Some horse owners are dedicated to keeping their tack clean, wiping it off every time they ride. For those of us who are less enthusiastic about cleaning tack, but still want to preserve our leather, here are some quick tips.
Wipe down your tack after each use. A quick once-over with a slightly damp rag after each ride will go a long way to eliminating the caked-on grime that can be difficult to remove after it's dry.
Have the proper tools on hand. Multiple small sponges, a stiff toothbrush and several clean rags make tack cleaning more efficient.
Use warm water. Warm water cuts through crud quicker than cold. If you have only cold water at your stable, either take along a thermos of hot water to be used for a cleaning tack after your ride, or haul your tack to the house for a cleaning session.
Minimize suds. Foamy soapsuds don't make tack any cleaner and increase the time required for rinsing. Use a scant amount of soap to loosen grime, and aim for suds-free scrubbing.
Consider a one-step cleaner. Rather than clean first, then condition, try all-in-one leather-care products to see if they leave your tack acceptably clean and pliant.
Store tack properly. Throwing saddles and bridles into airless car trunks or leaving them out in dusty barns will make them get dirtier and moldier. Temperature extremes are also harmful to leather, accelerating its breakdown. Be careful of letting tack sit in hot, humid barns or tack rooms because of the growth of mold.