How do I care for my leather tack?

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CLEANING: When it’s time to give your tack a really thorough cleaning, remove the cinches or other extra pieces to clean separately. In the case of your saddle, you’ll want to turn the saddle upside-down on a blanket or feed bag, then vacuum the sheepskin. Next, set it on a saddle stand in a warm and dry location. Remove any dirt or debris and go over all of the leather with a sponge wrung out in clean water with a little bit of detergent soap. Use a natural bristled brush to clean. Next you’ll want to have your saddle soap ready to use on your tack since it is formulated to clean tack, it should be used judiciously and rinsed completely off. After soaping your tack, rinse all of the soap off with a sponge dipped in clean water, then let your tack air-dry. Never use a hair dryer, heat lamp, or direct sun to hurry the drying time, this can cause your leather to shrink.

CONDITIONING: When your saddle is drying, that’s the best time to apply conditioner. Again, be sure any soap residue has been rinsed off entirely first. When the saddle is not quite dry, apply a light coat of conditioner or oil to both sides of the leather, then follow up with another light coat after it has dried completely. This helps keep leather pliable and prevent it from drying out. Tack should be conditioned more often in dry climates. Saddles soften with use, but tend to stiffen up when sitting idle. So if your saddle is going to be stored for some time, rub a light coat of conditioner over it every now and then.

OILING: Oiling a saddle is best done infrequently. How often depends on what kind of riding you do and the condition of your saddle. Don’t slather too much oil on your tack, excess oil can soak into the leather too much, and over-oiled leather can stretch and become weak. Don’t oil the underside of the stirrup fenders, as the rough leather will absorb too much oil quickly. Never oil rawhide parts. A very light coat of oil two or three times a year is usually enough, unless your tack gets soaked with sweat, water or gets caught in a storm, then you might need another coat applied to it.

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