First and foremost we need to be sure that our horses are in good condition. Warm weather riding creates some obstacles that are easy to overcome when caring for the equine. Sweat on a horse can create skin issues. Be sure to sponge your horse’s face after exercise to avoid fungal hair loss. If sweat is left on a horse’s coat, not only can it lead to irritation, but it can also cause the coat to fade. Rinsing your horse will cool your horse off and remove the left behind residue that causes problems. (But avoid shampooing too often; you may actually dry out the horse’s skin) Remove any excess water once you are finished, and if possible, use a light sheet or fly sheet to shade the coat and keep flies at bay.
To maintain a long, thick tail, remove any large tangles and debris daily by picking through the tail with your fingers. You may want to apply a leave-in conditioner to keep the tail moist and avoid breakage. Fly spray and a fly sheet can often help with minimizing tail breakage as your horse will need to swish less at pesky insects.
Feet are always important, and it can be a delicate balance between too dry and too wet depending on your climate. For wet areas, you may need to use a sealer to keep the natural hoof moisture in and excess moisture out. For drier climates, a hoof moisturizer is a must to keep hooves from cracking. Your farrier will often have advice as to what products he/she prefers to maintain good hoof health. Of course, a normal trimming/shoeing schedule should be kept because horses in work or on green pasture tend to grow hooves faster than in the winter months.
Now that we have our horses clean and conditioned, it’s time to look at our tack. Tack that is not maintained can actually be a hazard, leading to faulty equipment that can break when in use. Again, depending on where you live, your leather may tend to dry out and crack or to get wet and moldy. No matter where you live it is important to inspect your tack and keep it in good working order.
Between deep cleanings, give your tack a rinse to remove dirt and sweat that may irritate your horse and age your leather. Keep a small, damp sponge handy to give leather a quick once over, but keep it from becoming overly saturated. A small bucket of clean water can be kept in the tack room for dunking your bits after each use. Your horse will appreciate this, and so will your hands when it comes time for a deep clean.
Because your tack has remained in fairly good condition from daily cleaning, your deep cleaning and conditioning sessions will become much easier. Always be sure to thoroughly clean your saddles, bridles, and girths with leather cleaner before applying conditioner. Remove any built up grime and don’t forget the hard to reach places. A soft toothbrush can help you get the stitched areas. Use a quality cleaner; your local tack shop may be able to recommend a good product. Once clean, let your leather dry.
Once the cleaning process is complete, you’ll need to restore its condition. Again, use a good quality product, and work it in to the leather. Allow the product to soak in and buff to create that show ring shine. Check buckles, stirrups, and other pieces of non-leather to be sure they are in working order, and polish any silver or brass with a cloth and/or toothbrush to bring out its sparkle.
Keeping your horse and tack happy and healthy takes a little bit of time, but daily maintenance can make this process part of your routine. Before you know it you’ll have more quality hours in the saddle and less elbow grease spent in the barn.