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Softening a Leather Halter?

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  • Softening a Leather Halter?

    So I got the $26.99 (with nameplate!) leather halters from Chick's, and they came in the mail today. (Five days after I ordered them, and that's with a weekend inbetween. For a "custom" order. Impressive.) They're nice and thick, but obviously not butter-soft leather for the price that I paid. Is there any way to "break them in" without actually going through the break in period? I feel bad putting stiff halters on my horse's faces.

    Will giving them a thorough oiling help out? Soaking them in some water, like you do with tall boots? They're hanging in the sun right now.

  • #2
    no water, no sun

    First, I would take them out of the water and sun. Not a great thing to do to leather or much of anything except a plant.

    If the leather is dry... add oil. You can go less expensive by using vegetable oil from the kitchen. Generally it loostens up with time and use, and some oil. Just don't put on umpteen coats, then you'll have it too soft and it gets weak.

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    • #3
      OMG, I finally tried soaking a cheaper leather halter in pure Neatsfoot Oil... it came out super soft and very supple. Soaked in a gallong ziplock baggie for about 30 minutes then massaged in the oil with my hands. Then, hung to dry outside in the full sun. It's perfect now. You'da thought I paid like $80 for it, not the $20 that I did off ebay a few years back .

      I'd be leary of using Neatsfoot on nice bridles and such, really liked how Hydrophane worked for my Hampton bridle from Nunn Finer... but the Neatsfoot worked excellent on my halter. Ended up oiling two other ones too... another cheaper one and the my Quillins.

      So, that's what I've done with good results. Either pure Neatsfoot Oil (not the compound) or Hydrophane. Good luck!
      Proud owner of Gus & Gringo.
      See G2's blog
      Photos

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      • #4
        lexol lexol lexol and work it with your hands for an afternoon. It's made for bridle leather and it will soften it right up. The sun is only going to cause the leather to shrink up and crack, just like your skin when you work out in the sun your whole life. Working it with your hands is going to be good too because the oils in your skin and the heat that you generate when rubbing the leather will cause a nice transfew of oils into the halter and the leather will soften nicely too if you choose not to put anything on it.

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        • #5
          FWIW I have put a cleaned halter in the sun just to soften the leather b4 I condition it. 5 min or so. It seems to help it absorb. Then I rub conditioner on it forever (hard on the nails but good for leather!) and it works beautiful!
          “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

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          • #6
            I have a Chick's leather halter with nameplate from 15 years ago, that is still to this day, stiff as a board. I have applied countless coats of various oils & conditioners, soaked it, you name it. Fifteen years later I am still working on it, simply because I am too stubborn to give up. The only thing that has come close is a recent massage with Hammanol.
            Crayola posse~ orange yellow, official pilot
            Proud owner of "High Flight" & "Shorty"

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by HuntJumpSC View Post
              I have a Chick's leather halter with nameplate from 15 years ago, that is still to this day, stiff as a board. I have applied countless coats of various oils & conditioners, soaked it, you name it. Fifteen years later I am still working on it, simply because I am too stubborn to give up. The only thing that has come close is a recent massage with Hammanol.


              Oh noooooo! That's not what I wanted to hear! I bought them to replace my cheap, thin (but soft) leather halters, because I had read a positive review on here....and we all know us COTHers are fussy....so I figured I'd be okay. I hope they've changed in 15 years! I certainly wasn't expected any sort of Beval leather quality, but if they'd eventually soften that would be great...

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              • #8
                Originally posted by TheRedFox View Post
                lexol lexol lexol and work it with your hands for an afternoon. It's made for bridle leather and it will soften it right up. The sun is only going to cause the leather to shrink up and crack, just like your skin when you work out in the sun your whole life. Working it with your hands is going to be good too because the oils in your skin and the heat that you generate when rubbing the leather will cause a nice transfew of oils into the halter and the leather will soften nicely too if you choose not to put anything on it.


                Lexol it is. Neatsfoot or any other straight oil may rot the stitches.

