Leather Tack Care Guide: How To Keep Leather Tack Soft And Supple

October 20, 2022

Equestrian riding horse on track

Caring for your leather saddles, bridles, halters, and other horse tack will help protect your gear from drying, cracking, and other wear and tear. This article shows you how to keep your leather tack and boots clean and conditioned for a safe and fun ride.

Why Leather Tack Care Is Important

Closeup of man on horse holding reins

High-quality leather tack is a lifelong investment. Regularly cleaning and conditioning the leather ensures your riding accessories remain functional for decades and saves you money on buying replacements or getting repairs.

Beyond saving money and looking good, caring for leather tack can be a preventative safety measure. When horse tack becomes too damaged, it can break under heavy pressure, potentially putting you or your horse at risk. If you notice any loose stitching or excessive cracking, repair the leather tack or replace it before using it.

To keep your tack in working order for years, inspect the tack after every ride and deep clean. Periodically checking it for wear and tear ensures you spot the problem before it develops into something worse. Pay particular attention to parts of the tack that experience a lot of friction.

What You Need to Care for Leather Tack

You don’t need much to keep your horse tack clean and properly conditioned. All you need is some clean rags, sponges, brushes, saddle soap, and water to get the dirt and other residue off your equipment.

You’ll need plenty of space to clean your tack, since it can get messy. Your backyard is a good place to clean it. You can also clean it in your tack room if you lay down an old towel or sheet to keep your floor clean.

Keep these tack cleaning and conditioning supplies on hand:

  • Warm water and a bucket
  • Clean and soft cloth or sponge
  • Leather cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • Brush and old toothbrush
  • Cotton swabs

How Often Should I Clean Leather Tack?

Horse with saddle and lasso on back

To keep your tack in pristine condition, we recommend cleaning it every time you ride. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy or deep cleaning process. You can just wipe it down with a clean cloth to remove dirt, dust, moisture, and other debris before properly storing it.

Getting into this routine can prevent major issues due to poor cleaning. Like humans, horses sweat when engaged in strenuous physical activity such as horse riding. Moisture can accumulate on the saddle after a ride. This happens more often with English saddles, which have a leather underside, compared to Western saddles, which have fleece underneath.

Every so often, you can perform a deep clean where you can disassemble all parts of the saddle and other tack. How often you need to deep clean your equipment depends on your frequency of riding and whether you ride in dirty and dusty conditions.

Cleaning Leather Tack

Woman prepping saddles on horse

Cleaning leather tack is easy with suitable materials and prevents dirt and sweat from damaging or cracking the leather. Here, we provide general cleaning recommendations. Refer to the tack manufacturer’s guidance on cleaning equipment.

Break Down Tack

To clean your leather tack, begin by breaking it down. Remove the stirrup leathers and irons from the saddle and other accessories. Bridles must be completely disassembled to clean all leather parts individually. Dirt and debris can get stuck under buckles or areas under the most stress.

Remove Dirt and Debris

Use a damp cloth or soft brush to remove dirt, mud, sweat, and dust from your leather saddle and accessories. Be sure to clean with a damp cloth in every nook and cranny.

Apply Saddle Soap

After removing the dirt from the tack, you can apply a thin layer of saddle soap in a circular motion using the sponge or cloth. You can use an old toothbrush for hard-to-reach places or a larger brush for tough-to-remove debris.

Suede leather requires a cleaner designed to clean suede. Use a dry suede leather treatment for most cleanings or a wet treatment for suede that requires more significant cleaning. Due to suede’s unique texture, it requires more frequent brushing to remove dust and debris than leather.

Rinse the Tack

After cleaning every inch of the saddle and accessories, rinse the tack with a wet cloth or sponge. Avoid using a lot of water when rinsing your tack. Only use enough to remove the soap and dirt. You don’t want sopping wet tack, which can damage the leather.

Let It Dry

Allow the leather tack to completely dry in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Leather horse tack can dry as fast as an hour. Do not speed up the drying process with a blow dryer on high heat. Using heat or sunlight to dry leather can shrink the material and make it brittle.

Conditioning Leather Tack

Just like your skin, leather needs moisturizing to remain soft and supple. Certain saddles, such as new Western show saddles, feature a protective lacquer finish that reduces the need to condition as often. Suede and roughout leather does not need to be conditioned.

Conditioning helps nourish your leather, helping it remain flexible and preventing dryness and cracking. How often you condition leather depends on your frequency of use. If riding out several times per week, condition the leather every 2-4 weeks or every 6 months if you don’t use it as often.

Clean Tack

Before applying a leather tack conditioner, your leather accessories must be completely clean and free from debris. Avoid using conditioner over dirt or other debris, which can build up over time and be hard to remove. In addition, ensure your tack is dry. Applying conditioner to wet leather can develop mold.

Apply the Leather Conditioner

Apply a light coat of leather conditioner with a clean cloth, paying close attention to areas that experience the most stress. Some tack may need several layers of conditioner for a more intensive restoration.

Farnam, Leather New Deep Conditioner & Restorer

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Dry the Tack

After thoroughly conditioning the horse tack, allow it to dry naturally in cool, dry, and dark places away from the direct sunlight. Remove any excess conditioner with a cloth. Applying too much conditioner can increase the risk of mold.

Caring for Leather Riding Boots

Leather boots can go through the same cleaning and conditioning process as other leather tack. They can also be polished with wax, cream, or liquid polish every 4-6 weeks. Choose the right color polish for your boot. We recommend applying a small amount to an area that is not easily visible to see if it changes the boot’s color.

Boots may require several coats of polish to achieve a high shine. Boot polish can take 15-20 minutes to dry. To speed up the boot polishing process, an electric boot polisher can complete the process in a matter of minutes.

Leather boot creases can be improved with gentle heat. A heat gun can be slowly and evenly used over the creased portions of the boot.

Leather Tack Storage

Proper leather care and storage can keep it in good condition for a long time. For best preservation, leather tack should be stored in a temperature-controlled environment between 50º and 70º F and with 35-70% humidity. Keep horse tack out of direct sunlight. Excessive heat can dry out the leather.

Excessive moisture can increase the risk of mold. Do not place your horse’s tack in a plastic bag or trunk since this can prevent the material from “breathing,” absorbing moisture from the outside environment.


If you use bridles regularly, hang them on a wall or store them in a tack trunk. Keep them in a bridle bag for long-term storage to protect them from the environment.


Cover your saddles with breathable saddle pads or covers to protect them from dust, cobwebs, moisture, and other things that can damage the leather. Place the covered saddle on a saddle rack or a tack trunk.


Store leather riding boots in shoe trees or a padded boot bag for traveling. Shoe trees can help retain the boot’s shape and prevent creases.

Keep Leather Horse Tack Clean with Wilco Farm Stores

Man and woman riding horses in nature

Regular cleaning and conditioning can protect your investment from early damage and replacement. Keep your leather in excellent shape with saddle soap, leather conditioner, and brushes from Wilco Farm Stores.

Leather New Easy-Polishing Glycerine Saddle Soap

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Leather New Saddle Soap Foam, 7 oz.

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