Neatsfoot or Olive Oil? Learn the Proper Way to Care for Tack


Keeping leather tack in good condition is critical for safety and it also helps to keep the communication between you and your horse at top level. Dried and cracking leather does not give the same signal as good, dense, well cared for leather.

It’s a great idea to check your tack for wear or damage before every ride. I recommend wiping it down with saddle soap after every ride and hanging it properly where it has space to hang naturally.

You also want to give your tack a good deep cleaning every few months to help preserve it and keep it at its highest level of performance. If you haven’t used a piece of tack in a while it’s important to check it over carefully, oil if needed, and make necessary repairs. Just like your horse, if you don’t ride it, your tack won’t perform as well as when it’s used continuously.

Follow these straight forward steps to deep clean and condition your leather:

  1. To properly deep clean and oil a piece of tack you’ll need saddle soap, Neatsfoot oil or a substitute and a couple of pieces of sheepskin or clean cloth. I use Neatsfoot oil but other oils such as olive will work. I don’t use leather conditioners or other products that leave a film on the leather.
  2. Take the piece of tack completely apart. Check both the leather and hardware for wear and damage. Pay careful attention to the folds in the leather.
  3. Spray or rub saddle soap liberally onto a piece of sheepskin, cloth or sponge.
  4. Rub each piece of leather until any dirt on the leather is removed. If there’s mold on the leather it can be rubbed with a mixture of 1 part mouthwash to 2 parts water prior to rubbing with saddle soap. It usually takes some elbow grease to get the mold off. Let the leather dry for an hour or two.
  5. Wipe the leather down with a clean cloth and liberally apply Neatsfoot oil with a piece of sheepskin or cloth. Be sure to apply to the edges of the leather and inside any loops. Move keepers and apply oil to the leather under the keeper. Let the oil dry for an hour or two. It can be placed in a warm spot while drying but not in direct sunlight.
  6. Buff any excess oil off with a clean cloth. You can use a little bit of saddle soap on the cloth if you like. Replace any worn or damaged part. Reassemble your tack and you’re ready to ride!

Saddle soap is a product made from mild soap, glycerin or lanoline (sebaceous gland wax of sheep) and often beeswax.

Saddle soap is used to clean and protect leather. Neatsfoot oil is a fat rendered from the lower legs of cattle that doesn’t harden when cold. It is used to soften and condition leather. It will darken leather with repeated use.

If you have any questions about tack care we’re here to help you. We’re a full line manufacturer of handmade tack. Visit www.dmtack.com or give us a call at 817-312-5305.