How, and why, do I need to oil my tack?
Your tack is quite the investment, and needs special care at certain times. Oiling your tack will soften it, condition it, and sometimes darken it.
The most common time to oil your tack is when it's brand spanking new, before you even use it. The most common oil to use is neats foot oil, and lots of folks will even use olive oil. It's readily found at tack shops and can be applied with a sponge or rag. It will take a bit of time to truly soak in (sometimes days), so be patient. Please check with the manufacturer of your new tack before you oil, some leather types don't need oil.
Some brands of Neat's Foot oil come with a brush - handy!
For bridles, you could put some oil in a shallow pan and soak the pieces overnight. This will make the breaking in time shorter and more comfortable for your horse. (Just be sure to check the bridle fit before you oil!) The down side is that soaking your bridle in oil also coats the side of the bridle that touches your horse, so wait a few days before you use it on your horse. You can also clean off excess oil with some glycerin soap and elbow grease.
If you would like to really darken your tack, you can go with hydrophane, also available at most tack shops. This is very common for hunter/jumper saddles, which sometimes start out more orange in color. A few coats with hydrophane and you have a more natural and darker brown color.
Please avoid oiling any leather that covers your saddle's flocking, as the wool or fiber can soak up the oil, creating a saddle that doesn't fit and damaging the flocking.
This brand new saddle will darken up with some more applications of oil. Using a brush saves your fingers from certain grossness.
Oiling can also be a good idea if you need to bring a dry, crusty, old, dusty, shriveled up saddle or bridle back to life. I have found that by cleaning my tack after every use with a leather safe soap and conditioner, I can avoid the necessity of oiling my leather tack. Unless of course I have forgotten about a piece of tack in the trailer or storage bin..... Oiling will not bring back the life to leather that is crispy dry and cracked, it's best go shopping instead!
What works for you when it comes to oiling saddles?