Get Happily Ever After For Your Tack by Avoiding the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather: Sunlight

Who doesn’t love a sunny day? Especially after gloomy winter skies. When that sun pops up, do you envision a nice leisurely trail ride, a hack in the outdoor ring, and days at the showgrounds? It is fabulous that you are so happy about that glowing bright orb in the sky (we are, too), but now the other shoe drops. Your saddle and other leather equipment and boots are sadly just not as big a fan as you are of those warming rays.

Truth be told, your leather has vampire tendencies - a predilection for dark places and a fear of the sun! Welcome to our second installment in our series of 7 articles about the worst things for your leather. No doubt you’ve guessed it. In this second article we are talking about why light is such a bummer for your gear and how to best protect your prized tack. Don’t worry - coffin not required! :)

Why Light Hurts Your Tack

It’s the usual good old story of how sunlight bleaches out the color in items that sit in the sun for too long. The sunlight’s UV rays do a number on leather, fading its color and dulling its patina just like it does to your car’s paint job and your patio furniture. As if wrecking the beautiful rich, deep color of your tack and boots isn’t enough, the UV rays are also able to penetrate deeply enough into your leather to cause fiber damage. This results in weaker, more brittle leather and a shortened lifespan for your favorite saddle.

Although sunlight is often the most common light source we think of in our equestrian pursuits, keep in mind that indirect and artificial light is also damaging. Tack room and barn lights, as well as arena lights, all emit UV rays and contribute to fading and fiber damage over time. And as you’ve learned about through the care of our own skin, you are aware that UV exposure even occurs in the shade and on cloudy days.

Ok, so it’s not exactly like you can slap a coat of sunscreen on your saddle and call it good. Hmmm, though we haven’t tried it, but strangely I don’t think we’ll get all busy with the Banana Boat just yet. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to shelter our tack and equipment from harmful light sources.

How to Avoid Light Damage

The good news is that your leather probably doesn’t normally get that much exposure to sun and other lights. Unless you just leave your saddle sitting naked out in the sun or in a lighted space regularly, your saddle isn’t picking up too many damaging rays. The real key to minimizing light damage is to shield your equipment.

Here are a few easy and inexpensive tips and habits to adopt:

  • Gotta have your tack outside, such as at a show or at your trail campsite? Keep your tack in the shade when not in use. A handy awning, tree, shade of a building…anything will do.

  • Cover your tack when not in use. Loosely cover your saddle with a saddle cover or a towel or blanket. Do the same for your bridle, girth, and other tack - pop it in a bridle bag or use a towel or blanket.

  • Don’t leave your tack chilling out in the sun while at horse shows. This is kinda a pet peeve of ours. Even if you aren’t able to get your tack cleaned and put away right away after your ride, just quickly drape a towel over it to protect it until you can come back to it.

  • Cover your saddle when you put it away in the tack room, your home, or wherever you keep your tack.

  • Store your boots inside and out of direct sunlight. Take it even a step further by keeping your tall boots in a boot bag or in the original box.

Of course, we are big fans of a regular cleaning and conditioning routine for all of your leather, too. (Find all the products you need here!) This will help keep fibers healthy and strong enough to stand up to and slow down damage, fading, and aging caused by normal use and light exposure.

The Takeaway

How fantastic is this that you can do wonders to protect your tack by just tossing any old towel over it? You have to admit that this is a pretty simple, zero effort, basically zero cost habit to get into, and your leather will love you for it! So cover up, Buttercup, and enjoy all the sunshine you want!

**Be sure to keep an eye open for our next and third article in our Series coming out next month!

Miss the first article? No problem! Check it out here: https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-water

And Can I Say Fresh?? JoslynJ Equestrian Reviews Sterling Essentials Leather Care Products

To say that Joslyn Jakoubek, the woman behind the curtain of the equestrian fashion and lifestyle blogging brand JoslynJ Equestrian, nailed it on the head is an understatement. In Joslyn’s recent review of our leather care products, she states, “It’s the best feeling ever to look at your saddle, bridle and boots when they are polished and clean, but getting them to that point, well that’s the beast of the matter.” Oh, how true! Even for us, these weird people who love tack cleaners, we experience the love/hate of taking care of our tack and equipment.

PC JoslynJ Equestrian

PC JoslynJ Equestrian

So if there is anything that helps soothe that “beast” and makes for more love than hate…it goes to say that most of us are going to come running and hop on board. Which is one reason why we developed our brand of leather care products. This then begs the question…do they work?

Well, enter JoslynJ Equestrian. After seeing Joslyn’s social media, blog articles, and photography, it is crystal clear that Joslyn is one very discerning equestrian. As a result, we were thrilled to receive her full review of our products. We won’t give away the whole story, as you’ve just got to read her blog and see her photos. However, let’s just say it has a happy ending!

