What is English Bridle Leather?
I hand make dog ware, using traditional saddlery methods and techniques, from traditional materials, entirely from scratch.
I keep three types of English bridle hide in stock, all of which are heavy weight leathers, measuring between 4 and 4.5mm in thickness and are traditionally used for making horse bridles, head-collars and reins, so it really is very strong stuff.
The top colour in the picture below is 'Dark Havana'. This is a very deep, chocolate brown.
The second is a solid black colour which along with the Dark Havana, is favoured by my Police and Military customers.
The third hide I carry is an 'Australian Nut'. This is a very rich, traditional saddlery chestnut colour.
(Please note that the shades and tones of the bridle hides I use may vary under different lighting conditions and with each individual batch produced at the tannery)
The white haze on the hides above is known as 'bloom'. This is simply waxes and tallows that rise to the surface on fresh English bridle hides and is a sign of quality. A quick buffing with a soft cloth soon wipes away these natural oils, leaving a shiny finish
All of these hides age beautifully if looked after and will become a trusted favourite which will serve you for many, many years.
It is important to note that leather is a natural product and will continually change over time. It will expand, contract and darken with use and begin to take on its own unique 'patina'. This is the same for any leather item you purchase. The dog lead that you receive today will look and feel completely different in 2, 4, 6 and 10 years time.
Leather of all types will stretch slightly, particularly if it is subjected to heavy forces, such as a dog constantly pulling. A piece of equipment will not stop pulling behaviour, only consistent and effective training will address this issue.
Treat your new collar and lead like a pair of leather shoes. If you wouldn't splash through muddy puddles in your new Oxfords, don't expect your dog to splash through the same puddles in their new collar and for it to come out looking like new.
So what is 'bridle leather'?
'Bridle Leather refers to the way that a piece of leather (cow hide) is finished at the tannery. Bridle leather has both the Flesh and Grain side of the leather hand-stuffed with greases and finished with wax. This is a very labour intensive process, thus expensive! Only the best grades of leather are treated like this, it would be uneconomic to treat poor quality leather in this way.'
Very few tanneries produce good bridle leather, I buy only from one supplier who I feel produces the best bridle leather in the world. This supplier provides the same English bridle leather that I use in my leads and collars, to the saddlers of the Royal household. If The late Queen approved, then I'm happy!
The purpose of bridle leather is threefold;
• It's expected to look good. That is, it must have good depth of colour and be attractive to look at, it must age well and it must not have natural imperfections that weaken the leather.
• It is expected to be smooth, comfortable and flexible to handle. It is designed for use in bridles, so must be comfortable for a horse to wear next to the skin. Therefore the treatment of the flesh side is as important as the grain side, as the flesh side is typically worn next to the horses skin and must be smooth.
• It is expected to be both strong and durable. The riders life literally depends on bridle leather not failing unexpectedly. It is subjected to quite high loads, and must tolerate this time after time. An item of saddlery is typically expected to last for 10 or more years of use, so not only must the leather be strong, it must survive poor weather, dirt, sweat and everything that being in contact with a horse throws at it for many years.
All in all, bridle leather is pretty amazing stuff. I use it as it is simply the best leather available for my purposes. It is beautiful to work with and produces an amazing product. Once my products leave my workshop, I know that if looked after, they will mature well for my customers and become a trusted old favourite, becoming both more beautiful, characterful and tactile as it ages. There aren't many products produced now that get better with age, but good bridle leather is certainly one of them.
If you are unsure which colour item you would like, email me and I'll happily send you a small sample of each hide.
Leather is a natural product and as such requires regular care in order to maintain functionality. When wet, it needs to be cleaned and conditioned. Bridle leather by its very nature is tanned, cured and hand stuffed with all kinds of oils, waxes and tallows in order to create an extremely hard wearing product which will withstand years of vigorous, outdoor use in extreme environments.
That said, being a natural product, your lead or collar will require regular dressing with a leather conditioner in order to keep it clean, supple and fit for purpose. I recommend ‘Ko-Cho-Line’ leather dressing for all of my bridle leather products. If maintained on a regular basis, your lead or collar will last you many years to come.
Due to the natural way in which all bridle leather is tanned, dyed and cured at the tannery and also during the manufacture of your specific product, there may occasionally be some initial colour transfer if your item becomes wet. The dyes used to produce your item(s) are naturally occurring and harmless but may stain lighter coloured or delicate fabrics.