Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
by: Barbara Weatherwax
There are two classes of
tack cleaning. First, if your tack is simply dusty, then some of the
all purpose leather cleaner and polisher will do a sufficient job.
If your tack carries a combination of sweat salts and oils and trail
dirt and grime, then its time for a thorough cleaning.
Many myths exist in regard
to cleaning leather saddles. Some old cowpokes insist that cleaning
a saddle ruins the hide. The truth is, a saddle does best when you
keep it clean and well oiled. Never clean with harsh detergents or
hot water. Natural soaps such as Murphys Oil Soap, liquid glycerin
soaps or glycerin bars with lukewarm water are best. Dont soak the
leather, but dont be afraid to get it wet. Remember, saddle leather
is skin; it is very durable, but do not subject it to harsh scraping
or brushing with wire brushes.
Never oil dirty leather. As
the oil is drawn into the leather, it sucks the dirt with it. If you
can imagine dirt particles as the rough sided sharp edged specks
that they are, then you can see how much damage they can do to the
structure of the leather. Any use of the leather will cause those
dirt particles to simply cut away at the fibers of the leather from
the inside out. When you oil clean leather, the oil is drawn into
the leather and is able to lubricate and extend its life.
Keeping your fabric tack
clean is also important to maintaining its usefulness and extending
its life. Dirt particles have the same cutting properties in fabric
as they do in leather. Nylon halters and leads, saddle pads, fabric
girths and any other nylon items should be machine washed frequently
in cool water using a gentle soap. Never use detergent with saddle
pads. Detergent has a heat producing agent that is difficult to
rinse out. In saddle pads, it could produce undo heat on the horses
To wash your saddle, there
are supplies to be gathered: 1) Two gallon pail of lukewarm water.
2) One cup of Murphys Oil soap, or liquid glycerin soap or a bar of
glycerin soap. 3) A sponge. 4) A soft fingernail brush. 5) Terry
rags or a towel. 6) Saddle oil. ie: Liddy oil, or (avoid neetsfoot
oil and the rest of the dirty oils). 7) Soft cloth. ie: flannel, or
cotton gloves for applying oil. 8) Metal polish. 9) Disposable
STEP ONE: Find an area where
you can set up a stand to place your saddle. If you are inside, you
might want to put a plastic drip cloth under your stand. If your
saddle is quite dirty, remove the top layer of dust and dirt with a
clean dust rag. Then gather the above described cleaning tools and
you are ready to begin.
STEP TWO: First strip your
saddle: remove the surcingle (Australian), the girth, the leathers
or fenders. Stirrups and any bags or accessories. (You can wash any
of your leather items using the same process as described for the
saddle). Before you begin cleaning the leather you may want to
polish the hardware on your saddle. Any good metal polish can be
worked into the foot staple and D rings and any other metal on your
saddle. After cleaning the metal rinse thoroughly.
STEP THREE: Soak the sponge
in the warm water and rinse the entire saddle Take extra care to wet
the backside of the flaps (this area directly touches the horse and
collects deposits of salt, oils and dirt), Avoid soaking the serge
covering or fleece under padding and panels. A) If you are using
Murphys Oil Soap, pour a cup of the liquid soap into the warm water.
B) If youre using liquid glycerin get your sponge thoroughly wet
with the warm water and pour the liquid soap directly onto the
sponge as needed throughout the cleaning process. C) If youre using
bar soap, get your sponge thoroughly wet with the warm water and
work up a lather rubbing the bar into the sponge. Keep adding water
and suds throughout the cleaning process.
STEP FOUR: Work the suds
into the leather. If the saddle is very dirty, a grey film may
appear on the leather. Use plenty of soap and gently scrub the
surface with the soft brush. The leather is clean when the film is
gone and the pores of the leather can be seen. Sometimes it is
easier to clean the saddle in sections. As each section is cleaned,
wipe the leather dry with the terry cloth towel or rag.
STEP FIVE: When the entire
saddle is clean, rinse the leather by wiping with a damp sponge and
towel dry the surface. IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO LET THE LEATHER DRY
BEFORE COVERING THE SURFACE WITH SADDLE OIL. If it does dry, the
pores close down and the leather will be dry from the inside out. If
part of the leather does dry out during the cleaning process, dampen
it again with the warm water before applying the oil.
STEP SIX: Oil the leather by
wiping a moderate amount of oil over all leather surfaces. Do not
wipe it off.
STEP SEVEN: Set the saddle
stand where the saddle can dry naturally such as in an open room or
outside on a porch. Overnight is usually enough time to accomplish
this. When the saddle dries it may have spots that appear drier than
others. More oil will remedy this. If too much oil is applied simply
buff it away after it has had ample time to thoroughly penetrate the
leather. Your saddle may require three oilings before you will see
that all the oil has been absorbed and there is a slight residue to
wipe away. After the first cleaning and oiling of your saddle, you
may substitute beeswax compound for an even softer, more lasting
STEP EIGHT: Between thorough
cleanings, it is important to keep your saddle covered and free of
dust and dirt. Dust acts like a sponge on the surface of leather
actually drawing the oils and life out of the leather. A soft
bristled paint brush is helpful in regular quick cleaning. Brush the
entire surface of the saddle after each use. Pay special attention
to all the folds and crevices.
In your tack room, you can
keep a sponge in a covered bucket of Murphy Oil Soap mixed with
water. That makes it easy to run the dampened sponge over the entire
saddle and then cover the saddle with a cloth between rides. Take
the time to quickly run the sponge over your bridle, breast collar
and any other leather items. It will extend the life of all you tack
by keeping it dust free.
Whatever tack you decide is
best for you and your horse should be fitted properly and then it
will last longer and give you better service if you keep it as clean
as possible. Routine maintenance and timely repairs will help to
avoid troubles caused by worn out tack breaking down when youre
depending on it.
me on my email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your specific questions or
thoughts about the Mountain Horses. And Happy Gaiting!