How to Keep Your Tack Happy in Any Climate

Constantly conditioning your tack without accounting for your climate and for what your tack actually needs is one of the worst things you can do for your tack, and you may not even realize it.

I get why you think that. If you’re like me, it was ingrained in us as riders from day one to always condition after every time you cleaned.

However, have you ever noticed how your tack doesn’t absorb the conditioner as quickly or the same way every time? Or what about all those other problems you’re having with how your tack looks and feels even though you’re always conditioning it?

Your climate plays a big role in all of these things you are observing. Whether you are sweltering or shivering, humidity has a sneaky year round influence on whether your leather tack and gear is stiff or supple, moldy or spotless, damaged or healthy. If you are a rider serious about horse care and ready to shift from being a frustrated equestrian to an empowered equestrian, read on to learn how to keep your tack protected and healthy in any climate or season.

Why Humidity Hurts

Say the word “humidity” and does your mind automatically cue images of frizzy hair, sweaty faces, and running mascara? Well, just like you, your tack is really not a big fan of humidity either.

Modern leather ideally loves to be at its best in relative humidity ranging from 35-70%. Too little or too much humidity and your tack gets grouchy.

Leather is somewhat hygroscopic, which means that it likes to absorb moisture from the surrounding air. That sounds nice, like maybe your leather can just automatically condition itself from the air on a humid day. And it does to a degree! Unfortunately, what this means is that leather can easily suck up too much moisture on a humid day, especially when combined with conditioning. This makes it prone to mold and oversaturated leather fibers. Bummer because oversaturated leather fibers equals weakened and permanently damaged fibers (and even leads to cracking and dried out leather – counterintuitive, I know).

On the flip side, leather can definitely dry out in an environment with too little humidity. As your leather loses moisture to the atmosphere, the leather begins to shrink, stiffen, and crack – picture a cellulose sponge shrinking up as it dries. Again, the leather fibers are permanently weakened and damaged to a degree when this occurs.

So…this is where a good leather conditioner comes into play as an important tool in your toolbox, but balance and awareness of your leather and environment are absolutely key to helping your leather stay in the perfectly moisturized sweet spot.

How to do this? Keep reading ‘cuz that’s next!


What To Do

No matter your climate or time of year, adopt these habits to keep your saddle supple and healthy:

  • Condition your leather on an as needed basis only. This is the #1 hands down best way to ensure a healthy moisture balance in your tack. Most riders are notorious for overconditioning their tack, since if you’re like me, it was ingrained in you as a rider from day one to always condition after every time you cleaned. Just don’t do it! Slapping on a layer of conditioner after every ride is like putting a coat of lotion on your hands after each and every time you wash them. I bet you don’t do this because your hands don’t need it, and your saddle usually doesn’t either.

  • Your leather will tell you what it needs, so only use a very light amount of conditioner. This means using just enough conditioner so that it fully absorbs within about 2 minutes. If the conditioner is still partially unabsorbed after 5 minutes, wipe off any excess to avoid oversaturating your leather.

  • Condition more frequently during your cold dry winters and arid summers. Does this mean every day? Every week? Once a month? Again, you will want to experiment a bit by applying a little conditioner to your tack and seeing what happens.

  • Condition less frequently during your rainy seasons, cold humid winters, and hot humid summers. This may mean conditioning once a month or even once every few months depending on your environment and the needs of your leather.

  • Store your tack in a well ventilated space so that it can breathe and try to balance itself naturally.

  • Consider putting a fan or dehumidifier in your tack room during particularly humid months.

The Takeaway

When you get right down to it, managing the damaging influence of humidity on your leather is really all about balancing natural humidity (your climate and environment) with supplemental humidity (leather conditioner). Along with your new habits, your favorite jar of Sterling Essentials Leather Conditioner is the powerful tool you have at your disposal to control the moisture level and health of your tack.

When you’ve mastered this new conditioning regimen you will be well on your way to helping your tack stay supple and moisture balanced, but if you don’t protect your tack from premature degradation then it doesn’t do you any good. That is what most frustrated equestrians do. They never protect their tack from premature degradation, and if you have this problem you may be doing exactly that. So how do you prevent premature degradation? Read about The Little Known Leather Care Fact You Need to Know Now to find out.

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