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Dressage noob Question - How do I take care of my black tack?

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    Dressage noob Question - How do I take care of my black tack?

    This may be a silly question, but is there a difference between caring for black tack vs brown tack? My first dressage bridle should be here later this week and I want to make sure I'm taking care of it the right way. For a new bridle, I have always done light coats of warm olive oil until it reaches the darkness I like. Can I follow a similar process for my black bridle?

    Thanks in advance!

    Generally, follow the manufacturer's recommendations about preferred products. The concern with black tack is removing the black dye - which will leave a dark greenish-grey. This is more common in saddles than bridles, however.

    I like Higher Standards leather care for my tack - I wipe down my bridle with plain water each ride and every week or so clean it well with the HS cleaner/conditioner. During the summer, when it is very dry here, with humidity in the teens and even single digits, I will use some ledersbalsam as well.
    "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham


      I follow much the same method: wipe with a damp cloth after each ride, once a week condition lightly with passier ledersbslsalm


        I find there is a difference between black and brown leather at every price and quality point. I find brown tack breaks in and ages nicer. Black can fade or get dull. It has way more dye in it. That said good quality black tack is nicer than the very cheap coated brown tack that is out there. But if you have loved classic high end hunter brown tack you may never feel quite the same about black tsck. Same too if you grew up with old school Western brown tack.


          I don't know if I've ever known a dressage rider to deliberately darken their tack with oil. I will say that much of my black tack arrived looking stiff and a little lacklustre. Both problems were addressed just by using them and caring for it well. Breaking in the leather with use, rather than an attempt to saturate with oil and/or product has been my experience. That said, I've never had an issue with stripping dye from my tack. I'll wipe down my tack with a lightly damp cloth after use, and clean once a week (or every other week if riding has been light). I use the mad cow soap and then the passier lederbsalsm to condition. I've found that the soap is very good at cleaning without compromising the dye.


            My everyday bridle is a second hand
            black Stubben. It has lost some of its shine compared to the as new second hand Stubben bridle I bought for fancy. When I use Passier ledersbalm, which in general I love, the older bridle picks up visible dust like anything. As soon as I put it on.

            My old brown bridles don't show it up like this.

            Any suggestions?


              I will take a new bridle and ride in it for a few days and then use some Passier lederbalsam to start it softening. I don't have the highest quality of bridles, but I've found that wiping them clean with a wet rag after every ride and conditioning every week or every few weeks will break them in nicely. I also think breaking in a bridle in the summer works best in the heat and since the horse is sweating in it every ride. With both my most recent bridles (Wellfleet and a Red Barn), they were "broken in" by about 30 rides.

              Scribbler for shine on my bridle, I find the Higher Standards saddle soap to do a nice job and it stays shiny for a few rides. I don't expect the lederbalsam to provide much shine because as you noticed, it picks up dust in a single ride.


                Most leather is dyed, even brown leather.

                But black dye, I've found, takes much more time and application to sink into the leather, and is more obvious when it fades. I prefer to only use non-abrasive, gentle soaps on my black tack. Don't over-oil it (which can saturate the fibers and cause early fraying), and try to store it in climate-controlled places. What disrupts the dye is microtears and breakdown of the collagen fiber in the leather - caused by either being too dry, or being too saturated.

                I have found that in the cheaper black tack, the dye can fade easily (especially around the noseband and cheek-pieces) - so I avoid castille soap (despite it being my favorite soap), as it can be caustic. I also never use ammonia or dawn/dish soap on black tack either.

                Tack being black doesn't have to necessarily indicate poor quality. And being dyed black doesn't mean that it'll be less durable than its brown-dyed counterpart. I have a black Nunn Finner breastplate that is higher quality leather & craftsmanship than my (brown) Vespucci. My Courbette bridle is black and is still as dark (if not darker) as the day I got it.. and it's probably ~20 years old at this point.

                Quality black tack will stay black if you take good care of it.

                For saddles, it can be a little more difficult as they see much more wear on them than bridles do. I prefer to avoid standard glycerin bar soaps with black saddles, personally. Most black tack will do very well with a softer type soap like Belharra saddle soap.
                "i'm a slow learner, it's true."


                  I agree with pretty much everything said here. . . wipe down with a damp sponge. . . clean/condition weekly.. . . I recently discovered Belvoir tack cleaner (spray on, wipe off - does a good job cleaning off the dirt/sweat/crud) and Belvoir conditioner - both are made in England by Carr Day & Martin and do a really good job on my made-in-England saddles. . .
                  It seems to nourish the leather really well without being overly greasy.


                    Have never oiled tack. I am with everyone else, damp cloth, saddle soap and conditioner at least monthly. My last bridle from Jerry's came with these directions specifically. Saddler said same. Oil rots stitching
                    -- * > hoopoe
                    Procrastinate NOW
                    Introverted Since 1957


                      Originally posted by hoopoe View Post
                      Have never oiled tack. I am with everyone else, damp cloth, saddle soap and conditioner at least monthly. My last bridle from Jerry's came with these directions specifically. Saddler said same. Oil rots stitching
                      Oil might rot cotton stitching. It won't affect nylon stitching.

                      Indeed all my tack from the 1970s was soaked in neatsfoot because it was basic thick stiff leather like you don't get anymore even in Western gear. The stitching is still fine after 30 years in the basement and being revived.

                      That said I would see no reason to soak my Passier saddle or Stubben bridle in oil.


                        Is there any way to restore the black color to a saddle that's faded to that greenish hue?


                          I did find that the newer Effax spray cleaner (that has mold inhibitors) was way too harsh on my black tack and foot wear. It really stripped the dye from my Ariat paddock boots, half chaps, and Shoulder Relief girth.

                          I made a habit of wiping everything down with a damp cloth after riding, and had to scrub my tack clean way less often. Just a weekly go over with Stubben glycerine soap for some conditioning and a nice shine.
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