                If you use too much and leather turns noodley, don't worry, it goes back in a few days to good, soft and pliable leather, if you have good, pliable leather.

                Lexol is what I used on my new and super slick saddle 35+ years ago to break it in and that saddle is still looking great today.

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                • #9
                  Always have, always will; 100% pure neatsfoot (does not rot stitching as stitching is no longer linen and pure neatsfoot has no chemicals) in a bag with halters/bridles/etc. Leave there for 3 days. Take out of bag, beautiful soft leather. Give a buff and dry off. Never use neatsfoot thereafter, just give them a massage with Hammamol once a year. Many of my halters are years old and are worn most of the time and are still going strong. Quillin halters are terrific.

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                  • #10
                    Glad two people have mentioned Hammanol. I just bought a tube (for $24 bucks!!!!!) and found it to be rather thick and greasy. Now I'll go out and smear everything with it and hope it soaks in. Bought it for my new beauatiful new Stubben bridle.
                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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                    • #11
                      Another vote for a pure neatsfoot soak for a few days. I did that method on my very cheap suffolk bridle and cheap hamilton halter and they are lovely now. I had to do it more than once, but I'm happy with my cheap leather.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                        Glad two people have mentioned Hammanol. I just bought a tube (for $24 bucks!!!!!) and found it to be rather thick and greasy. Now I'll go out and smear everything with it and hope it soaks in. Bought it for my new beauatiful new Stubben bridle.
                        Take that Hammanol and massage it in with your bare hands. The warmth from your hands will help push it into the leather. Of course, your hands will smell like bacon or fish oil or whatever it is that makes it smell funny, but your tack will love you.
                        Crayola posse~ orange yellow, official pilot
                        Proud owner of "High Flight" & "Shorty"

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                        • #13
                          I own one very expensive, $150 leather halter. It is butter soft, and absolutely gorgeous. Requires nothing more than a wipe with a lightly oiled rag every few months.

                          My other leather halters are $30 cheapies. If I lined them all up and told you to pick which was the expensive one, you wouldn't be able to.

                          When I first got them, I soaked the cheapies in a little bucket full of Neatsfoot oil overnight, then dried off all the excess. I've had to repeat this periodically, maybe once a year.

                          Yes, supposedly that rotts the stitching but these halters are 4 and 5 years old now and show no signs of falling apart. It does make a difference though if the stitching is cotton or nylon. Cotton is more like to break down, obviously. Maybe mine are nylon stitching? Not sure.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by GoForAGallop View Post
                            Oh noooooo! That's not what I wanted to hear! I bought them to replace my cheap, thin (but soft) leather halters, because I had read a positive review on here....and we all know us COTHers are fussy....so I figured I'd be okay. I hope they've changed in 15 years! I certainly wasn't expected any sort of Beval leather quality, but if they'd eventually soften that would be great...
                            You can't possibly expect your halter to be made of exactly the same leather, tanned in exactly the same process as a halter bought at the same company 15 years ago.

                            Cheap leather is bought from all kinds of sources, and the tanning process may be different, and the actual thickness of the leather may be different. Whether its died or not makes a difference. How the edges are finished, etc.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I turn out all four of my guys in all-leather halters, and they tend to be rough on them, so I have a whole pile of spares I use until I can get the broken ones up to Bartville for repair.

                              I've gotten them from all different places, some new, some used, and all different brands.

                              Honestly, after a couple or three days on the horse, whether the halters are new or used, they're quite soft and broken in (and often scratched and muddy!)

                              So if the leather's still stiff after oiling, maybe just put it on the horse and let him wear it in?

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Thanks everyone! An overnight soak in a bucket of Neatsfoot has them nice and soft.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Sounds like you already have things under control, but here's what has worked in the past. Let it soak in the sun for a while and then condition, condition, condition. Then let it sit out some more. Leather halters are happiest when they are used to pieces.
                                  Fire Girl Photography
                                  www.FireGirlPhotography.com

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