Yes, finally it is spring! I think many of us thought it would never come this year. Of course, spring's arrival also means that show season is just around the corner (or even actually in full swing for many). In order to prepare for the year ahead, now is a great time to do some extra intense tack spring cleaning in order to make sure all of your equipment is in wonderful condition and to also get into shining, supple condition.
This year I feel like my spring cleaning won't be too big a deal because I do a quick condition check of my tack before my rides each week, as well as usually do at least a quick cleaning after each ride. However, I've got a clinic coming up with Melanie Smith Taylor in May, so I'm looking at the cleanliness and suppleness of my tack with an even more critical eye.
Here are some of the tips I recommend you give a try so that your tack is happy and in wonderful condition for any upcoming clinics or shows (as well is in excellent shape for your everyday rides for the coming months):
1. Thoroughly inspect all of your equipment. Checking for condition of stitching, cracking or weak leather, worn or frayed elastic, operation and wear of buckles and brass. If items are beyond repair, then replacing portions of equipment may be in order to ensure your safety and the safety of your horse.
2. Take all of your tack apart and give it an intense cleaning. Get into all of those nooks and crannies you usually can't reach when everything is buckled and strapped together. A soft bristle toothbrush can be a help tool at this stage.
3. Got lots of dirt in the holes of your bridle or stirrup leather? Gently use a toothpick to poke out the grime, followed by a wipe with a cleaner.
4. Lightly condition all leather once everything is clean as a whistle. Start with the lightest coat of conditioner first. If the conditioner soaks in instantly, your leather might be pretty thirsty and you might then do a second very light conditioner application. Ideally, your leather should absorb your conditioner over the course of a few minutes. After this point, any excess conditioner should be wiped off.
5. Gently flex your leather as you are conditioning it. This helps supple your leather by flexing the leather's fibers, but it also encourages the leather pores to open in order to better absorb your conditioner.
Yay, you're done! This gets you to a nice baseline for your equipment for the season. Now (groan!) the biggest challenge is to try to keep up with a regular cleaning (after each ride ideally) and conditioning (every two-three weeks more or less depending on where you live) so that your tack stays in great shape all year. Plus, this means a bonus that your Spring Cleaning next year might not be quite so much work!