Shopping for new leather tack and saddles can be both an exciting and difficult adventure. When you invest your hard earned time and money into purchasing new gear, determining the quality of each leather item before purchasing is of utmost importance!
Although we may not like to think about it, the majority of leather equine gear is made from the hide of a cow. Did you know, the healthier the cow, the higher quality of the hide? Leather manufacturers generally prefer older grass fed animals, keeping them lean and healthy.Chrome & Vegetable Tanning: Which process is better?
Most manufacturers prefer vegetable tanning; although it takes longer, the end result is a stronger and more water resistant leather. The tanning process can take months, and ends with the hides being finished and dressed in a process called currying. Cheaper leather may actually have this coloring sprayed on, but quality leather will be finished by hand.
What is full-grain leather?
Tanners want a nice looking finished product, so they may remove any flaws they find in the top layer of the cow's hide. Some manufacturers will not use "buffed" skin thinking it weakens the hide, giving their product the name "full-grain leather". To learn more about full-grain leather click here.
Time to assess some leather goods!
Price will be a great guide, but it may only tell you part of what you need to know during your decision making process.
- Assess the finish: It should be silky smooth, rough areas indicate poor quality. Even the underside should feel relatively smooth. Minor cosmetic imperfections are acceptable, although the color should be fairly uniform. Beware of finishes that look to be painted on.
- Assess the feel: Quality leather should feel heavy, if the leather feels spongy walk away. Work the leather, gently pull and bend it, the fibers should show no signs of tearing.
- Is the leather supple? If the leather is supple it is a good sign. When you bend the leather the color should not be affected. Quality leather may have a few fine wrinkles when bent but should not tear in any way.
- Quality leather manufacturers are unlikely to skimp on nice clips and buckles...What do the fittings look like? Are the buckles stainless steel, brass or are they cheap looking? Is the stitching neat and uniform?
- Check out the edges of the leather: does it have a green tinge? This probably means the leather was chrome treated, it will be strong but will stretch over time.
- What does the labeling say? Great manufacturers usually advertise, avoid grade A labels.
- Buy a reputable brand: they generally have strong quality control measures.
Manna Pro recommends Lexol Leather Cleaner and Conditioner to keep your leather tack looking like new!
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