Take a peak at: https://joslynjequestrian.net/2019/04/09/sterling-essentials-boot-care-and-tack-cleaning/

I was excited to try out the conditioner, and oh my gosh can I also mention how incredible these products smell???? I was sent the Lavender scented cleaner and conditioner, but they also have a Eucalyptus and a Floral Citrus version as well. I literally want to use the conditioner as a lotion, it smells and feels that good!
— JoslynJ Equestrian

Stop The Damage: Time To Save The Glycerin For Your Face, Not For Your Leather

You may have observed that our Leather Cleaners and Leather Conditioners are very similar to cosmetics or skin care products you regularly see in the stores and use. Ah ha, you found us out! LOL! Yes, our products are very similar by design. We want our products to be very gentle, and the principles of leather care are very similar to skin care.

However, one key difference between our cleaners and conditioners and your skin care products, as well as many of the other brands of leather care products out there, is that we do not use any glycerin in our products. Zip, nada. Why? Seems weird right?

Originally, it came as quite a surprise to us that glycerin is such a no-no for leather. This cosmetics workhorse is used all over the place in skin care - lotions, face creams, the list is long. Ok, so that makes sense because glycerin is a humectant. This means that glycerin actually attracts water to itself, sucking water like a big sponge into your top skin layers - a great property if you want to moisturize your face, but not so hot for ensuring your leather stays healthy.

Wait - don’t we want our leather moisturized and supple? Sounds like glycerin would be awesome for that! I know, I know; we thought the same thing. But let us explain…

Use Only What You Need

We are huge believers in providing your leather only what it needs to stay in great shape = clean and supple due to just enough moisturizing. To us that means paying attention to our tack and not just slapping on products out of habit when our leather really, really doesn’t need them. Minimalism….Yes!! So….we don’t include glycerin because your leather truly doesn’t need it. Why doesn’t it need it? Read on Macduff!

Clean Like You Mean It

Following from the minimalist theme, we don’t use any conditioners or moisturizes - glycerin or otherwise, in our Leather Cleaner. The objective of cleaning your tack is….to clean your tack. Period. In addition to attracting moisture, glycerin is a sticky substance that can act like a sealant. When included in a cleaner, the glycerin sticks to the very leather you are trying to clean, trapping dirt and grime within the pores and fibers. Plus, that leftover residue of glycerin-dirt-gunk keeps attracting more and more dirt. Talk about counterproductive!

Stop Conditioning So Much

Over moisturizing your leather is one of the cardinal sins in leather care. (We could wax poetic on this for quite sometime, but we will save it for another day). Your leather should NOT be conditioned every time it is cleaned. As a result, we do not put glycerin or any other moisturizing agents into our Leather Cleaner. Setting up cleaning and conditioning as two separate leather care steps ensures you have the very best control over the care and health of your tack. You are in the drivers seat to evaluate when and how much conditioning your leather needs to be happy - and dare we say, stay in safe and useful condition.

Water Is Not Your Friend

Additionally, we do not include glycerin in our Leather Conditioner. Yes, no doubt glycerin would help moisturize your leather, but at a price. Unfortunately, the glycerin will accomplish this by drawing water vapor from the air into your tack. Water is truly not a benevolent comrade of your leather, resulting in mold, weakened leather, and a whole host of other undesirable outcomes (for more on this check out our article on dealing with water). Also, as mentioned before, glycerin is sticky. I don’t know about you, but I’d get awfully bummed out if my saddle was still sticky and gunky after I cleaned and conditioned it. Yippee, it’s a good thing then that there are other extremely effective ways to supple and condition your tack without using glycerin to draw water into the fibers and cause damage.

Ok, so the bottom line is that we are not fans of glycerin in leather care products at all. Like we talked about earlier, yes, leather is essentially just like your skin (our skin is similarly acidic and you can learn about why leather’s acidity matters so much in our article here) and should be treated with the same tender care. However, the difference is that your skin is able to constantly renew and repair itself. Leather is unable to repair itself, so we are the gatekeepers to preventing damage to our leather tack.

Just like you, this means we are then super persnickety about what products we use to care for our leather because we want it to be healthy and last for a long, long time. Ha, finally an excuse to get to be persnickety!! :)

Interested in learning more? Visit our Learn Page for more tips and how-to or take a peak at our Products!

Sterling Essentials Endorsed by Schleese Saddlery

We are excited to share that all of our Leather Cleaners and Leather Conditioners have been fully endorsed by Schleese Saddlery. This stamp of approval from one of the finest saddlers in the world is a true testament to the quality and performance of our products. We are so proud to receive this accolade and hope you will share this news with your fellow equestrians.

