How to Clean Horse Tack

Three Methods:General CleansingSaddle SpecificsBridle Specifics

Cleaning tack is a very important thing to do. Not only does it keep it clean, but it also helps it last longer and stop it from making a noise when you use it. Read the general cleansing steps for what to do on a daily basis, and the specifics if you'd like to give parts of the tack a more thorough wash.

Method 1
General Cleansing

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    Head over to the nearest horse supply store and purchase a couple bars of glycerin soap (it's cheap), a soft cloth, a sponge, and leather conditioner. The brand doesn't matter; ask fellow riders which products they would recommend.
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    Keep a bar right next to the place where you tack up your horse, along with a small bucket of water and a sponge.
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    Every time you are finished riding, dampen the sponge (with a good wring out), swipe it on the soap and give your saddle and bridle a quick once over. This way no dirt and sweat get built up, taking your show prep from an hour to 2 minutes. This also allows you to inspect your tack every time you ride, for safety issues.
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    Dry off the saddle with a clean towel or if you air dry you will have to use oil to get the mosser back into the tack. Get the saddle completely dry before continuing the next step. Do not rub the soap suds into the leather; it contains the dirt and grit that you are trying to remove from the leather.
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    Get some leather conditioner (preferably marketed specifically for horse tack) and put it on the saddle. Rub it on the saddle with a clean towel, taking care to coat the leather evenly. Wipe off any excess.
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    Remove the stirrup leathers from the saddle and set them aside. Take the bridle apart, and set the pieces aside with the stirrup leathers.
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    Clean as above.
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    Dip the bit and stirrups in a bucket of pure, room-temperature water. Scrub. It is possible to use a small quantity of silver polish on the stirrups; do NOT use silver polish on the bit, for any reason, at any time.

Method 2
Saddle Specifics

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    Remove the stirrup leathers and stirrups from the saddle. Place the stirrups in a bucket of water and lay the leathers aside
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    Get your tack cleaning sponge and get it soaking wet, then squeeze most of the water out until it is no longer dripping at all. Rub the sponge around in the saddle soap to get it nice and soapy.
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    Rub the soapy sponge all over the saddle, working up a nice lather. Make sure you get all leather parts of the saddle.
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    Wipe all excess lather off of the saddle with a rag once you are done.
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    Put neatsfoot oil on a separate sponge (you will never get oil out of the sponge), but just enough to make it very slightly damp with oil.
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    Rub the oil all over your saddle, making sure to get the bottom and all nooks and crannies.
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    Once the oil dries, put leather conditioner on a rag and rub it all over the saddle. Allow this to soak in and let the saddle dry overnight before covering it with anything.
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    Repeat these steps on the stirrup leathers.
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    Reattach the stirrup leathers: remember, if you have safety stirrups, the rubber bands go towards the FRONT of the saddle.

Method 3
Bridle Specifics

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    Take the bridle apart by undoing all of the buckles on it, making sure to note which holes all of the buckles are on. If the bridle has been used on only one horse at only one setting, there will be a mark on the correct hole. If there are multiple marks or no marks at all, be sure you make a note so you don't have to re-fit the bridle.
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    Take the bit and put it in a bowl of very hot water. Leave it in this hot water throughout the whole process. If you have access to a dishwasher, it is a very effective way to clean a dirty bit.
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    Clean each separate piece of the bridle thoroughly, using the same soap-oil-conditioner process as used for the saddle. -note- do not put oil on the reins and only put very very little conditioner. They may become slippery.
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    Remove the bit from the hot water and rub away any gunk that may be left on it.
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    Carefully put the bridle back together in the same way that it was before you took it apart. It may help to look at another bridle to see where everything goes and it which direction. It may also help to pretend you are putting the bridle on the horse and imagining which buckles would be where, and then put the straps together in that order. Be sure to have your trainer check it before you use it; an improperly put together bridle can be dangerous to your horse and may cause him to do unexpected things or not listen to the bit.
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    Clean any other leather tack items (martingale, breastplate, draw reins, cruppers, etc.) using the same method.


  • If hurried, you may run a very lightly damp cloth over your saddle and bridle to remove dirt and dust. Keep in mind that the leather must dry naturally, and still requires occasional cleaning and conditioning.
  • Finding it a bit hard to make your Bit and Stirrups shine, clean? As stupid as it sounds, put them in the dishwasher and they will come out as if they are brand new, literally!
  • Old toothbrushes are great for cleaning the small attachment crevices in your saddle and bridle. Just dip it in water, scrub some saddle soap on it and scrub with it, rinse it off, then use it or a small towel to rinse the soap off the saddle.
  • Rinsing your bit in a water bucket every day is easier than trying to scrub off three months worth of spit and slime.
  • Condition the leather whenever it seems dry. It generally will not need conditioning more than once a month.


  • Saddles can be expensive, don't neglect it! Make sure you clean it regularly.
  • Never use soap on the bit! It will taste horrible for your horse. Use only plain, clean water to clean the bit.

Things You'll Need

  • Glycerin Soap (saddle Soap)
  • A sponge
  • A small bucket
  • Leather conditioner
  • Old toothbrushes (optional)
  • An old, clean towel
  • Clean Water

Article Info

Categories: Tack (Saddles and Bridles)