We are so near you can almost hear the 5,4,3,2,1, GO! The eventing season is weeks away and team Black and White will be kicking off our campaign at Isleham 7th March. At home I am starting to make sure all my kit is in order and giving my tack a little t.l.c. This is important for any rider, but especially for eventers, who can put their saddles and bridles under extra strain when riding cross country. To get ahead of the game I took some time out to get a few tack care pro tips from Kate Hardt, the MD of Northumbria Equine.
Kate has had a lifetime’s experience working with horses and serving as an apprentice saddler and as a mounted police officer. Her company, Northumbria Equine UK makes a range of bespoke and off the peg tack including saddles, brides and martingales and personalised pieces to commission. They really can make anything you desire, and at a very affordable price too! Kate’s exclusive range of tack is available from www.northumbriaequineuk.co.uk
In my latest blog Kate talks about the basic checks that any rider needs to consider before heading out competing this season.
Cleaning and preparation
Now the winter is very slowly drawing to a close – we find ourselves already getting those entries in for events. Our horse’s fitness regime is already being discussed and one of the last things thought about is tack – other than tack junkies who always think about it (now that I can understand!)
Competition bridles, saddles, breastplates and martingales that may have been stored in the winter need to have a good strip down and check over. Some areas are often missed, the smallest, most crucial areas too…
When strip cleaning your bridle work, always check the leather that the billet hook protrudes from. Very often they get missed when cleaning as it’s a bit fiddly, we do neglect this little bit of leather. It too, needs to be cleaned and treated – if that goes, your hook goes, your bit or reins go…. you get the idea!
Check all of the stitching meticulously, check the stitching on those girth straps and the holes – have they stretched? If so consider getting replacements.
Check your tree, flocking, everything. Saddles ideally need a check twice a year as your horse should add muscle. For peace of mind and your horse’s wellbeing it is worth calling in the experts.
If anything needs repair – get it sent in to your saddler – now is the time. Saddlers are busy people – it is hunt season and they will be up to their necks in work.
If your kit has had a fair amount of wear and it needs some repair work – you may want to think about getting it replaced. With some items, the prep work involved prior to repair – can mean that the item could have been made from scratch in that time and may not be much more expensive to replace with new.
Leather oil & Cleaning
Try not to use leather oil all the time when cleaning tack. I used to see this all the time some years ago, not so much now thankfully. Leather oil when used to excess wrecks leather. It separates the fibres in the leather and causes stretch. It also gives quite a nasty feel to the leather and makes it very spongy. I find the only time I really need leather oil is occasionally if something feels a little dry (leather girth perhaps after a soaking and several hours mud bath on a long and sticky day hunting), or when leather has been soaked.
If leather gets very wet, the best thing to do is get a sponge cloth – squeezed out, wipe the saddlery over with this and WHILST WET apply leather oil then allow to dry. This should reduce the chance of leather drying out too much and getting too horribly water-stained. If your saddlery gets wet, it is vital that you look after it as soon as you get back – it won’t repair itself!
Once you have checked your saddlery thoroughly, always use a good quality leather care, plenty of them out there and lots in spray form, so tack cleaning is easier than ever. I always use tack cleaning spray too – it gets those horrid chunks of grease (jockeys) off your saddle flaps and inside of reins etc. Finish off with a decent soap or leather balm then assemble your saddlery again and hey presto, you are one job down on the list.
I know not everyone cleans tack every day – not even I, however, I do use glycerine spray soap on our saddles before we ride out – if nothing else it give me the grip I need to prevent me from performing high level gymnastics that I could never manage at school!
Regular hunting has its benefits – your tack gets cleaned before and after each meet – and can look fab at the end of the season! Do consider once a week if you can – and invite a few friends over for a tack cleaning party with a few bottles of the red stuff – makes it far easier to stomach!
Sound advice from an absolute pro! Thanks to Kate for her help putting together this blog. Happy tack checking 🙂