Taking care of your tack is an essential part of horse ownership. Quality leather equipment can last for decades with proper cleaning and oiling. Before you use a new leather bridle for the first time, make sure you oil it thoroughly. Oiling tack makes it supple and prevents it from drying out and cracking or breaking during use. After an initial cleaning, oil it on a regular basis for as long as you own it.
Take your bridle completely apart. Undo every buckle and latch so you have every component laid out in front of you. If you are using a western bridle, you'll have a basic headstall, two cheek pieces, reins and possibly a throat latch. If you are using an English bridle you should have reins, a noseband, two cheek pieces, the headstall, a throat latch and a brow band.
Clean your bridle by putting leather soap on the sponge and rubbing it all over every nook and cranny of each piece of your new bridle. You should start out with an dry sponge, but you may need to then dip the sponge in water in order for the soap to lather, depending on the product you are using. Liquid leather soap does not need water added to it.
Work up a solid lather with the saddle soap. If your bridle has a white waxy coating on it, as many new English bridles will, then make sure you get it completely off using the saddle soap. Apply leather soap to the toothbrush to get into stitching and tight places where your sponge doesn't easily fit.
Use a clean sponge to wipe excess saddle soap away once you've thoroughly worked over each piece of the bridle using the soap. Apply pure neat's-foot oil onto your sponge and wipe down every piece of the bridle with it. Make sure to completely coat each piece of leather with a thin layer of oil. Allow the neat's-foot oil to absorb into the leather. With every piece of leather oiled, use the sponge to wipe away excess oil, starting with the piece you oiled first.
Put your bridle back together. As you reassemble it, flex and bend each piece of leather in your hands to encourage the leather to loosen up and become more supple. A well-oiled, quality-made bridle should bend easily in your hands and offer little resistance when you twist and flex the pieces.
- Some tack makers provide specific instructions for cleaning their products, or recommend use of certain products. Read instructions or care manuals that accompany your bridle before you attempt to clean it.
- When you begin using your bridle on a regular basis you will have to clean it regularly with saddle soap in order to remove horse hair, dirt and sweat that build up during use.
- Use pure, 100 percent neat's-foot oil. Diluted neat's-foot oil may contain chemicals that can damage your bridle.
- Oiling the leather on a bridle will cause the leather to darken in color. This change is not reversible.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.