We can safely say that winter is here now – and it looks like it will be a cold and windy one! Here are some cold weather care tips for your leather tack and other gear.
Check your saddle and bridle for cracks in the leather.
Those of us who have been unfortunate enough to have a stirrup leather or bridle piece break while riding learn this lesson quickly. Double check the stirrup leathers, billet, and pieces of your bridle, which can become more brittle as the temperature drops and rises, for cracks and dry rot. Better to find and replace something now than when you have fallen off over a jump because your stirrup leather breaks!
Remember: check the underside of the leather, too. It’s easy to just wipe down the front side of the bridle or saddle without checking, cleaning, and conditioning the underside as well – as a consequence, that is often where the first sign of trouble appears.
Clean your gear well!
The tack room is heated – wouldn’t taking your bridle totally apart be a wonderful way to warm up after a cold ride? This is a great time to not only inspect your tack (see above) but also to make sure that all of it is sparkling clean. Use the opportunity to clean between the pieces of leather that normally lie on top of each other, in keepers, or underneath the buckles – a good place for cracks to start forming. Remember to wipe your tack with a clean cloth after cleaning it to bring out the shine!
If, on the other hand, you find your tack getting gunky or sticky with soap residue, wipe it lightly with water; if that doesn’t take care of it, you can use diluted vinegar to strip the soap off of the leather before you condition it.
Don’t forget to put your girths and pads in the laundry – just because the horses aren’t sweating as much in the winter doesn’t mean that the pads aren’t dirty!
Conditioners and Oil
Conditioners (like Lexol)–or a 2-in-1 conditioner, like Horseman’s One Step–and soap are wonderful in the winter. If you find your tack more stiff than normal, bring out the conditioner for your saddle and bridle. Clean the tack first, then condition it. There are a large variety of conditioners and leather creams specifically for tack cleaning; feel free to try them out and find one you like best. While oil (such as Neatsfoot) can be used more in the winter than the summer, in general, a good clean and condition will be fine. As a rule, if you are riding in Trinity Farm’s tack, please ask Poppy or Jenna before you oil it – it’s easy to over use the oil!
This is not so much tack care, but care for your horse. On those frigid days, try to warm up the bit before putting it in your horse’s mouth. Hold it in your hands, run it under some warm water, or leave it in the heated tack room until you need it. Your horse will appreciate the effort! If you want to make the bit even more appealing, try a little bit of honey or molasses on the bit before you put it in their mouth or even brush it lightly with minty toothpaste when you clean it.