Tack Track

Tack Track

Tack Track

By Ruthann Smith
© 2011, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
Originally Published in Equine Journal

View Printable PDF


Clean Tack

Clean tack is not only gorgeous, but also more comfortable.

Tack will last a lifetime if you take care of it. Sound routines are super easy. You just need to follow them. Clean is key. Friction is not what wears out leather as much as salt and dirt. That salt can even cause nasty rubs on your horse’s side, face and legs. Here are some quick cost-saving tips that also impress the judges.

Daily Care

It is imperative to wipe off your tack every day, and it takes only a few minutes. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you keep on top of it, the process is a breeze. When dirt, grime and sweat build up, they are not only difficult to remove, but they also dry out the tack, shorten its lifespan and rot the stitching. Dirty tack can even rub off the horse’s hair and create sores.

The name “saddle soap” is a bit misleading. If you use it before wiping off tack, you only build up grime. Suds actually parch leather. To avoid the drying foam, make sure to get as much water out of the sponge as possible. Squeeze it into a towel if necessary. Typically you only use soap after removing salt and mud. Think of it as moisturizing and protecting the leather.

Thirsty Saddle

Which saddle will last longer? Proper daily care saves money.

Here’s a sound daily routine:


When you take the bridle off, drop the bit right into a bucket of clean water. Removing goop before it dries is easy. Try not to wet leather since water will dry it out. Wipe bit rings with a clean sponge and towel dry.

Use a slightly damp and clean sponge to wipe salt and dirt off all leather. Get in behind buckles and under keepers. Some people start with a towel to get mud off. However, only a sponge will get into the crevices.


After the leather is clean, I generally coat leather with a glycerine- based soap. Remember, the sponge needs to be almost dry. Some people use a drop of a light saddle conditioner on the bar of glycerin. That way, they are able to get more soap on the sponge without water, which would make it foam. Do a good job every day and you’ll rarely need to oil or to take the bridle apart.

If you wipe the mouthpiece clean right after every ride, it will never get unsightly.


Make it easy to do a good job. Hang a bucket of clean water with a tack sponge near your tack hook and saddle rack. Securing a bar of soap there will streamline the process. I keep another bucket of clean water in the grooming stall for quick touchups.

Wash Bits


There are so many tack cleaning and conditioning products available now. Truthfully, you can go a long way with good old-fashioned glycerine soap if you use it on cleaned tack as a daily routine. Others work well, but you don’t need to use them often if you just keep tack clean and protected. Oils need not be heavy or leave tack slippery.


Riding Boots: Wipe boots off daily with water only. Otherwise they wear out and cause RUBS. Glycerin soap after cleaning is fine, but you’ll never get a big shine later. A slightly damp sponge and polishing them when completely dry works better. I put on a lot of polish, let it sit overnight and then buff.


Bell Boots: You must clean bell boots before reusing them. Drop them in a bucket or just wipe them, but be sure to prevent rubs with clean equipment.

Galloping BootsClean boots not only look great, but they help prevent painful abrasions. At the very least, brush and wipe them clean every day. If they have no fleece and will dry before reuse, drop them in a bucket of soapy water, rinse well and hang to dry. An all-in-one shampoo can work really well. Anti-bacterial soap does not kill fungus.

Prevent rubs with proper daily care.


Sheepskin, whether real or synthetic, needs to be cleaned on a daily basis. Otherwise it looks ratty, causes rubs and wears out. Once fleece dries, use a stiff dandy bush to knock out the salt from sweat as well as fluff up the fibers. You’d never put leather in the wash, but some synthetic equipment can be laundered. Just be sure to use the same soap all the time and double rinse. Fabric softener can help it stay clean longer, but avoid heavy perfumes. Sweating opens pores. You don’t want to irritate skin.


Shiny stirrups can make my day. There is nothing like watching a horse when the sun hits the stirrup and they flash. I love that! Every day, wipe stirrups with a clean towel. Brush off pads. Occasionally and certainly before showing, use metal polish. Soak pads in dish soap and scrub them with an old tooth- brush. The more often you do this, the easier it is.


I love shiny buckles, rings and name plates! Use metal polish as directed. Try not to get it on the leather. If you wipe the metal clean every day, you won’t need to polish often. Just be sure to wipe them with something clean and dry, so you don’t leave a residue. That defeats the purpose.

Wash Bits

New Tack

There is no need to soak tack. Just oil it. If it comes with a wax coating, simply oil it. The wax will separate. The next day you’ll be able to just wipe it off.


Clean and condition wet tack before it dries, otherwise it gets damaged. Once you wipe leather clean, a mix of a light oil and glycerin based soap will emulsify to carry conditioning agents into the leather. That way, it can dry as good as new instead of cracking.



If you have really gross tack, you may need to start by stripping off the build-up. I recommend taking the bridle apart so you can do the best job.

Add a just a couple ounces of ammonia to a bucket of clean tack water. Use gloves to dunk and ring out the sponge well. Wipe all the tack clean. The guck will come right off. Use an old toothbrush if need be. Then, use fresh water and a sponge to apply oil, conditioner or saddle soap to protect the tack.

Clean tack is not only gorgeous, but also more comfortable.

Remember, it is easier to do things well. So, get and stay on track with your tack. Always put it away clean. Daily care will save you a lot of time and money, as well as maintain your horse’s healthy hair and skin. Let cleaning tack be a required, relaxing and very rewarding part of your daily routine.

Bio Pic

Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.

As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.

The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.

Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.

It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on LuckyBraids.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.

*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.