Get in Tip Top Shape for the Show Season with Spring Cleaning

Yes, finally it is spring! I think many of us thought it would never come this year. Of course, spring's arrival also means that show season is just around the corner (or even actually in full swing for many). In order to prepare for the year ahead, now is a great time to do some extra intense tack spring cleaning in order to make sure all of your equipment is in wonderful condition and to also get into shining, supple condition.

This year I feel like my spring cleaning won't be too big a deal because I do a quick condition check of my tack before my rides each week, as well as usually do at least a quick cleaning after each ride. However, I've got a clinic coming up with Melanie Smith Taylor in May, so I'm looking at the cleanliness and suppleness of my tack with an even more critical eye.

Here are some of the tips I recommend you give a try so that your tack is happy and in wonderful condition for any upcoming clinics or shows (as well is in excellent shape for your everyday rides for the coming months):

1. Thoroughly inspect all of your equipment. Checking for condition of stitching, cracking or weak leather, worn or frayed elastic, operation and wear of buckles and brass. If items are beyond repair, then replacing portions of equipment may be in order to ensure your safety and the safety of your horse.

2. Take all of your tack apart and give it an intense cleaning. Get into all of those nooks and crannies you usually can't reach when everything is buckled and strapped together. A soft bristle toothbrush can be a help tool at this stage.

3. Got lots of dirt in the holes of your bridle or stirrup leather? Gently use a toothpick to poke out the grime, followed by a wipe with a cleaner.

4. Lightly condition all leather once everything is clean as a whistle. Start with the lightest coat of conditioner first. If the conditioner soaks in instantly, your leather might be pretty thirsty and you might then do a second very light conditioner application. Ideally, your leather should absorb your conditioner over the course of a few minutes. After this point, any excess conditioner should be wiped off.

5. Gently flex your leather as you are conditioning it. This helps supple your leather by flexing the leather's fibers, but it also encourages the leather pores to open in order to better absorb your conditioner.

Yay, you're done! This gets you to a nice baseline for your equipment for the season. Now (groan!) the biggest challenge is to try to keep up with a regular cleaning (after each ride ideally) and conditioning (every two-three weeks more or less depending on where you live) so that your tack stays in great shape all year. Plus, this means a bonus that your Spring Cleaning next year might not be quite so much work!

Posted on April 23, 2017 .

New Sponsorship with East West Training Stables!

We are thrilled to announce our sponsor partnership with Matt Brown, Cecily Clark, and their East West Training Stables! We couldn't ask for a better team to be supporting. Matt and Cecily are known for their outstanding horsemanship and sportsmanship. Matt is a very talented and competitive Eventing star on the Olympic track, with many notable achievements under his belt. Just to name a few:

-Named to 2017 USEF Eventing High Performance Training List (December 2016)
-Named to Land Rover US Eventing Team for Aachen CICO3* (Super Socks BCF, June 2016)
-Named as Reserve for 2016 Olympic Games US Eventing Team (Super Socks BCF, June 2016)
-3rd Place, Jersey Fresh CIC3* (Talking Point BCF, May 2016)
-21st Place and Highest-Placed Rookie, Rolex Kentucky CCI4* (Super Socks BCF, May 2016)

We are very proud to be supporting Matt and Cecily as they pursue their goals! We wish them every success and know they are destined for greatness!

Check out Matt's ride during Stadium at Ocala CIC3* in the fall, which he won (video courtesy The Horse Pesterer).

Ocala Jockey Club 3 Day International Reddick, FL Nov 25, 2016
Posted on February 21, 2017 .

Sterling Essentials is Horse Approved!

Just like us, we know that folks are really in the equine industry because they just plumb love horses. The bottom line is that we all care about our horses. This is why it was so important to us at Sterling Essentials that our products were good for our horses and liked by our horses. You can see from this video that actually our horses totally love and dig our leather care products!

Posted on February 13, 2017 .

The 7 Worst Enemies of Your Tack: Water

Fall is here, as is the rain, rain, rain (at least in Oregon).  Getting caught out in the rain, as well as all of those ocean wave splashes during your ride on the beach, isn’t doing your tack any favors.  This brings us to one of the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Tack: WATER!

Water is a good thing, right?  We clean with it so it must be ok?

Why water hurts your tack:

-  It swells leather fibers, weakening the fibers and ultimately resulting in drying, shrinking, and cracking.  Uh oh!

What can you do about it?