We are honored that you already trust us for all your brands: from CWD to Fabbri, Voltaire to Parlanti, and everything else, too. This recommendation is just another great assurance that you are in the best of hands when you select Sterling Essentials.

Haven’t tried our products yet? We encourage you to contact your local Schleese saddle fitter or visit your local tack shop for a demo of our products!

Posted on April 15, 2019 .

Mud is No Joke - How to Clean Your Muddy Boots

Mud is no joke, folks! As you well know….you’re living that dream in the barnyard this time of year. :) If your leather boots are suffering after a trek across the paddock to your pony, then you need to watch our short and helpful video on how to clean your muddy boots with a minimum of fuss and aggravation.

It’s quick, it’s easy, and all you need are:

  • A hoof pick with brush.

  • A clean towel(s).

  • Your favorite leather cleaner.

Sparkle, sparkle is just a few moments away….until you trot back across the barnyard again. LOL!

Also, if you’re looking for some other great know-how on dealing with wet boots and water damage, check out our article: https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-water

How to clean your muddy boots - get easy leather care and leather cleaning tips from Sterling Essentials.

Get Happily Ever After For Your Tack by Avoiding the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather: Water

If you were thinking about some of the very worst things that will wreck your tack, would you automatically think of water? Water is such a sneaky beast and often flies under the radar when it comes to the health of your beloved saddle, boots, and other leather equipment. Although it’s Mother Nature’s ultimate cleaning agent, water can very quickly do some serious damage to your leather goods. This is why we’ve named it one of the 7 worst enemies of your leather.

In this first installment in a series of 7 articles, we will share with you the know-how you need to help your leather tack and boots avoid water damage. As April showers loom on the horizon, we can definitely see some rainy days and soggy tack in your future, so now is the perfect time to dive into this!

Why Water Hurts Your Tack

Although water seems benign, getting your leather wet actually causes the leather’s fibers to swell. You’ve probably noticed this when your boots have gotten wet. When wet they may feel a little plumper and softer. Unfortunately, the fibers become permanently weakened when they swell too much. In addition to weakening the leather, water exposure also ultimately causes your leather to shrink and crack over time since leather’s structure changes and does not dry to its original full shape after being wet.

Also if the leather is stretched while wet, the fibers become weaker still. Ever observe that wet leather seems to be a little more stretchy than usual? You might have used the trick of wetting a new pair of tall boots and then wearing them until they dry, essentially stretching the leather out to conform to your foot and leg. Although this might be a way to break in your boots quickly, the leather becomes damaged and a little weaker than before with this technique.

Ok, so all of this sounds like really bad news. It is inevitable that some loss of strength and water damage to your tack will always happen just through normal day-to-day use. The thing to keep in mind is that the worst damage occurs with repeated significant water exposure.

Yikes, does this mean you need to quit those rides through the waves at the beach or lose sleep over jumping into cross country water obstacles? No way! With a little awareness and care, you can really keep the impact on your saddle and leather goods to a minimum while still riding gleefully through all of the puddles you want!  

How to Avoid Water Damage

Like we said before, water is super sneaky, and it interacts with your tack probably more often than you even realize. Did you ever really think twice about dropping your bridle half submerged into a bucket of water in order to soak your bit clean? No judgement here; we’re guilty as charged on occasion, too!

Here are a few easy tips and habits to get into in order to minimize and prevent water damage, helping your leather have a long and happy life.

-          Minimize the Water:

o   Avoid saturating your leather. Don’t leave it in the rain or wash it down with a hose. Don’t put your leather in the washing machine or dishwasher.

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

-          Bit Cleaning:

o   Need to get your bit clean? Instead of soaking it in a bucket, try washing it off under running water (wash rack, outdoor spigot, tack room sink) using a vegetable or nail brush to scrub off the stuck on green slime. We loop the reins and crown over our shoulder to help the bridle stay clear of the water stream and splashes.

o   If a bucket is all you’ve got to work with, only fill it with just enough water to cover the bit. Drape your bridle over the bucket without any slack so that the leather doesn’t fall into the water.

-          Boot Care:

o   Wet boots? Try newsprint or tissue paper loosely stuffed in the foot to wick away moisture quickly. Electric boot dryers work wonders, too. Follow with leather cleaner and leather conditioner.

-          Saddle Protection:

o   Cover your saddle with a saddle cover or blanket if you’re out in wet weather. Quarter sheets are amazing for a little saddle protection. If you tend to ride out frequently in the elements, it may be well worth investing in some rain sheets designed for riding and that have slots for your stirrups to come through.

