Monday, February 17, 2014

How I Clean & Condition My Tack

Alright. Let's talk about it...

Remember in my post HERE, I promised to start taking better care of my tack? Well, it's happening. Seriously. Do you believe me?

A week or so ago, I was at The Horse Expo here in Pomona, CA, and I came across a booth called Rodeo Drive Conchos in their vendor buildings. (Which are VERY dangerous, might I add)

The booth looked like this:
Blurry photo courtesy of their Facebook Page
So, it's hard to see from the photo above, but basically it's a booth with a back wall full of blank tack - headstalls, breast collars, etc. (Some tooled, some not, but all very different styles to choose from) As well as spur leathers, stirrups, keychains, necklaces, dog collars - you name it.

Here's how it works. You pick out your tack, then bring it to the front where they have trays and trays of different color combinations of conchos, all different sizes, shapes, and finishes.  Here, you can play with and design your very own custom tack...yeah, like Build-a-Bear...SO FUN!  My friend and I sat there for what seemed like an hour, switching different conchos out, playing with different buckles, etc. If you're worried about pricing, the girl who was helping us stayed right with us, and updated my order totals every time I added or removed a concho - very nice.

Once I settled on 2 headstalls and a breast collar, she immediately went to work attaching all the conchos - punching holes, tightening them up, she remembered everything I wanted, exactly where I wanted it.  Here's how they all came out:
I shouldn't quit my day job.
Oh, that misty morning light! LOL
Nothing too crazy blingy, but bits here and there. Yes, their items were a bit on the higher side ($$), but it has been literally FOREVER since I bought myself some higher quality tack. Something I really fell in love with. NOW, to take care of it. (Ugh)

A few days ago on my Facebook, I asked you all what your favorite leather cleaner/conditioner was...well, here's mine.

Simple, to the point, Effax Leder-Balsam. Available HERE from Amazon, if you're interested. It has consistently great reviews across the board, and contains ingredients like Lanolin, Beeswax, and Avocado Oil (OH WOW! Things I can pronounce!) to help protect and restore your leather.  Funny, the only thing you can't pronounce is the name of the product! HA! I joke, I love you Leder-BLAAAH.

Alright, now that all the players are introduced, let's get into's my cleaning & conditioning routine, step by step!

Step 1: Get all your stuff!  Not shown, but optional - Q-tips & a brown paper grocery bag. I'll tell you later.

Effax Leder-Balsam, rags/towels, tack sponges, and a flathead screwdriver.
Step 2: OK, if this was NOT brand new tack, here's where I'd wipe everything down with a good amount of water, to clean out all the dust out of all of the nooks and crannies so that we have a good starting point, BUT, since this is brand new, I didn't do it pictures. You can handle it. (Let it dry.)

I'd then use a leather CLEANER, to remove any other sweat, hair, dirt, etc that has found its way onto your tack. Wipe off thoroughly, theeeeen....

Step 3: Today I'll start off on this tack by removing all the metal pieces that I can...That means any and all conchos, brackets, etc. This tack is all put together by chicago screws, so easy peasy. Set them all aside, ain't nobody got time to clean oil out of those conchos, if it accidentally gets in there!
Yeah I'm in my pajamas, sue me!
All the purdy conchos...
Step 4: Goop up your tack sponges! This leather didn't bleed, so for this entire job, I was able to use only one sponge - good deal!
Mmmm gooooop.
Whenever I have new tack, I condition it twice before it ever sees a horse. (Well, ok, after fitting it of course) New leather tends to be thirsty, as it has never been oil before, so I seriously apply this stuff. Sometimes leaving a bit of residue left on there, in hopes it will soak it up eventually!

Something I definitely wanted to mention about the conditioner I was raving WILL darken leather a bit. Not a lot, but a bit. I like darker leather anyways, so this has never bothered me, but here's an example of the shade darker that it gets...
Top - Before
Bottom - After
1 application
See? Not bad, but I don't need death threats that I didn't mention this. Anyways...continue with this process of applying the conditioner EVERYWHERE. The good thing is, if you buy actual TACK sponges, they compress to very small, making it easy to cram them everywhere to make sure the conditioner is spread throughout everything.

Step 5: Once everything is coated, I stick it all in a brown paper grocery bag, and shove it in my closet for a couple days. This allows all the goop to be absorbed, and not affected too much by environment, being in that bag. Once it has sat, I pull everything out, and do all the steps over more coat. I know! But your tack will thank me.
As if you didn't know what leather in a bag looked like.
As you work through each piece, I GENTLY bend and flex my leather, working it into the cracks. This will help soften that leather over time too. Hooray!

Back in the bag it goes for another couple days.

Step 6: After what seems like months of waiting, I pull everything out of the bags, and use Q-tips to get any leftover goop out of the punched holes, big cracks, and crevices of the tooling. Handy! Here's a classy picture:
If your tack is still a bit goopy, because you went overboard, you can always wipe it all down with the cloths or rags you have....also good for shining and polishing the leather afterwards too. Buff it with the cloth to get these results.

AAAAND you're done! Just go ahead and reassemble everything and haul it to the barn, praying it never gets dirty again.

Just beautiful.
Interested in further information about Rodeo Drive Conchos? Visit their website, where you can see all of their tack, or contact them here, and they can send you a full color, actual size, catalog! Super handy - I grabbed one from their booth when I was there, and will definitely hang onto it.

Happy Cleaning!

The Horse Junkie


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