Originally posted on Academie Duello’s blog in June 2013
Horsemanship Level 2: Saddlery Care
We must take good care of the saddle, the bridle and the stirrups, ensuring that they are strong, that they have the necessary resistance and are of good quality to avoid failure of any of them; othewise, we might die, meet with an accident, or be shamed. And we will achieve this if we frequently check them and if we detect any problem, we fix it immediately ….
(The Royal Book of Horsemanship, Jousting and Knightly Combat, translation by Antonio Franco Preto & Luis Preto, Chivalry Bookshelf, 2005)
Caring for your tack is still important. Leather that is properly cleaned and oiled lasts longer and is more supple and comfortable for you and your horse. Not only are saddles and bridles expensive, tack that has dried out or been over-oiled becomes weak and prone to failure. Routinely cleaning your tack not only protects your investment, it allows you to check for frayed stitching or cracks that could pose a safety hazard.
For Level 2 we ask that you know and practise
8. Basic care of tack
After every ride you should at minimum wipe your tack down with a damp cloth to remove sweat, dirt and grease.
‘Put up’ your bridle, hung by the crown piece, with the reins neatly looped through the throat latch, and the noseband wrapped around the whole bridle. The saddle should sit on a stand or rack, covered by a saddle cover or the upside down saddle pad (the clean side goes against your saddle, the damp side to the air to dry). The stirrups should be run up or removed, and the girth detached and hung separately.
Once a week your saddle, bridle and other tack such as martigales or breastplates should be taken apart and given a thorough cleaning. You will need:
- sponges, towels and soft cloths
- a tooth brush or nail brush for getting dirt from crevices
- saddle soap
- leather oil
- metal polish
- warm water
1. After dismantling your tack, wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove dirt. A bit of mane hair is also useful for removing ‘jockeys’ (those dark collections of grime on the panels). Take care not to get the leather too wet.
2. Dry with a soft cloth
3. Apply saddle soap with a dry sponge, avoiding lathering. Work it in with a circular motion.
4. Oil only if necessary. Leather needs oil if it is dry and stiff to the touch. Too much oil will weaken the leather, and can rot stitches. Apply a thin layer of oil with a light cloth. If the leather is new it will take many repeated oilings to soften it — don’t try to do it all at once.
5. Clean buckles with metal polish. The bit should be cleaned with soap and water only.
6. Clean nylon webbing and other synthetic materials with brushes and damp cloths. Some synthetic saddles have proprietary brands of cleaners. Never use oil or saddle soap on a synthetics.
Store your tack in a cool dry place — never put it near a heat source to dry, or leave it out in the weather. Leather is an amazing, resilient substance, and if treated with care can last a lifetime.