Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cold nights = Tack cleaning time!

Last night the temperatures here were a frigid -25 celcius, not including the wind chill. I believe that was closer to -40-ish at times... yuck! It was definitely too cold for my lesson kids to ride so we went with a plan "B". We did vital signs, heights, weights and descriptions of all of the horses in the toasty warm barn instead of riding. I was having a look at my collection of saddles in the basement and determined that some looked a bit on the dry side. Mostly the ones that don't see a lot of use. I got the good leather conditioner out and went to work! My favorite product is this stuff, Belvoir leather balsam made by Carr & Day Martin. It's got beeswax and lanolin in it, actually smells quite nice and leaves your hands nice & soft too! Most leather seems to just inhale this stuff and it makes the leathe super supple.
Personally, I find using a cloth to clean tack to be a bit of a pain so one day I found an old holey sock and stuck that on my hand and used that for cleaning. Then one year I got some of these cotton "roping" gloves as we call them (prevents rope burn on your hands) and thought... hmm... those would be perfect for tack cleaning!
They work great for really getting your hands in & around the saddles to clean & condition. I find it really interesting to compare the english saddles (mostly made in the UK) to the western saddles (made here in N.America). The leather on the english saddles is just like butter, it seems to stay relatively supple and doesn't crack. Some of the saddles look well used but really, don't let on just how old they are. The westerns are a different story. The leather is a lot different and not quite as supple as the english leather. It seems to tend to get surface 'crazing' easier too. My poor old Great West Saddle seems to be a bit of a project to keep from going downhill. I gave it a really good cleaning & conditioning but I think it has deteriorated some since I first got it. I think it had seen a lot of riding & use in it's life, so it's understandable. I think the main reason the leather is so different between english & western saddles is how they tanned them. Must be. I really don't know much about tanning, other than the chemicals they used to use to tan english leather were quite toxic... and are now banned I believe. Perhaps that's why our modern day saddles don't seem to last as long as the old saddles of 100 years ago? I wonder if they maybe used different breeds of cattle to make saddle leather in England vs. N.America? Not sure if that would have much to do with things or not. Different climate too? I think on average, N. America is a lot drier than it is in the UK and perhaps that damp weather helped keep the leather nicer? Though I do hear a lot of people saying that they have trouble with mold & rot over there. We have dry rot here, everything may look fine and then you notice that stitching has just disintegrated. Aside from conditioning saddles regularly, I'm not sure what to do about that. I'm wondering if I should perhaps be using a different cleaning/conditioning product on the western saddles than the english saddles? Lexol instead perhaps? I'm leery to use oil and such as I've heard bad things about it rotting the stitching. Lots of tack cleaning food for thought when we're stuck inside in the winter!

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