Simple Solutions: Tack Cleaning and Care
One of the biggest tack care questions out there is: how often should I clean my tack? This often has a follow up question attached to it: and how should I be cleaning it? Let's break that down today.
Let's start with the first question: How often should I clean my tack?
For overall longevity of leather goods (because our saddles and bridles are an investment in our horse's comfort and health,) I suggest wiping down your tack after each ride with a damp, lint-free cloth or tack sponge. This prevents arena dust from getting worked into the pores of your leather - which is especially important if you ride in a sand ring- and it keeps the salt from your horse's sweat from breaking down the leather. Don't worry about disassembling the bridle - a good wipe down will do! You don't need to use any soap for this - glycerine soap in particular will create build up over time and you really only need it for a full cleaning.
Once a month, (or possibly twice if you're riding 5+ days out of the week) I suggest a full "tack clean and condition." Since this isn't done often, be thorough in your cleaning. Take that bridle apart and get into all of the crevices of your saddle - even the ones that no one is ever going to see. I suggest a glycerine based soap, and a waxed based conditioner - like Effax or Passier. Always check with your saddle's manufacturer recommendations for what to clean and condition your saddle with. Do not oil your billets! (For safety reasons - it can cause them to stretch out and break!) As you re-assemble your tack, always check for signs of wear and tear.
If your tack happens to be exposed to extreme conditions, such as mud, mould, or saturating water, address these conditions right away. When the leather is back in shape, resume your regular tack cleaning schedule.