When the weather is wet, rainy and humid, my guess would be that many of you are battling mold and mildew problems on your tack. If left untreated the fungus can destroy your investment. Leather care is important when it comes to keeping your horse tack performing like new.
Mold and mildew are both fungi but slightly different in organic composition. Mold is normally green and hairy, while mildew appears whitish-gray and powdery. It is important to know that mold and mildew are not only dirty and unsightly but very harmful to leather tack. Not to mention the health issues it causes for humans! For this reason, it is important to control mold and mildew issues. A single mold/mildew spot contains thousands of mold/mildew spores that penetrate the leather and destroy the fibers and weaken the overall integrity of the leather.
Tack should be inspected periodically for signs of mold and mildew, especially in warm, damp weather. It is not unheard of to find the spores in cooler weather, when we are experiencing rain or just from the sweat of our horses.
If you find mold/mildew growing, remove the tack to a well ventilated, outdoor area. Disturbing the growth will cause spores to float in the air, therefore landing on other tack in the room where a new colony will begin to grow and further spread. Use a leather cleaner that contains a fungicide and is pH neutral. I like to use Leather Therapy Restorer & Conditioner by Unicorn Editions. After cleaning, place the rag in a plastic bag and throw away, do not re-use. You can apply a very small amount of leather oil, but use sparingly. Leather oils applied heavily provide a prime environment for mold/mildew re-growth.
To help prevent mold and mildew from growing, always give your tack a wipe down and remove sweat or moisture before storing. Allow your tack to dry before placing in your storage area. Store your tack in a well ventilated room. If possible, a temperature controlled tack area will help keep the air dry and retard mold/mildew growth. Indirect sunlight in your storage area or UV lighting can also decrease growth. However, use carefully, because too much can dry your leather.
De-humidifiers are excellent for controlling the humidity in a room. Desiccant crystals are also inexpensive and easy to use. These are the little silica packets you find in electronic packing boxes. Several of these packets placed in a mesh bag and hung around the storage area will help control the moisture in the air. Be sure to place them out of reach of pets and children.
So remember, inspect tack often and prevent the mold and mildew growth before it starts!