How to Expertly Care For, Clean and Condition Your Tack

“Yeah, laying a saddle flat on the ground is always bad,” confirmed Brad Ilonummi of Ilonummi Custom Leather and Saddlery regarding the best way to set down or store a saddle. Brad works with all types of saddles, horse tack and leather accessories in his mobile custom leather shop based out of Los Osos, right here in SLO County. He shared his knowledge with some tips on how to properly care for, clean and condition your tack.

Expertly Care For Your Saddle and Tack

Storing Your Saddle and Leather Tack

“Yeah I know we sometimes have to transport our saddles in the back of the pick-up, but the best way to set a saddle down is pommel end down and cantle end up or on its side with stirrups lying flat.” Brad explained. Then once the saddle gets home or placed in the tack room at a show, “It’s best to store a saddle on a saddle stand that has a round form like the horse’s back,” Brad described.

“Leather is fibrous and dries out then cracks and breaks,” explained Brad. “So it should always lie flat. Latigos and leathers can be folded as long as they are flat. Twisting leather puts stress on the fibers.”

Clean Your Leather Tack After Every Ride

“It’s all about the comfort of the horse and the safety of the rider,” expressed Brad as he describes the why behind every-use tack cleaning. Water and salt dry out leather. “Horse sweat is the worst thing to leave on leather. It just sucks the life out of the leather!” he added. So he recommends to properly clean and condition your tack it should be wiped down after riding. Furthermore, places where sweat and salt came in contact with leather should be cleaned with saddle soap.

Wiping down tack and cleaning off sweat after every ride with a squirt from a bottle with a mix of saddle soap and water keeps the tack in good condition. This makes the tack more comfortable for the horse and safer for the rider. He personally knows a woman who’s reins cracked and broke while she was way out on a ride which caused a fall. She broke her arm and had to walk quite a distance back leading her horse.

Expertly Clean and Condition Your Tack

“A more detailed cleaning should be done about every 3-6 months if you ride a lot. Once a year if you ride occasionally. One should always inspect tack for loose connections, loose stitching and breaking, cracking leather every cleaning,” recommends Brad. When he does a detailed cleaning he takes all the fittings off the saddle and cleans then conditions every surface.

Brad likes Fiebings Leather Saddle Soap for cleaning. He mixes the soap in a spray bottle and squirts it right onto the saddle and cinch or girth, plus on the headstall/bridle where the sweat and salt accumulate on the leather, then wipes it off. For a deeper clean he scrubs all surfaces of the tack with the saddle soap. To condition and oil the leather he prefers Neatsfoot Oil which he heats up in a pan.

He takes in saddles and leather tack to his shop in Los Osos to do a thorough cleaning and will even come out and pick up your equipment if you get a few friends to get their tack cleaned also. “Think of me like a car mechanic,” Brad says, “I clean, maintain and fix issues with your tack.”

Who is Brad Ilonummi?

A SLO County native who grew up in Los Osos. As a High School student Brad began to dabble in leather work, while getting into horseback riding. His mother was an artist and when she passed away, Brad was inspired to carry on her artistic gift and apply it to leather work. Brad found a school in Colorado where he focused on saddle work and upped his game to the professional level of tack repair, cleaning and creating. He and his family have settled back to home in Los Osos where he does saddle and leather work full-time.

What Can He Repair?

Brad does a lot of western-style gear and accessories like: holsters, western apparel, and knife sheaths. He enjoys applying the Sheridan Style (flower pattern) of tooling to his creations.

He cleans and repairs all styles of Western saddles. He can also work with English-style tack, saddles, bridles and girths. He can replace saddle stuffing and padding and fill and re-drill holes for conchos, fasteners, buckles, screws, rivets and nails.

He’s Mobile

“I love horses and riding and I focus on taking care of the equipment so others can continue to ride and love their horses.”
Brad can set up shop at horse shows and rodeos to quick-clean and fix tack on-site. If something needs further attention he can take it back to his Los Osos shop and do the necessary work there after the show. “”

His #1 priority is to take care of the customer and make sure he or she is happy with the work performed. Brad really enjoys working with equestrians because, as he states, “There is still a traditional, home-town feel in the equestrian world.”


You can get your own tack repaired or cleaned and conditioned or have him make something special for your or a loved one. You can also arrange to have Brad come out to a horse event you are attending or managing. Check out his Facebook Page, Website or contact him via phone: 805-215-0184


Just so you know, clicking the above tack cleaning product links takes you to the product on the Riding Warehouse site. This makes shopping easy and convenient for you. We do get a little kick-back from items purchased, giving us resources to bring you more stories, but your price stays the same. It’s a win-win! Also for local riders you can order items online and request pick-up – during checkout – at the Riding Warehouse store. Happy Trails!

Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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