Summertime is undoubtedly a time of year that we horse fanatics live for. Longer, warmer days, less chores, evening rides, cleaner horses and, hopefully a time to enjoy being at the stables without feeling cold and wet!
With that in mind, it is also a good time to get cracking with all those odd jobs and tasks that you’ve been putting off during the colder winter months. Cleaning out the tack room is a big one as, if you’re anything like me, it tends to get used as a bit of a dumping ground. Everything from dirty rugs needing repair, old bits of tack and equipment that is no longer used and virtually everything else that you are reluctant to part with seems to get stashed away in any available corner. Be warned though, I’ve known friends who have started on this project with great enthusiasm, literally emptying out every cupboard, bucket and grooming box, only to find the task so overwhelming that they ended up just re-arranging it all and putting it back again without disposing of a single item.
If clearing out the tack room seems a little excessive, nothing beats collecting up all your tack and standing out in the sunshine with a bucket of water, leather soap and some cleaning cloths. No amount of daily wipe overs can compete with a thorough clean. That means undoing every buckle and billet, soaking bits and stirrups and giving all that leather work some real TLC with a good leather dressing. I always find tack cleaning very therapeutic and nothing beats the sense of satisfaction seeing (and smelling) clean saddles and bridles on their respective pegs in the tack room. Sadly, despite all our resolutions to keep it looking that way, more often than not, we know that it won’t.
At this time of year, with the exception of fly sheets, the majority of our horses and ponies are feeling the benefit of some sunshine and fresh air on their backs. This must feel quite wonderful after months of being piled up with heavy rugs, neck covers etc. It’s a window of opportunity too, to get those rugs cleaned and freshened up, repaired if necessary and ready for use when the weather starts to get chilly again. Years ago, finding a good local laundry and repair service was extremely difficult and those that were available were absolutely inundated with dirty, torn rugs during the summer months – they really struggled to keep everyone happy. As a rug repairer myself at a livery yard of over 40 horses, I was never short of work. In the summer months, I could insist that rugs were washed before repairs could be done but during the winter, these were often emergency repairs as there was no back up rug available for the poor horse. The smell of dirty, damp, well-worn horse rugs is all very well at the stables but not to be recommended in a warm winter workshop. Today, it seems, most rug repairers insist on clean rugs to work with – can’t say I blame them! Although rug cleaning can seem an expensive and labour intensive exercise, take a look at the underside of any of your rugs as ask yourself if you would be happy wearing that next to your skin every day?
So, with the tack room clean and tidy, a row of sparkling clean bridles and saddles and the rugs off to the laundry, what about the numnahs and saddle pads? When did they last have a wash? Every time you saddle up and ride, your numnah or saddle pad does the job of protecting both your horse and the saddle but it traps an unbelievable amount of dirt, hair and grease from even the cleanest horse. Leaving it attached to your saddle may save time and even though it may dry out after exercise, all that nasty dirt and grease remains locked in.
Washing quilted saddle pads or numnahs every day is simply not practical so, inevitably, they can get pretty disgusting. While the warmer weather is here, take the opportunity to give them a really good wash and then start using a Shimmi every day. It will keep your saddle pad or numnah clean and be much kinder to your horse.