Riders depend on protective leatherwear for riding and working around horses, and these items require attention if they are to last and remain comfortable. Boots need cleaning, conditioning and waterproofing just like items of tack. Wet and muddy conditions are most damaging to them, and boot dryers can be a helpful tack-room addition.
Waterproofing, starting at purchase and renewed regularly after cleaning and oiling, can extend boot life considerably. Suede boots and those with rough finishes are best kept clean by vigorous brushing. Conditioners can ruin these leathers, so consider treating them with a spray-on waterproofer to prevent moisture damage.
Chaps also need occasional care to maintain their utility and appearance. Montana tack-store owner Mike Witt recommends leaving the cleaning to experts: "The best way to clean chaps is to have them professionally dry-cleaned by a firm that specializes in cleaning leather. They will add conditioners to keep them supple."
Canadian tack-store manager Tracey Dickson suggests treating smooth leather chaps pretty much like leather tack, cleaning them with saddle soap or a product made for leather garments. Care for suede chaps is a little more complex. "Brush them regularly with a suede brush," she says, "and occasionally wash them in the machine, on the gentle cycle, with a mild detergent or one designed for leathers. Put them in the dryer on a no-heat cycle with a bed sheet to partially dry them while keeping them pliable. When they are still a bit damp, stretch them to their original shape, and lay them flat to dry."
This excerpt originally appeared in the article "Timeless Tack Care" in the March 2002 issue of EQUUS magazine.