Tack Cleaning Hacks

By Kim Gates, certified saddle fitter

706-400-9981; gatesbythecreek@hotmail.com

As a saddle fitter I see saddles and strap goods in all kinds of condition. How you care for your tack has a direct impact on how long your tack will last. Taking care of your tack is also a safety concern and the cleaner you keep your tack the more times you are inspecting it. Here is a short list of things you can do.

  • Throw away your neatsfoot oil!
  • If your saddle gets wet let it dry completely before cleaning and conditioning it.
  • Where we store our saddles and bridles is important. Mine have a room in the house and are kept in a climate controlled environment year round.
  • If your saddle has suede knee rolls or in the case of western saddles a suede seat you can restore them with a light hand sanding using a fine grit sand paper. Don’t over do it because you will make the leather thin!
  • While you are cleaning inspect for safety. Billets are the first place of concern. But also look at the stitching that holds the panels to the seat. Check your flocking! If you have a wool flocked saddle the wool can felt over time. If your saddle is foam flocked the foam can break down. If you have a western saddle it may need the sheepskin replaced. The horse side of your saddle is important.
  • Wipe off your tack after each use. A damp rag with a small amount of glycerin soap just to get the dirt and hair off is enough. Let it dry completely before storing it.
  • Don’t over condition your saddle and make sure it is spotlessly clean first. If your saddle maker makes a conditioning product it will be the most compatible with the leather. A word of warning….if you have a newer French made English saddle with the super soft grippy leather do not use oil based conditioners on this leather. To get the saddles this soft they have glued together several layers of soft leather and those layers can separate if you use oil based conditioners. In general don’t over condition a saddle. It can weaken the fibers of the leather. I use a tooth brush to clean and condition. Its important to get in the nooks and crannies.

I am always available to answer questions and if I don’t know the answer I will try my best to find it!


   Kim Gates is a certified saddle fitter and works for Stubben. Her territory is all of Georgia but she lives in Washington East of Athens. She has a workshop at her farm called ” The Balanced Tree” where she does repairs and reflocking and loves restoring older Stubbens. For more information check out her Facebook page, Stubben Georgia.