tack cleaning tips


Cleaning tack – everyone does it every day, right?


  • Cleaning tack – either you like it or you don’t. YES, you should do it after each and every ride. Taking care of your tack ensures it will take care of you. You will keep the leather in top condition, and you can spot repairs that need to be made long before your stirrup leather fails during the lesson with BNT.  Videos below of the entire process.


stiff brush on a black dressage saddle

Get the surface dirt and stuff gone.


stiff brush cleaning a stirrup

A stiff brush is good for getting the grit out of your stirrup pads.


Follow the manufacturer’s directions for tack cleaning


  • If you don’t have those instructions anymore, a quick call to the closest tack store or saddle company representative can help you. A quick internet search will also give you an answer as to how to clean your particular brand of saddle.


  • This is because of the many different types of leather that are out there today, from calf to buffalo and even ostrich, and the manufacturer will likely be able to recommend a cleaner and conditioner that matches your saddle’s leather type. 


  • If you have no idea what to use as far as products go, you likely can’t go wrong with generic glycerin soap.  If it’s humid where you live, the glycerin residue may get sticky over time. Many choices are outlined here!


tack sponge cleaning the seat of a dressage saddle

The small sea sponge is great for cleaning tack.


Get the dust, sweat, and hair off.


  • Lift all flaps and get under there, too! You will notice that the seams are often the first place that hair and goop like to collect.


  • A stiff nylon brush can get into the nooks and crannies to remove horse hairs that want to live there. This works for saddles with tons of texture, you may not want to risk scratches with smooth leather.


  • This is a great time to also check all of the stitching and overall health of your tack. I once had a girth billet break while I was riding (yikes). It’s dangerous, and embarrassing that I had not noticed the stitching was giving out before I threw my leg over.


Leather care basics to avoid your tack drying out


Proceed with whatever tack cleaner is suggested.


  • I use a glycerine/conditioner blend for my saddles that is suggested by the manufacturer. Applied with a sea sponge, this process takes seconds.  For saddle soaps that get foamy,  you may want to wipe the excess with a cloth before applying the conditioner. 


  • For my very old and very slippery jump saddle, I use more of a conditioning paste to add a little tacky so I don’t slide off during a ride. You can also purchase sticks and sprays of tacky goo that can help you stay planted in the tack.  Sorta important!


  • For my textured and specialty leather dressage saddle, I use a super short bristled brush and some paste conditioner to get into every nook and cranny. This creates that tacky finish and the bristles from the applicator brush get all of the hair and dirt from the seams.


You can also make your own saddle cleaner/conditioner in your very own kitchen. Adding great smelling oils to this concoction (recipe here) is easy, too.


brush cleaning a saddle

This finishing brush is handy for working your favorite saddle cleaner into the hard-to-reach places! Not suggested for saddles with smooth leather.


Use oils to soften new leather.


  • You may want to use neatsfoot oil to soften or darken a new saddle.  Shades of brown leather often start out as orange, and a bit of neatsfoot oil can tame that color.  Hydrophane oil will absolutely darken leather. 


  • This is great on occasion – and please be warned that some saddle flocking can be disrupted and damaged by oils on the underside of the saddle, so use caution or avoid that area altogether when oiling.


  • I like to use a toothbrush to get into those areas that my fingers won’t – like around the stirrup bars. You can also wrap a cloth around the non-bristled end to apply oil or conditioner into those hard-to-reach areas, too.


stirrup and fold of stirrup leather

Don’t forget to inspect the stirrup leathers where the stirrup rests.


Tack cleaning demo


go shopping button for horse products


If you want to pick up some lederbalsam or oils for conditioning your saddle, I like these below. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, but no worries – you aren’t charged extra. I truly appreciate your support! Thanks!


Fiebing’s Liquid Glycerine Saddle Soap for Horse 16 fl oz

Effax Leather Balsam 500 ml

Fiebing’s 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil, 32 oz. – Natural Leather Preservative

Hydrophane Leather Darken Oil, 500 ml ( 17 fl.Oz ) – This one WILL darken your tack.


This spray makes your tack sticky.


This grip stick also makes your horse’s saddle tacky for extra grip


For a super stiff brush that’s great for horse boots and stirrup pads, here you go:

Wahl Professional Animal Equine Horse Grooming Brushes – choose your brush


Thank you!