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  1. #1
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    Default Black Tack - Why is it so ugly?

    A friend recently took up dressage after a lifetime of H/J/Eq and we are both curious as to why the black leather used for dressage tack is not so pretty. It just lacks the feel, luster and beauty we love in our high end English and French tack. I suppose I should post on the Dressage forum but I know we have a lot of very knowledgable people here.



  2. #2
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    Perhaps in this case - as in many others - beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My German black bridles are plenty gorgeous. My black saddles are lovely as well. So no surprise, my jumping saddle (brown) is great quality but just doesn't look nearly as elegant to me.


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  3. #3
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    Yeah, I suspect it's just a matter of taste and what you are used to. Having been primarily in the HJ world all along myself, I do prefer brown tack, but that's just me. Many dressage folks prefer black, which is why I got my brown dressage saddle at a steal of a price .



  4. #4
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    My black PJ is gorgeous. My black Wintec is not.

    My brown Smith Worthingtons is gorgeous. My cheap brown leather halter is not. It is a quality thing to me. If you think all black tack is ugly, it is just a matter of taste -- you aren't "wrong," as there is no accounting for taste.
    I do think cheap black tack looks worse because often the color bleeds. You don't notice it as much on cheap brown tack, but on black it is glaringly obvious. My good black tack never bleeds.


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  5. #5
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    The quality of what you're getting will also matter. If you're going cheap on the dressage stuff because you're just trying to get started that will make a difference, also if its new or used and the care that has been taken of it.

    Personally I love black tack and dislike brown tack. I think my horse looks nicer in black tack too.


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  6. #6
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    The quality of what you're getting will also matter. If you're going cheap on the dressage stuff because you're just trying to get started that will make a difference, also if its new or used and the care that has been taken of it.

    Personally I love black tack and dislike brown tack. I think my horse looks nicer in black tack too.



  7. #7
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    hehe and I am a dressage rider who finds brown tack not as nice as black I agree with what everyone else is saying about quality and taste, though. I mean cheap leather is cheap leather, it is usually ugly no matter the color. And uncared for leather is dull and blah. Keep in mind that dressage is a very black-and-white sport in general. I find that a nicely cleaned, cared for black dressage saddle looks just fabulous with bright-white pants, shiny stiff dress boots, and a shiny bridle with a decorated browband.


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  8. #8
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    I don't "dislike" black tack (and could give a rat's ass what someone else rides in), but I do think that unless it is very good quality, it lacks the natural luster and softness that brown tack has, even medium quality leather. Ditto for a supple, broken in feel to it - it just feels stiffer to me unless it is really high end, whereas even a mid range brown leather feels decent.

    I've always assumed this had something to do with the effect of black dye and maybe only really exceptionally well tanned leather could do well with it, but that is just me guessing.

    Meanwhile, back at Camp Obvious, cheap leather is cheap leather be it black, brown, pink or lime green. But I'm pretty sure everybody already knew that and wouldn't waste time debating it. #buticouldbewrong
    Definition of "Horse": a 4 legged mammal looking for an inconvenient place and expensive way to die. Any day they choose not to execute the Master Plan is just more time to perfect it. Be Very Afraid.


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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    The quality of what you're getting will also matter. If you're going cheap on the dressage stuff because you're just trying to get started that will make a difference, also if its new or used and the care that has been taken of it.

    Personally I love black tack and dislike brown tack. I think my horse looks nicer in black tack too.
    The friend in question buys nothing but the best, her dressage saddle cost more money than her Butet, Antares and Devoucoux saddles and her bridles are also excellent quality. I don't know if I dislike all black tack, but I dislike all that I have seen so far.


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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMK View Post
    I don't "dislike" black tack (and could give a rat's ass what someone else rides in), but I do think that unless it is very good quality, it lacks the natural luster and softness that brown tack has, even medium quality leather. Ditto for a supple, broken in feel to it - it just feels stiffer to me unless it is really high end, whereas even a mid range brown leather feels decent.

