Good tack, properly cared for and fitted, can give many years of service. The process of cleaning tack can be broken down into three stages.
- Cleaning - If tack is fairly dirty (ie., covered with sweat, mud, dirt, etc) use a sponge and cleaner to remove dirt. Care should be taken not to allow the soap to foam - this indicates the use of too much water, which will dry out the leather. The tack is then rinsed off with a slightly damp sponge to remove the cleaning agent, which is too harsh to be left on the saddle or bridle. Some good cleaners are: Lexol Cleaner, Castile Soap (Kirk's), LeatherCare, Ivory Soap.
- Conditioning - Determine if the leather should be oiled or conditioned. Leather should be soft and supple, with no cracks, and should not squeak while you're riding. If oil is needed, use a 1" to 2" paintbrush to apply in thin layers to the "flesh" or rough side of the leather, then work the leather by hand, bending it back and forth as well as rolling. The heat from your hands will help the leather soak up the oil or conditioner. Don't go overboard - condition your leather gradually.
- Protecting - Bar glycerin soap is the traditional choice of protection since it will seal the pores of the leather to protect and nourish it. It acts as a type of raincoat for the leather, but does not clean it. If oil is applied after this step the leather will be duller, lacking polish, and the oil will not get into the fibers of the inner layers of the leather because they have been sealed. Some good protectors: bar glycerin soap, Fiebing's Saddle Soap, Belvoir Glycerin.
(Excerpted from The 2002 USPC Horse Management Rulebook, Part VI - Tack Care, Section 2, pages 42-43)
Requirements: Multiuse products (such as Horseman's Onestep) are acceptable for each requirement but you must have separate products for the soap, oil/conditioner and saddle soap.
- One kit per team
- Labeling: Everything should be labeled with team name and/or initials. Loose items do not need to be labeled but should be in a container with team initials. Fabric can be labeled with a permanent marker.
Ordinary Bar Soap: Used for the first step of tack cleaning; cleaning the leather. Should also be used to wash your hands.
- Should be: a solid cake-type soap (Ivory Soap, Castile Soap)
- Good tips: Keep the soap cake in a soap container with the teams initials. Stick the point of your stock pin into the bar of soap to help it through the knot of your stock tie.
Tack Oil or Conditioner Used for the second step of tack cleaning; conditioning.
- Should be: Oil or conditioner
- Good tip: Olive oil is a great tack oil. Since no glass is allowed in rally tackrooms (unless taped), pouring the oil into a small, clean plastic water bottle with a screw top lid helps prevent spills. Label bottle with masking tape and a permanent marker. Warning: olive oil can go rancid (or spoil) quickly in hot weather.
Saddle Soap: Used in the third step of tack cleaning; protection.
- Should be: Glycerin bar okay, other saddle soaps are fine but should be glycerin-based. If in jar or bottle make sure competitors can open.
Metal Polish: Used to clean any tack metal that DOES NOT come in contact with the horse's mouth. Bits should not be cleaned with metal polish; use toothpaste instead.
- Should be: at least half a bottle or can
- Good tip: some cans of metal polish can rust easily. Make sure you can open it.
Tack Sponge: Used to apply tack cleaners, conditioners and protectors.
- Should be: smaller sponges that can easily fit in your hand - large bath sponges are clumsy.
- Shouldn't be: Should not be very dirty
- Good tip: Stock your tack cleaning kit with several small sponges.
Cleaning Cloths: Used for applying tack cleaners, conditioners and protectors as well as metal polish.
- Should be: reasonably clean.
- Shouldn't be: very dirty
- Good tip: Keep separate cleaning cloths for metal polish since you don't want the residue on leather. Old terrycloth face clothes work great.
Pail: fill with warm or tepid (if available) water for tack cleaning.
- Should be: big enough to get sponges wet; should be at least one quart
Cleaning Hook: used to hang tack on while cleaning.
- Should be: able to be hung up while cleaning. Does not need to be out while not in use.
- Shouldn't be: a nail on a board. This is dangerous and doesn't work very well.
- Good tip: Cleaning hooks should be stored when not in use.
Drying Baskets: Used to dry all sponges and wet cloths.
- Should be: Hanging or free standing. Does not need to be out while not in use.
- Good tip: Mesh laundry bags work well and can be hung by their string.
Book Hooks (If tall boots used.)
- This item is required if any of the competitors on the team are using tall boots without a zipper opening. The presence of a zipper opening on a tall boot renders the Boot Hooks unnecessary.
Boot Jack (If tall boots used.)
- This item is required if any of the competitors on the team are using tall boots without a zipper opening. The presence of a zipper opening on a tall boot renders the Boot Jack unnecessary.
Boot Polishing Kit, if applicable: Applicable if any member of the team is wearing footwear (tall boots or short boots) that is made of leather.
- Should: include boot brush, boot polish and creams (at least half full) and cloths used only with the boot polish and creams.
- Good tip: Keep boot polishing kit in it's own small bag or container, marked with team name or initials.