Softening leather - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 10-13-2011, 01:51 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2011
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Softening leather

Okay, so I bought a bridle off eBay for Aires. It's not a really high-quality bridle, but for the price I paid, I didn't expect it to be ($36 shipped). I do like the look of it, however. It's a hunter bridle and the color matches my saddle perfectly (didn't think it would, but it does).

Anyway, my one issue with it is that the leather is a bit stiff. So, what is the best way to soften up the leather? I have access to saddle soap, neatsfoot oil, and I think the trainer has some other kind of oil or leather cleaner as well (can't remember at the moment, but I'll look tomorrow). The bridle isn't so stiff that it's unusable, but it's stiffer than I'd like.
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post #2 of 7 Old 10-13-2011, 01:54 AM
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If it's a relatively dark leather, oiling it up with neatsfoot oil won't change the color enough to cause a mis-match. If it's lighter though, the oil will darken it. I use neatsfoot on all my tack (and because of that, it all matches LOL) and it leaves it super soft and supple...and water resistant.

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post #3 of 7 Old 10-13-2011, 02:07 AM
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I always literally drown my new leather gear in oil, leave it sitting in a warm place for 24 hours with a good coating of oil on it, and wipe it off the next day to give it a chance to really soak in.
When in use, I wipe sweat of after every ride as sweat is great for cracking leather :/ And each week, my gear gets a good clean with leather soap and conditioner. And once a month it will get a thorough oil. My leather is butter soft with that routine :)

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post #4 of 7 Old 10-13-2011, 02:28 AM Thread Starter
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It's fairly dark leather, actually. I was surprised because the pic in the ad makes it look lighter than it is in person. My reins are REALLY dark, though, so if the bridle ends up not matching the saddle, it isn't the end of the world (got the reins at our local horse expo a few weeks ago). lol

The bridle is brand new. It's not "cardboard" leather, but as I said, it's stiffer than I'd like. I will start working with neatsfoot oil on it tomorrow after our ride (going on our first real trail ride!).
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post #5 of 7 Old 10-13-2011, 06:37 AM
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I used neatsfoot oil too once, but it left that "oily" feel on hands for very long time (which I didn't like much). If it's not the cardboard stiffness I'd use a good leather conditioner - that's what I usually do these days.

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post #6 of 7 Old 10-13-2011, 07:02 AM
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What I was told by a local saddle maker is to take your oil and put it in an old crock pot and let your reins "cook" for a couple of days in nice warm oil. Never had to try it as my old rolled reins are so broke in they are buttery soft.
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post #7 of 7 Old 10-13-2011, 09:35 AM
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One big thing- Take your leather out into the sun. It opens the pores and allows the oil to soak in.

If you try to oil leather dry and in the "dark", it really doesn't soak in as deep, and just hits the very top part of the leather. Another reason why leather feels slimy and oily sometimes.

Focus on the back part of the leather (the side that touches the horse). The side you see, has been coated and treated to look all pretty and shiny, and doesn't accept oil as readily. The back side isn't, and it's the porous side that soaks in everything.

I give mine a good clean and condition- let that dry. Take it completely apart, and set the pieces somewhere out in the sun for a little while. Once it feels kind of hot, get a sponge drenched in oil and start coating the leather. Work your leather. If you oil and oil and oil, it helps, but you really have to roll it around, gently bend it, etc while your oiling. Wipe all the pieces off lightly, then stick it back in the sun and keep checking on it. You'll need to periodically wipe it down until it's totally dry (this can take all day depending on the weather situation). Just keep repeating this until it's where you want it.

It's a long process, but once you do it, your leather is fine with just periodic conditioning, and remains pretty soft. Some people feel using a ton of oil leaves it slimy and greasy, but it's why you set it in the sun where it soaks up everything, and keep it wiped down, and wait for it to completely dry. Then wipe it down some more. You really have to be careful though, and determine your leather quality. High end bridles, really are fine with just a good conditioning. Others not to high quality, will need a big oil drench. Take it fairly slow, and remember-Your leather will dry. Just keep going until it's how you want it. It'll be a oily mess when you're doing this, so fair warning.

And remember, with use it will form to his head and break in even further.

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Last edited by DejaVu; 10-13-2011 at 09:37 AM.
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