...Cleaning Continued

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Breaking in New tack:

Most of my bridles are over twenty years old and still going strong.  One reason is that I learned a long time ago not to buy cheap leather.  Tempting as it is, the cheap stuff is not a good deal.  It’s hard to use, the keepers often don’t fit, the cleaning is difficult and it tends to crack and break shortly into the relationship.  I like flat leather (not rolled) with a good finish in either brown or black.  The reason I don’t buy rolled tack is that if you break a piece it is very hard to replace.
saddle with wooly cleaning equipment
Oiling 20in:  Every now and then I read something about oil being bad for tack.  Of course, you should never use oil on suede, but in my experience, with the right oil, you will have no problem.  In you’ll see e a host of benefits in saddle and bridle leather.

One slight caution is that the outer flaps of your saddle (under your leg) need to not be so soft that they can bend and create wrinkles in the leather over time.  Other than that I have rarely seen a saddle or bridle that did not benefit from repeated, heavy doses of the right  oil in the first use period.  Go ahead and slather it on, let it soak in and do it again.  Be aware that oil will darken a brown colored leather.  Most of us like that and don’t consider it a problem.

The first heavy and repeated “oiling in” of the tack gives you a base to start from, and makes if much more forgiving of later potential periods of neglect.  It also makes it much softer and easier on you and your horse to break in.

A word about water and shine.
Yes, rain can make spots on your saddle, too much water (buckets full) can dry it out, but many top dressage riders actually wet their saddle  seat before they get on (ask for the story on Shultheis and Cindy Ishoy)   Many also use sticky wax on their boots (I do) to add friction.  You can see some on the products page.  

What you don’t want is a a slippery, shiny, saddle surface.  It just makes your life harder.  You do want a clean and slightly—very, very slightly—tacky surface  That is why I ride the Stubben with pig skin grain rather than a “bridle leather” type of finish.  Either will work and taking care of them is the same.  The point is shiny (like your boots) is not good.  Rudolf, by the way, never polishes the inner surface of his boots.  Came running down at Aachen to make sure I knew this too. (I did. J)  Makes sense, it’s messy on the pad and ultimately slippery.

Taking the whole thing apart.
I can remember sitting in a tack room as a D-1 Pony Clubber watching my instructor take apart all of our little group’s bridles, piece by piece, and throwing them together in a pile with the ever-helpful instruction: “Now, put them back together.”  Ah what fun!

It’s not so hard getting them apart, it’s the putting back together thing that gets you. If you are shy about this, remember it helps to always start at the top. And, you can also get a lot of mileage out of just undoing your bits and reins and cleaning a semi-deconstructed bridle. (See photo)  The soap-filled triangular  “Hand Wooly” is being used here to zip off the metal residue.
new and used wooly
Putting the whole thing back together.
After cleaning and oiling, your disassembled bridle (this cleaning  is most easily done on a counter of flat space rat her than a hook)  it is in a million pieces (actually 7-11 pieces).  Don’t panic.  

Take the crown piece and hook it over something, (your cleaning hook is best, but the door will do)   With the smaller throat latch strap to the rear of the horse you’re now imagining in the bridle, add the brow band, facing front of course, then put on the cheek pieces to stop the brow band from falling off.  There is a left and right here: and remember buckles face outward, hooks face inward.  

So far so good.  On to the nose.  From the far side (my British Horse Society is showing here) or the right, feed the strap that holds the nose band or caveson from off to near (right to left facing forward) through the brow band, under side of the head stall, and then buckle it up.  

About “off” and “near” side—think of off and near as starboard and port on a boat.  It’s the same idea: you know what side you’re talking about no matter which direction you happen to be facing.

If you have a flash drop nose band feed the strap in so when buckled up the extra tail end of the leather will be pointing downward.  Reins get put on the same way as cheek pieces (hopefully they match, but no big deal) Hooks face in, buckles face out.

Double bridle:
I can hear it now!  “If you are using a double bridle you ought to know how to do this already! ”  This is a catch 22 that we don’t need to get into.  Here’s how it works.
double bridle
If you are putting together a double bridle with two bits, the strap that hangs the snaffle part is a separate thin piece of leather with the same kind of attachments as your cheek pieces, but usually only one adjustment, mostly kept on the near or left side as well.
The curb bit is always held by the main crown piece, not the smaller extra strap..  This is because part of the curb action depends on poll pressure and a wide pressure is kinder than a thin strap—never mind the leather is stronger.

Two notes here about equipment.  Padded head stalls sound like a great idea.  They are not.  Poll pressure in a double bridle is supposed to be felt and interpreted by the horse.  Padding this is not a kindness, and leads in almost all cases to a gummy, heavy feel in the hand.  Think of it like holding the reins with huge overstuffed mittens.  You can’t feel anything subtle..

And last note, re size of the bits.   The bradoon (snaffle bit with smaller rings) will be the size your horse normally wears in his or her snaffle..  Thinner of course and with smaller rings, but basically the same width, The curb, which does not bend, should be one size SMALLER than the snaffle bit.  You see a lot of horses in the US terribly bitted when it comes to their doubles, and a lot of rider guilt and ignorance about how this tool is introduced, used, and fitted.

Anyway, the snaffle in a double bridle hangs above and behind the curb.  When you put it on, the curb chain runs  between the two bits, under the snaffle and over the curb.  People make a mistake with this frequently (usually running it over the top of the snaffle—ouch!)  and it is not nice for the horse.  

By the way, tipping the top part of the curb backwards helps make it easier to do up the curb chain.  After you have done this, make sure the snaffle part is still sitting in back of the curb.

In closing, have fun looking at Woolies and special oils on the site,  There are lots of places to get the commercial German wax, sticky stuff and whip bands.  Some may be cheaper.  (We bought these from a regular store to show you what they were and just as a convenience if you need some)   Woolies are hand made right here by us, and thus far only available here,

Other things people frequently have questions about in clinics are correct use of the dressage whip. More on that later, if you like just let me know, and I’ll show you my favorites and tell you how in that department. 


Best wishes, Dale.

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