Are you one of those people who can wear stunning white breeches and a cute top for hours at the barn only to leave looking as spotless and crisp as when you arrived? If you are, we envy you, and we need to talk because we must have your secrets. :) Otherwise, if you tend to depart from your barn time looking a bit wilted, grubby, and with dirt for makeup, we’re right there with you!
Even in the tidiest of barns, the dirt, grime, dust, cobwebs, and variety of bugs and other creepy crawlies are present. Doesn’t it seem like they all seem to zero in and rub off on you and your pants?
Of course, it goes without saying that if you are getting covered in dirt and such that then your saddle and leather tack is inevitably getting exposed and dirty, too. Welcome to our third installment in our series of 7 articles about the worst things for your leather. In this third article we are talking about why bugs, dirt, and grime are harmful for your gear and how to best protect your leather from this dastardly trio.
How to Avoid Damage from Bugs, Dust, and Grime
Unlike your pony, who delights in a dirt roll and dust bath, your saddle is not so fond of being covered in untold layers of particulates and muck. Your leather tack objects to it quite strongly by dulling, scratching, drying out, becoming brittle, and a number of other unhappy outcomes.
Dust or grime on the surface of your leather can easily work its way into the leather’s pores, ultimately weakening the leather fibers. For example, as you ride any particulates on your saddle get ground into the leather by your legs and seat or by contact between saddle pieces, such as billets and flaps. The severity depends on the grit and grime on your saddle, but the friction during use not only embeds the gunk in your leather, but also creates little scratches and cuts on your leather. Some scrapes may even be big enough to see if the dirt particles are large enough.
Ok, got it - dirt, dust, grime, and so forth are not good, but it doesn’t stop there. Like moths to a flame, a dirty saddle is a major bug attractant. Many critters happily look at your tack like a delicious ice cream sundae. In addition to being attracted to the leather itself, many bugs delight even more in leather that is covered in excess conditioner, dust, sweat, fly spray, and all the other usual grimy suspects around the barn.
Right, so this is all of the bad news, but we wouldn’t leave you hanging without sharing the good stuff! If you are a tack cleaning buff, then you are no doubt way ahead of us and already know all of the answers to how to make sure dust, grime, and bugs don’t call your tack home.
Here are a few quick tips and habits to adopt:
Spray on fly spray before you saddle up rather than after. Some will still get on your tack, but you’ll have less overspray onto your tack.
Cover your tack when not in use. Loosely cover your saddle with a saddle cover or a towel or blanket. Do the same for your bridle, girth, and other tack - pop it in a bridle bag or use a towel or blanket.
Store your tack and leather goods, boots and the like, in a well ventilated area. Bugs seem to love stuffy still humid spaces.
Be aware of keeping your equipment out of dirty areas if possible. For example, don’t leave your uncovered saddle out in the barn aisle when you are sweeping the aisle.
Inspect your gear each time you use it, looking for damage, evidence of bugs, cuts, tears, chewed up stitching, and similar. Safety first folks!
Clean your tack after each use. (A micro-mist spray cleaner makes short work of this – find all the products you need here!)
If you don’t have time for a cleaning, give your tack a quick wipe down with a clean damp cloth in order to lift off loose surface dust and grime.
Use only the amount of conditioner your tack needs – do not saturate – and then wipe off the excess. If the conditioner hasn’t fully soaked in after 4-5 minutes it is excess.
You’ve got to love that the solution to preventing damage from bugs, dust, and grime really boils down to a regular cleaning routine and keeping your leather covered when not in use. Sometimes the simplest ways are the best ways! Not to mention the fastest and easiest – which we admit is often the most appealing by far. We hope you enjoy your next ride along a dusty trail or trip around a powdery arena. You’ve got tools in your toolbox so all of that dust will be no match for you!
**Be sure to keep an eye open for our next and fourth article in our Series coming out next month!
Miss the other articles? No problem! Check them out here: