Barrel racing tack is multipurpose. It needs to hold up to extreme athletic action, but it also needs to be stylish. Whether you ride in blinged-out tack or you prefer a workmanlike saddle, we asked well-known tack maker Dennis Moreland of Weatherford, Texas, and Stacy Autry of Shiloh Saddlery in Springdale, Arkansas, to share their advice on how to care for your leather goods.
Do Clean Regularly
Leaving your tack dirty and sweaty can shorten the life of your gear, causing it to weaken and become brittle, which can lead to broken headstalls or stirrup leathers at the worst times. Stacy Autry says caring for your tack is like changing the oil in your car— maintenance is necessary to ensure a long working life.
“If you don’t care for your saddle, it dries out and deteriorates from excessive dirt and caked up sweat,” Autry says. “It will shut down the pores of the leather and the leather will get hard.”
Autry recommends doing a deep cleaning and conditioning of your saddle once a year, but ideally wiping it off with a rag every time you ride is a great way to look over all of the parts of your tack. He says disuse and getting the leather wet without oiling are the hardest things on saddles.
“Using the saddle is better for it than actually just sitting around not doing anything,” Autry says. “It keeps the leather limber and pliable.”
Dennis Moreland recommends cleaning your bridles and tack once a month, with a deep conditioning at least every few months.
“It’s a misconception that you will never have to clean or oil your tack and it’ll last forever,” Moreland says. “Even if you don’t use a bridle for six months and it just hangs there, you may have to oil it because it has dried out.”
Don’t Neglect the Details
Moreland says the most important thing is to examine your tack each time before you ride to look for weak or worn spots or broken hardware. Take it all apart every few months for deep cleaning.
“Be very conscientious about where the folds are and look for wear when you’re cleaning,” Moreland says. “Cleaning is a good time to check over your tack completely to make sure there are no worn parts, but you need to unbuckle all of the buckles and unscrew everything.”