Thursday, 12 July 2012

Leather tack vs synthetic

I have come to the end of my tether when it comes to cleaning tack. When I was a teen I cleaned my leather tack a couple of times a week, in front of the telly. I liked it! After my 30-year break from horse ownership I have come back to it having lost patience with leather. I can't stand the stickiness of the soap and the grease (even though I use nice vegetable-based oil and lovely posh NAF leather cream) or the SMELL! My hands are stinky for ages after I have cleaned everything. And the ages spent putting my leather hackamore back together with ten different tiny keepers (not really ten, but too many, anyway) and the leather wear on the sidepieces because of the weight of the hackamore. Its all too much now - and I am much busier it seems now then when I was 15! I just don't have time. 

When I was in my teens synthetic tack was only just starting to appear in happy hacker/riding club world. I saw my first synthetic saddle then, already cracked and breaking and stiff and cheap-looking after only a few weeks of use. Rubbish. Everybody with any sense sneered at non-leather saddles. Only headcollars could be synthetic, in a small range of colours, green, burgundy, blue and red I think. Likewise saddlecloths and bandages - available in just a small range of very safe colours, and tendon or brushing boots generally in leather too, black or brown only, of course. I remember somebody buying some really "wild" navy blue exercise bandages once!

How things have changed! And all for the better in my view. Technology has moved on, with great new materials produced for industry and other sports (like sailing) being systematically adopted for use in equestrianism. I now use a synthetic saddle - only needs to be wiped over every now and again to keep it in perfect condition - bliss!! My synthetic saddle is adjustable, comfortable, fits my horse well and puts me in a great position. Despite having bought it second-hand from ebay (very cheaply!), it still has years left in it. And the girth straps, which will probably be the first bit to go, can be replaced by the cordonnier in the next village. My girth is synthetic too - so I shove it under the tap after every ride, making it much less likely that my mare will get girth galls compared to with a rarely-cleaned leather one. 

My saddle is black, but it doesn't need to be any more - the new synthetic materials come in any colour you want - from classic black and brown to neon pink or orange, if you like. Your horse can have multi-coloured bridles and matching martingales - red, white and blue, for example, is popular. Most saddles are still black or brown but other colours are available. The most important thing about the new materials is how easily cleanable they are. The endurance world has adopted the new tack with a will - as one high-level endurance-riding friend said to me "you just chuck it all in the washing machine after a comp to clean it". Or just shove it under the tap after a ride. Now that is my kind of tack cleaning. 

As for all the accoutrements - headcollars, saddlecloths, bandages etc - these are also now available in a rainbow of colours, and in fact in rainbow pattern too. While I stick to classic colours, my daughter rides with bright pink brushing boots and matching saddlecloth, it looks fantastic, I have to admit. Her neoprene-lined (i.e. lovely quality) headcollar is studded with "diamonds" - it looks great! I have seen fetlock and tendon boots to die for - tartan, leopard-spot print, zebra-striped and any colour you can think of. All with matching saddlecloths. Yum. 

So right now, as I traipse off to clean my leather bridle yet again and spend a couple of days with stinky hands, I think it is time for that biothane synthetic bridle I saw on ebay...

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