Equestrian Leather Care Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Gabby Gufler, Mon Jul 13, 2015


Let’s face it—good leather tack isn’t cheap! If you have spent or are going to spend a substantial amount of money on saddles, bridles, reins, and girths, it makes sense to think of them as an investment and be conscientious in their care. Tack can last for years and years if cared for properly. A good leather care regime can be really simple. Spending just a few minutes a day caring for your tack will go a long way toward making sure you get the most out of your investment.

The Rules of Leather Care:

Thanks to advancements in technology, the leather tanning and dyeing processes have changed, and the care of your tack should evolve as well. Many tried-and-true rules of leather care no longer apply; some methods or products are no longer necessary, while others can actually be harmful to modern leather.

  • “Don’t” Use Non-Leather Care Items on Your Tack: Heavy oils, harsh detergents and products not specifically formulated for leather should be kept away from your leather tack! This means no bleach, vinegar, motor oil, shoe polish, Murphy’s Oil Soap or vegetable oil. (Equine Wellness Magazine)
  • Did you know? Saddle soaps and similar soap-type products are strongly alkaline, with a pH of up to 9 or above! (A pH of 7 is neutral, above 7 is alkaline and below 7 is acidic). When treated regularly with saddle soap, leather will gradually change from its normal acidic state to alkaline. This pH change can cause the leather to darken, harden and weaken. (Jenkins, Don. The Saddle Soap Myth.)
  • The lather of saddle soap is also difficult to rinse completely from crevices and folds. An accumulation of saddle soap will cause the leather to deteriorate, encourage mold growth and change the pH.
  • Fun Fact: Saddle soaps are generally composed of a mixture of oil and soap. The soap’s cleaning effectiveness is diminished by the need to dissolve its own oils, rendering its ability to remove dirt and grime less effective. (Jenkins, Don. The Saddle Soap Myth.)
  • “Do” Keep Your Tack Clean. You don’t have to take your tack apart after every ride (although you should do a deep cleaning every few weeks), but you should get into the habit of wiping down your tack after every ride to remove dirt and sweat. This also gives you a chance to inspect your tack for safety. Lexol® Quick Wipes are excellent for daily use after each ride.
  • Got more time to clean your tack? Use a pH-balanced cleaner that is specifically formulated for tack, such as Lexol Leather Cleaner, and be sure to follow the directions. pH-balanced cleaners will remove dirt and grime without changing the pH of the leather, removing dye, or drying the leather.
  • Be sure to apply the cleaner with a soft cloth or sponge vs. anything abrasive. Apply the cleaner to one section at a time and work up a foam to lift dirt out of leather. Use a clean, damp cloth or sponge to wipe away dirt.
  • “Do” Keep Your Tack Conditioned. Conditioning your tack is just as important as cleaning it! This means applying a “light” coat of leather conditioner to all parts of your tack. The conditioner should absorb into the leather immediately. If you find yourself wiping off the excess, you are probably using too much.
  • “Don’t” Use Too Much Oil, as it is not good for your tack! Stay away from plain oil products, as they may cause the collagen fibers that make up the leather to weaken or stretch. Much of today’s leather tack has already been oiled in the tanning process. Applications of a good balanced conditioner such as Lexol Leather Conditioner, which will contain the proper balance of oils, will keep your leather tack properly hydrated.
  • “Do” Keep It Safe. You and your horse’s safety should always be the first priority! The above tack regime will help keep your tack in top shape, but for additional safety tips check out our blog post composed by professional groomer Liv Gude to learn how to inspect your tack for safety.

Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler graduated from Truman State University in 2013 with a BS in Animal Science & Nutrition and a minor in Equine Science. Gabby currently works on Manna Pro’s marketing team, and enjoys competing regularly with her six horses.


Marie Sanborn 07/31/2015, 4:17:56 PM

My father was a stuntman, wrangler, extra and Sadler maker/restoration specialist. He used Lexol and advised me to do so since early childhood. I purchased a used Hermes saddle in 1977. I have used the saddle constantly for riding, training and showing hunter jumpers since. Using Lexol products regularly have kept it in tip top shape..

M Knott 08/02/2016, 4:18:23 PM

Nice blog post on how to keep your saddle and other leather parts clean and protected. I found this company - Leather Care Supply (www.leathercaresupply.com) - that provides a great selection of products to clean and preserve leather. They would be a good compliment to the products you mentioned. Thanks.

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Megan Lewis 05/02/2021, 2:05:26 PM

I rode all during childhood and now my children are grown, I'm returning. I am deciding what cleaner and also conditioner I should use on my old and new tack. I don't mind the product darkening my tack, infact, I prefer to have the new tack darken. I used to use Lexol. However, I now read recent reviews that Lexol has changed it's product and some long-time users now have dropped it due to a number of issues. Any CURRENT users, please advise. Thanks for any help you can be.

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