It is very important to care for your leather items from the first day you buy them. The most important reason to keep good care of your leather items is safety. If you do not care for your leather equipment well enough, it may crack or peel, or fall apart at the seams while you are riding or using it.
Another good reason to clean your equipment often is, in the event of an accidental drenching, or accidental mold-growing, how well you cared for your tack in the past will determine how well it will bounce back.
Leather that isn’t taken care of will lose it’s natural oils. It may even crack and peel with use, or as it dries after cleaning or revival. In addition, the stitching is likely to rot, resulting in equipment that falls apart while you’re using it.
Cleaning & Protecting your Leather
Each time you use your leather equipment, wipe it down with a soft cloth when you are done. This will remove any dirt or dust accumulated during it’s use, which will decrease the possibility of mold growth and rotting.
Once per week or so, do a thorough cleaning of all your leather items. Start by applying saddle soap. Use a sponge to rub the saddle soap into the leather well. Then, use a damp wash cloth to wipe off the excess saddle soap from the leather. Use another sponge or wash cloth to immediately rub into the leather a good quality leather oil to help preserve the leather’s natural oils.
Always store your leather items in a dry, non-humid area to prevent mold and mildew growth. When possible, use a saddle cover or bridle bag to keep your clean leather items in, so that dust and dirt cannot settle on them and grow mold. If you do not have a saddle cover or bridle bag, or cannot afford them, you can make them yourself fairly easily. Use an old sheet or pillowcase for a bridle bag. Just place the pillowcase over your bridles/halters the same way you would with a pillow. Then, hang it on your bridle rack. To cover your saddle drape a clean sheet, pillowcase, or saddle pad over your saddle when it is not in use.
Reviving Soaked or Moldy Leather
So, what do you do in the event of an accidental drenching or mold growing? The very first thing, is to bring the leather indoors and into an area that is dry and non-humid. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe away any mold or excess water from the leather. When wiping away mold, be sure to rinse the cloth often so you do not spread any bacteria from one area of the leather to another.
Then, use an extra amount of saddle soap while you scrub the leather with a sponge. There should be enough saddle soap that it gets all sudsed-up or “frothy”. Rub the saddle soap into the leather very well. Then, use a clean, damp cloth to remove excess saddle soap from the leather. Finally, apply a good coat of quality leather oil to preserve the natural oils in the leather.
If you have taken very good care of your leather equipment, it should bounce back from an accidental drenching or mold growing nicely. However, if you have neglected to take proper care of your leather equipment, it may not bounce back so easily. Extra care will need to be in place.