All leather equipment can benefit from regular care. To help increase the longevity of your gear, Western Horseman asked leather craftsman Ty Skiver of Fallon, Nevada, for tips on leather care.
Keep it Simple.
Skiver says soaping up your tack with glycerin saddle soap on a small, damp hand towel will clean the grime and sweat off the leather. But you don’t need to soak the tack to get it clean.
“I don’t like to get leather too wet, because too much moisture isn’t good for it,” Skiver says. “I just mix up the saddle soap a little bit, get it to foam up, scrub down the leather and then wipe it off with a dry rag.”
Don’t Forget Oil.
While neatsfoot oil is most commonly used to condition tack, Skiver says some horsemen use olive oil. You can apply oil with a piece of sheepskin or a clean rag. Store gear correctly.
The ideal location for storing tack is a dry, insulated room. But Skiver knows this is not easy to do for horse folks, so a dry tack room is your next best bet. Avoid exposing your gear to extreme heat or cold, moisture or sun.
“The sun is as hard on equipment as is the rain and the snow—it does a lot of damage,” Skiver says.
If your horse sweated through the saddle pad, you’ll want to hang the pad to dry, and make sure you store the saddle on a saddle rack.
“The saddle is going to absorb a lot of moisture through the sheepskin, up into the tree,” Skiver says. “If you don’t set it on its fork, or on a good saddle rack, that saddle will spread out or narrow up and it can change the way your saddle fits a few days later when it dries out.”
Of all the mistakes you could make caring for gear, Skiver says ignoring it altogether is the worst.
“Leather is way better off if you use it instead of letting it sit,” Skiver says. “I think the biggest mistake is just neglect—not oiling it or cleaning it.”