushing them out and spraying them with a zipper lubricant at least once a week. There are plenty of these on the market at tack and shoe stores. You can use a toothbrush on the zipper when it’s unzipped, and then run the zipper up and spray the lubricant on it. Run the zipper up and down a couple times, and be sure to wipe any overspray off the leather. You can also do this with half chaps.
If you ride in leather boots or half chaps, this leather gets as gross as your other tack. Especially this time of year, my horse is sweaty which means the inside of my boots get gross quickly. If I leave them dirty, they get a white film on them that can be hard to get off if it accumulates over time. With half chaps, I’ll go back to my trusty Effax Leather Cream Soap and wipe them off. But with tall boots, I get a product specifically designed to clean leather boots (Meltonian makes a good one). When I have one extra minute, I’ll swipe some polish on them too, because the more polished boots are, the less they hold onto dirt.
So that’s the quick and dirty, if you will, for keeping your tack in fine working order between deep cleanings.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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