-  Avoid saturating your leather. Don’t leave it in the rain or wash it down with a hose.

-  Use water sparingly when cleaning your tack.  For example, use a damp cloth, not a wringing wet cloth.

-  Caught in a soaking storm?  No problem, towel off the excess moisture right away so it isn’t absorbed.  Let your tack stand uncovered in a well ventilated area in order to breath and dry before storing.  Terry towels and a fan work well for this.

-  If you’ve gotten your leather soaked, clean it thoroughly and apply a nice coat of conditioner once your leather has dried.  This will help restore balance to the leather fibers and will help diminish rain spots.  Additional buffing with a cloth will also help reduce rain spots.

-  Wet boots? Try newsprint or tissue paper loosely stuffed in the foot.  Electric boot dryers work wonders, too.

-  Cover with a saddle cover or blanket if out in wet weather.


Posted on October 22, 2016 .

Show Tips

With the Show Season in full swing and the days even more jam packed than ever, it is hard to find that time to give your leather tack and equipment the attention it needs.  Additionally, being away from home can present all kinds of surprises.  Just recently, my friend road her morning warm-up in a torrential downpour.  Needless to say, she and her gear were absolutely soaked and in need of some TLC.  I don't think you can ever pack enough towels for a show!  If you don't have time to fully clean and condition your equipment directly after you ride, I recommend you squeeze in a 30 second tack and boot clean as soon as you can after your last round of the day.  Grab a towel with a little cleaner spritzed on it and quickly wipe down your saddle and tack, as well as your boots.  This will get off the worst of the sweat and grime before it has a chance to sit all day and set into a stubborn, crusty mess.  Then you can leave your gear until you get back to it at the end of the day for a full cleaning.

Also, no one likes sweaty, smelly boots on those hot show days, but what can you do about it?  One tip is to loosely stuff tissue paper or newsprint into the foot of your boots to wick moisture and to set them somewhere shady but with ventilation.  If you put the boots back in their boot bag, help them dry a little better by not zipping the bag fully closed.  Another tip would be to use a boot dryer.  There are several small, portable boot dryers on the market now.  Some are sized so they just slip into the foot of the boot, which is perhaps more convenient than the regular stand style dryer.  Some dryers are also able to even plug into your car's power socket.  Getting those boots dry in a quick hour or two definitely helps reduce the odor and moisture related leather deterioration.  Just remember that sweat also dries leather out, so a good regular conditioning will still be important.

Posted on July 17, 2016 .

What does your leather and a kid's volcano have in common?

When a product with a pH that is not near the pH of leather is applied to your saddle, your saddle leather reacts just like that old elementary school science project volcano.  This seems dramatic, but the same reaction is taking place and it is damaging your saddle at the cellular level.  You can’t see this damage occurring while you clean and it can take months or years before it is observable.  Because of this I didn’t give much thought to what I used to clean my tack.  There are one or two products on the shelves that say they were pH balanced or pH matched to leather, but what does this mean?  Is this just another gimmick?  Actually, no, using leather care products that are pH matched to leather is pretty important to keep your tack happy.     

            Leather goods are mildly to moderately acidic, so it is key to use products that have a pH within this range.  This minimizes the damaged caused on the cellular level by the same reaction as that science project volcano.  I know that our tack is a major investment for us equestrians, so I think it is definitely worthwhile for horsemen to use a pH matched leather cleaner.  There are a couple of pH matched leather cleaners on the market.  Lexol offers a pH matched leather cleaner.  And, of course, so does yours truly, Sterling Essentials.



Posted on May 30, 2016 .

Had a Great Time at Friendship Series Show at Quarry Ridge

                Startup businesses have lots of firsts.  A couple of weeks ago we had our first horse show booth at the Friendship series show at Quarry Ridge in Washington.  It was an interesting experience figuring out what we needed to bring, what the weather would be like, and how we should set up our booth.  It was really exciting to talk with the riders and spectators at the show about caring for leather tack and about our products.  We appreciate everyone who stopped by to say hi and talk with us.  We enjoyed watching riders young and old out for one of their first shows of the season.  Julia, who was running the show, gave us some old schooling tack to use as a demonstration.  The thing about schooling tack is that it is dirty!  But, after giving it some love, and elbow grease, we had it looking good as new.  It was a great day out at Quarry Ridge and we are looking forward to what the rest of the show season brings.


Posted on May 22, 2016 .