Every so often you may have to take some time off from your usual equestrian activities and end up putting your tack in storage. This has probably happened to the majority of us at one point or another due to personal reasons, life changes, an injured horse, you name it.
Although storing your tack for prolonged periods of time can result in damage to your leather, there are many steps you can take to ensure that your tack is in as great a shape at the end of storage as when you first put it away.
Having our tack in storage for a year due to a laid up horse actually was one of the major inspirations for creating the Sterling Essentials leather care products - and we've had lots of practice dealing with the whole storage thing! Here are our recommendations for how to easily keep your tack happy and healthy when not in use.
Dry and Room Temperature
Store you tack in a dry, room temperature space, like a heated, well ventilated tack room or in your house. These environmental conditions help keep the temperature and humidity at optimal conditions for leather health. Also, a controlled environment helps prevent mold and mildew and infestations from hungry bugs. Storing in your garage, attic, horse trailer, or the back of your vehicle may be convenient, but this is a good way to get a lovely case of mold and rot going - so it is best to store elsewhere.
Fully cover your tack in order to protect from light, dust, and bugs. Use a bridle bag and saddle cover if available, but covering with a towel, blanket, or closable bag works perfectly, too. Putting tack in a plastic bin with a close fitting lid is also a great technique. Covering or storing tack in plastic bags is not recommended, as this prevents the leather from breathing and can actually trap unwanted moisture.
Inspection and Care
We suggest inspecting your saddle monthly while in storage and then giving a light cleaning, followed by a light conditioning, about every three months. The goal of the cleaning is to just ensure that any dust, bugs, etc. don't build up. Depending on your circumstances, you may find you need to clean and condition more or less frequently. Much is dependent upon the unique temperature, environment, and condition of your saddle. Therefore, inspection of your saddle regularly will be your best friend so that you can then customize your cleaning and conditioning routine.
For example, if you are in a climate susceptible to mold and mildew, you will want to keep an even closer eye on your saddle and might consider increasing the cleaning frequency to every few weeks. If you live in a very arid climate, you might find that you can reduce your cleaning frequency.
Similarly to cleaning, you will need to adjust your conditioning frequency based on your environment, as well. As a rule of thumb, if the conditioner absorbs very quickly (within a minute), your saddle may actually be dry and likely needs another coat of conditioner or more frequent light conditioning. If the conditioner absorbs very slowly (not all gone within 5 minutes), your saddle probably isn't very thirsty and could go with less heavy and less frequent conditioning. If your saddle is prone to mold, then we recommend decreasing the amount and frequency of conditioning in storage, in order to reduce the amount of moisture in the leather upon which the mold likes to feed.
Protect Your Investment
These easy steps will go a long way in order to ensure your tack is looking as good as new on the day you finally pull it out of storage and saddle up again. Taking a few short minutes periodically to check in on your tack and give it a little love will definitely be worth it in order to ensure your expensive tack is protected. We hope that you don't have to put up your tack for too long and that you'll be back using it again in no time with your favorite trusty steed!