Top Tack Tips
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Top Tack Tips

Aside from the cost of the horse and possibly the lorry or trailer and vets bills, the saddlery is one of the most expensive items you will purchase when it comes to your equestrian activities. So, it pays dividends to look after it and cherish it and there are safety implications too.

Here are some tips to help you look after your leatherwork and ensure it is always in good condition.

  • Buy the best tack you can afford and, if possible, always aim for English leather. A lot of tack is made from foreign imports, this leather is of far inferior quality and will not last. It will feel plasticky and will not be as supple and comfortable for either you or the horse
  • Black tack is very popular but remember, it is much easier to disguise poorer quality leather as the tack is dyed. Try and stick with guaranteed English leather whether you buy black or brown
  • You don’t have to buy new if you are on a budget; secondhand saddles and bridles which have been well cared for are often a better investment than cheap new tack

Caring for your tack

Caring for your tack is really the sole determiner of how long it will last and what type of condition it is in. Good tack that is well cared for will last for years. Follow these golden rules.

  • Protect the leather as much as you can. Don’t run up stirrups caked in mud and stones or silica sand which is abrasive and don’t throw over a girth in the same state. Take the girth and stirrups off and carry them separately
  • Clean your tack regularly, it will keep it soft, shiny and supple
  • Wet tack should be allowed to dry out naturally. If you put it near a heater to dry and try and speed up the process you will end up stripping the leather of its essential oils and the leather will split and crack
  • Dirty tack should actually be washed thoroughly with the saddle soap and sponge not just wiped over and this involves taking it completely to pieces. People fear soaking the tack too much but you can treat it afterwards with either Neatsfoot Oil or a leather conditioning balsam
  • Make sure that you really remove the dirt, debris, sweat and hair which can work its way into tiny cracks and splits
  • You should wash and treat the tack once a week, a more cursory clean will do in between times providing you stick to thoroughly washing and oiling it weekly
  • Make sure you let the leather dry naturally after washing and before you treat or oil it
  • There are many leather foods on the market to nourish and condition your leatherwork. Don’t forget your own riding boots too!
  • Cover the saddles and bridles when they are not in use

The Tack Room

Your tack room needs to be secure as saddlery is a big target for thieves.

In order to keep tack in good condition, the tack room needs to be well lit and well ventilated with additional heating in winter to ensure the tack does not dry out and crack.

A well lit, well-ventilated tack room is clearly an easier target for thieves so you can protect your tack by security marking it or inserting a microchip. Some people prefer a visible mark as opposed to an invisible microchip but microchipping companies usually put a smart-looking sticker on the rear of the saddle indicating the tack has been microchipped.

Local riding clubs and groups like the British Horse Society offer tack marking sessions where the police are often on hand as well to advise about your security. It is impossible to make a tack room totally impregnable but slowing thieves down because they have to work their way through other obstructions is helpful by which time they may have been either seen or heard by someone.

Insure your tack as part of your horse’s general cover, you can list the items individually with a different value against each one or just agree on a blanket figure to cover all of it.

Moving saddlery around

Tempting though it is to put your saddle over the stable door, this is the fastest way to the floor and not a good idea. Use a portable saddle horse or put a tack arm outside the stable with a bridle hook. The saddle rest can be dropped away flush with the wall when not in use.

Portable saddle horses are also useful at shows and competitions when the horse is not always near enough to the lorry or trailer or you have to tie up away from the tack lockers. Saddlery that is left on the ground is more likely to be trodden on or damaged.

Never leave tack or other valuables unattended in boxes and lockers in your trailer or lorry. Gangs of thieves masquerading as competitors regularly enter events and come in with an empty lorry or trailer helping themselves to other people’s possessions whilst they are away from the lorry park with their horses. Always lock your towing vehicle, your tack lockers and all the skirt lockers on a lorry.

It pays dividends to look after your tack carefully. Your saddles should be checked for condition and fit a couple of times a year by a reputable saddle fitter, more frequently if the horse is changing shape rapidly. They can undertake repairs and reflocking often on-site.

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