How do you care for your leather halter?
In our previous article we discussed why leather halters are the best choice for your horse. But leather isn't the type of material that you can just leave out in the elements and expect to stay in good condition. We've all seen what happens when you leave an old leather halter out in the rain. What may have been a beautiful piece of tack once upon a time, is now dull, dry and lifeless. Furthermore, the integrity of the leather could be compromised, resulting in a safety concern when it comes to actually using it. There are a few easy steps you can take to preserve the quality and longevity of your leather halter.
As mentioned before, leather halters can be pricer than nylon halters. So naturally we want to protect our investment and get the most use out of it. Keeping that in mind, we want to show you a few simple ways that you can keep your halter in tip top shape, and not only preserve the leather, but keep your horse safe as well.
First off, we must understand what exactly leather is, and the process that makes it a desirable material for tack. As mentioned in our previous article, leather is a desirable material for tack use, for many reasons. It's much more biodegradable than synthetic fibres, and it can stay looking beautiful and new for many years. Leather is the skin from animals such as cows, goat, or buffalo. Leather is created by a process called tanning, which preserves the hide and gives it its durability. There are two main ways to tan leather, once it's been cleaned and processed.
Vegetable tanning uses natural elements to dye leather. Vegetable tanned leather makes up roughly 10% of the worlds leather supply due to its incredibly long dying process. It can cost upwards of three times more than chromium tanned leather and takes up to two months for the process to be finished.
Mineral or Chromium tanning is a much quicker process of leather tanning that takes a fraction of the time that vegetable tanning does. In fact, the entire mineral tanning process can be finished in a day. It can be automated as well, which means less man power and labour hours. This process uses chemicals to extract the collagen molecules from the hides. Mineral tanning opens up a much wider array of leather colours. Basically if you can dream it up, you can create it. It's a softer, more supple leather as well.
Brand new halters need moisture.
Your new leather halter may feel stiff when you first purchase it. It's best to invest in a high quality leather conditioner and give it a good wipe down prior to using it. Getting moisture into your halter early on will prevent cracks and peeling, and depending on the product you use, will also create a barrier between the leather and the elements.
Our favourite leather balm is the Effax Leder-Balsam which uses all natural ingredients like beeswax, lanolin and avocado oil. This balm doesn't leave a sticky residue, and protects all leather products beautifully. My saddle fitter exclusively recommends the Effax line of products, so you know it works. Plus the smell. If you've grown up riding horses, smelling this product will immediately bring back memories. Horse people agree, this stuff smells great.
effax leather conditioner for equestrian gear and tack
Not all leather cleaning products are created equally. Something to keep in mind when purchasing leather cleaning products for your tack, keep in mind that glycerine soap may not be a good choice. Remember back in the day, as a young rider, when we all stood in the tack room with that big bar of glycerine saddle soap that looked like it had been in the barn for so long, no one actually knew where it came from? tack cleaning technology has come a long way since then. The reason that glycerine soap isn't the best option for your leather halters (and the rest of your tack collection) is that the pH of the soap negatively affects the leather. Especially now a days with the modern processing of leather, (ie mineral tanning) the glycerine soap saturates the first layer of the leather, causing issues with moulding. If you've ever had mouldy tack, you know what an absolute nightmare it can be to clean, and rid your tack of that mould (We will do another blog post ALL about that process). The glycerine can also degrade the stitching in your halter which will cause it to break down quicker.
When shopping for saddle cleaning products, look for those that use key ingredients such as bees wax, lanolin, or Neatsfoot oil.
Give your halter a good wipe down
This is more important if your horse gets turned out in their halter. It's important to keep mud and dirt out of crevices and hardware. Next time you turn your horse in, or before you go ride, give your halter a quick wipe down with a cloth to ensure theres no caked on mud or dirt. Unlike a day at the spa, your leather halter prefers not to take part in a mud bath. Mud and dirt can seep into the pores of the leather, and essentially abrade the leather, meaning your halter will break down much faster. By giving it a quick wipe down periodically, you will keep your halter looking newer, longer.
A halter caked in mud may dry out and crack faster
If you live in the Pacific North West, you know that rain, mud and puddles are a natural way of life. Something to keep in mind if your horse gets turned out in the rain with their halter on, or if the halter is kept outside in the elements is that repeated soaking from rain and then being left to dry in the sun, will eventyally cause extremely dry leather. This is referred to as dry rot. While sometimes dry rot cannot be saved, if caught in time and taken care of, dry rot doesn't have to be the end of the world. (or in this case, a trip to the tack store and a new halter purchase) Wherever possible, it's best to keep your halter somewhere it wont be left to brave the weather. whether that be protected by a shelter or even a simple little wooden board above where you hang your halters can be helpful. If this isn't an option, just be aware that they might need a bit more care and tlc.
Inspect your halter
When it comes to horses, safety is always paramount. In fact, if you've been around horses for some time, most owners, trainers and riders preach safety practices almost daily. This is why inspecting your horses halter is so important. Because when it comes down to it, horses are essentially giant toddlers who are solely focused on seeing how badly they can hurt themselves or scare us. Giving your halter quick visual once over can help detect if there are cracks in the leather, or issues with hardware. If you have crystals on your halter, check that all the claws are pressed down, flush to the crystal itself to ensure that they wont get caught up in anything. Does the cheek clip move in and out easily? Are there cracks that could need repair? By briefly looking over your halter, you'll avoid issues in the future.
Checking over your leather halter can keep your horse safer
By taking some super simple steps and a little bit of extra time, you can ensure that your leather halter will stay looking it's best for many years to come. We take the time to clean our saddles and bridles daily, why not add your horses halter to your tack cleaning schedule?
Have you made the decision to finally purchase a leather halter for your horse? Check out our brand new halter collection. Three new halter designs to suit your matchy matchy needs. From Rose gold, to yellow gold, brown leather or black. Our halters are available in cob, full and XL sizes, and are anatomically fit for comfort. They each have an adjustable nose band and crown piece for a more customized look and feel. They are padded with soft leather on the inside of both the nose band and the crown piece for an added layer of comfort for your horse. No detail was spared when we designed these halters, as we know what an important piece of every day tack they are.
I hope you found this blog post to be informative. We love writing about the subjects we are passionate about, and when it comes to horses, the ideas are endless.
Do you have any leather care tips for your halter? Or maybe some favourite brands of saddle soap and leather care items. Let us know below in the comments, we would love to hear from you!