Winter weather poses several challenges to keeping horse tack supple and clean. Nature made your horse hairy to withstand cold temperatures, but the thick coat causes it to sweat with even a little bit of work.
After a nice winter ride, your horse's tack is coated with sweat and hair. In addition, winter riding often means snow or a cold rain bombarding tack with additional abuse.
"Always, always clean your tack after winter riding," says Anna Carner Blangiforti. "Clean it and condition it.
"If you don't clean it, you set yourself up for major mold and mildew, which can be harmful to the health of leather. In the winter, your tack room door stays shut all the time, which adds to the problem."
The president of Leather Therapy products points out that cold weather makes tack fracture more easily. "Cracked leather is naturally less pliable," she says. "Use Leather Restorer or a similar product to keep your tack from fracturing."
Blangiforti cautions against putting tack in plastic bags to store it.
"That makes a cozy nest for varmints and insects. Along that line, if you coat that tack with a vegetable oil to soften the leather, you're setting it up as a wonderful steak dinner for pests."
Although olive oil makes the leather soft and supple for a time, it will start cracking when it dries.
Should you come back to the barn with wet leather, don't rub it dry. "Treat it gently. Water actually pushes dyes away from the leather, so if you get dark spots, it might not necessarily be just from the moisture," Blangiforti explains. "It might be the dye lifting. Clean and condition your saddle as you would from any winter ride." She recommends using an appropriate water repellent before you go out in the rain.
"Don't forget to clean and condition your chaps and boots," Blangiforti adds. "Pliable leather actually will keep you warmer than stiff, dry leather."