    I've always assumed this had something to do with the effect of black dye and maybe only really exceptionally well tanned leather could do well with it, but that is just me guessing.
    I was wondering if it was the black dye that might be the culprint and while I'm not a big fan of black tack based on what I have seen so far, I think I could still recognize any that was comparable quality to the high end brown tack I find so attractive.


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  11. #11
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    Part of it may be that DYED leather looks different than naturally-aged-with-time-but-undyed-color. And you either like that or don't like that look (dyed). I find dyed brown tack just as strange looking as dyed black tack. DYED tack always seems to lack a "patina" that I like, whether it's dyed black or brown.
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  12. #12
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    I'll second vxf111's post. I think it's the dye.



  13. #13
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    I think that is the answer vxf, makes perfect sense.



  14. #14
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    I am a hunter rider and actually like my black Courbette Optima. It's 7 years old and still looks great. It came with my big guy, and I just don't have the budget to get a new wide saddle. He's a grey, so I think it actually looks good on him.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by vxf111 View Post
    Part of it may be that DYED leather looks different than naturally-aged-with-time-but-undyed-color. And you either like that or don't like that look (dyed). I find dyed brown tack just as strange looking as dyed black tack. DYED tack always seems to lack a "patina" that I like, whether it's dyed black or brown.
    Yep, I think this is it. I'm an h/j person in an eventing barn, so I get to look at all kinds of different tack these days. I think the dyed leather always seems cheaper, even when it is not. And with black, I think it is much worse because black tack takes a lot more dye than even brown dyed tack would take.

    But, yes, categorically, I think all black tack seems stiffer/less natural than brown tack.



  16. #16
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    That's probably it (I'm not sure I've seen brown dyed leather). It's a "flatter" look - sort of like the difference between staining wood (which has depth) and painting wood (flat), I guess...
    Definition of "Horse": a 4 legged mammal looking for an inconvenient place and expensive way to die. Any day they choose not to execute the Master Plan is just more time to perfect it. Be Very Afraid.



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMK View Post
    That's probably it (I'm not sure I've seen brown dyed leather). It's a "flatter" look - sort of like the difference between staining wood (which has depth) and painting wood (flat), I guess...
    The most common place to see brown dyed leather is on really cheap leather halters.

    But, yes, I think the black tack always does look really flat and stiff. And sometimes you can see the dye kind of wearing away, which I think looks terrible.

    For as much as people pay for dressage tack (especially saddles!), I always think it is a shame that the leather seems so...yes...ugly and stiff.


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by vxf111 View Post
    Part of it may be that DYED leather looks different than naturally-aged-with-time-but-undyed-color. And you either like that or don't like that look (dyed). I find dyed brown tack just as strange looking as dyed black tack. DYED tack always seems to lack a "patina" that I like, whether it's dyed black or brown.
    Also, I think you can buy coarser leather if you plan to dye it black. There is nice, fine-grained leather made into black tack out there. But historically, remember that many German/Austrian saddle and tack makers choose stouter leather that the Hunter Princess would find too stiff.

    So I think some black tack fans are playing catch-up to the fine-grained requirements already met in brown tack world.
    The armchair saddler
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMK View Post
    That's probably it (I'm not sure I've seen brown dyed leather). It's a "flatter" look - sort of like the difference between staining wood (which has depth) and painting wood (flat), I guess...
    Dyed leather goes through a pretty nasty process to retain the color. Dyed shoes would be another example. It's rare to find really soft shoes that are dyed. I guess that explains why all my most comfortable shoes are in natural, undyed leather.
    Fan of the Swedish Chef



  20. #20
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    I've noticed that black tack doesn't supple as well or retain the same kind of "sheen" that brown tack does. I used to own a black Bates saddle and no matter how much I conditioned/polished it never looked like my brown tack.



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