It's that time of year again! The weather is starting to warm up, your horse is starting to shed puff balls of winter coat, you look in the tack room and oh my... you have some work to do. If the average tack room is anything like mine, over the winter months it accumulates an enormous amount of junk that has little to do with riding. My husband's tools, our overstock of supplies from Costco and anything else that we don't want to be left outside to face the elements ends up barricading the tiny path to my tack in the back of the barn. Where on Earth do we start?
I like to wait until I have a relatively nice day, which can be hard to find in the early spring months in my area. I then proceed to take everything out of the barn, clean/sanitize it, and find a more organized home for it. I also take this time to do a deep clean on all of my tack and sanitize grooming equipment. This is a good time to weed out dangerous equipment and make a checklist of missing or broken items.
The proper cleaning methods for leather goods should start with just that, a good cleaning. Hopefully, in the fall you didn't bring your tack in muddy and leave it all winter but I'm sure there is still a layer of dirt or dust that needs to be quickly cleaned off before preserving the leather. I find plain Ivory soap works the best with a diluted amount of water to scrub away any foreign material. With no soapy residue left on your leather, it is now time to preserve it with some kind of leather conditioner. I like plain old Neatsfoot oil if it doesn't bring out too much color change in your leather. There are many good conditioners out there, just look for one that your leather takes well and a pleasant smell doesn't hurt either. I do a full condition on both sides of the leather, yes that means the underside as well. This works towards more suppleness in your leather and makes it more comfortable for horse and rider. Finally, after letting the conditioner work its way into the leather, you must seal the pores of the leather by applying a glycerin saddle soap. Glycerin is the key ingredient here, I personally just use the saddle soap bars that are more old fashioned rather than the foams or other methods. After the leather is coated with saddle soap, I like to give it a good buff with a rag before putting it away. This ensures that there is no excess moisture that could lead to mold.
Following a deep cleaning on my leather goods, I like to sanitize everything else that comes into contact with the horse's skin. This includes brushes, combs, picks, pads, boots, wraps, bits, etc. My grooming kit gets soaked in a dilution of Pine Sol and water to kill many of the germs that spread fungus and other nasty creatures from horse to horse. Wraps, pads and most boots can be washed on a delicate cycle in the washing machine, just be sure to use a detergent that is free of harsh dyes or perfumes. This time of year is also great to repair and wash your winter blankets in preparation for next year.
After the tack area is cleaned and swept, your spotless equipment can be put back and ready for the new season. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and give us that good riding sunshine!