-          Cross Country Splashing:

o   Are your stirrup leathers or girth wet from splashing through waves, puddles, rivers, or water jumps? Towel off any excess water, and then apply leather cleaner. Give the leather and girth a light coating of leather conditioner to minimize leather shrinkage once the leather has dried.

-          Removing Moisture:

o   Caught in a soaking storm?  No problem; towel off the excess moisture right away so it isn’t absorbed. Let your tack rest uncovered in a well ventilated area in order to breathe and dry gently and gradually before storing. Terry towels and a fan work well for this. Don’t place your tack next to a heater or use a hair dryer – this causes all kinds of other problems (which we will talk about in an upcoming article in our series).

o   If you’ve gotten your leather soaked, clean it thoroughly immediately 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.

-          Lay Flat to Dry:

o   If you need to dry your girth, stirrup leathers, martingale, bridle, or any leather you typically hang up to store, lay these items flat to dry. Gravity will work to stretch your wet tack if left hanging while drying, and we know that is not what you want!

o   Also, be sure to dry your tack, boots, and equipment in their natural shape and orientation so that they don’t deform.

The Takeaway

Do you see a theme with all of this? :) Ensuring the long-term health and happiness of your leather really starts with avoiding water as much as possible in the first place. This is, umm, pretty much impossible to always do, so the next best thing is preventing as much water damage as possible. In a nutshell, if your leather gets wet you should wipe off any excess water, thoroughly clean with a leather cleaner, let dry gradually in a well ventilated space, and then lightly coat with leather conditioner. Viola! We hope there is a rainbow and pot of gold at the end of your ride in the rain!

**Be sure to keep an eye open for our next and second article in our Series coming out next month!

Get Happily Ever After For Your Tack by Avoiding the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather

What do you think are some of the very worst things that will wreck your tack? Gosh, it would be nice to know, right? We know it’s not like you’ve got thousands of dollars to shell out on brand new saddles and boots every time something bad happens to them. Or do you? (LOL, if you do please contact us!)

We’re totally with you about wanting to take the very best care of our precious equipment and are committed to helping you have all the know-how to do it.

That’s why we’ve got a new blog series coming your way starting this month:

Get Happily Ever After For Your Tack by Avoiding the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather!

The first blog is coming next week, so stay tuned! It’s an enemy you deal with all the time, so don’t miss it!

Posted on March 13, 2019 .

Sterling Essentials vs. Muddy Boots

The war on mud is real, oh so real, this time of year. Oh, and for the next 3 months, too. If your black boots are now brown and you’ve grown ok with that permanent color change due to artfully caked layers of mud and barnyard grime, who are we to judge. LOL!

However, if you really think your life will be better if your boots could still be beautiful, sans mud art, (and you know it will!), then you really need to read the scoop from The Head Equestrian. Even some serious South Carolina red mud - that heavy red clay that stains everything - is just no match for us.

Photo Credit: The Head Equestrian

Photo Credit: The Head Equestrian

It was rainy and wet in Aiken today, so I’m taking advantage of it and putting my leather cleaner and conditioner to the test! Not only do we have orange mud, but splashed footing as well.

I started with the lavender leather cleaner. I simply sprayed directly onto my boots and let sit for about ten second before rubbing it in or wiping. I told y’all, tack cleaning is time consuming and I have no patience. The Sterling Essentials website actually claims that their product will clean leather in 30 seconds or less – I have to vouch for it!

...I must say … I am impressed. These boots have not been deep cleaned like this since I bought them in October, and they came immediately clean.
— The Head Equestrian, February 17, 2019

Catch the full mud blasting analysis from Emily Head at The Head Equestrian here: https://theheadequestrian.com/product-reviews/sterling-essentials-vs-muddy-boots/

Posted on February 25, 2019 .

Your Girth Might Not Be The Only One to Blame

Even though spring is just a month a way, does your horse still sport the shaved look and some racing stripes? Fortunately, our unofficial mascot, Big Rabs, didn’t need to get body clipped this year. The sweet guy was able to preserve his dignity ever so slightly since he didn’t look like a naked mole rat the past few months.

Was your partner in crime not so lucky? And does your horse seem to get a little more sensitive and irritated at the girth now, too? It may not necessarily be a coincidence. Sometimes irritation, dry skin, and sensitivity around the girth area are the result of a chafing or poorly fitting girth. However, for horses with a close body clip, the culprit for discomfort might actually be the leather care products used to care for your girth.

Got racing stripes? Irritated girth area, too? Your girth might not be the only one to blame.

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Your horse’s coat and delicate skin are very susceptible to product irritation during this time of year if their coat is clipped. Without the usually thicker buffer of hair, the tack cleaners and conditioners you use on your girth can more easily get onto your horse’s skin. If any of these products contain harsh or potentially irritating ingredients, this may very well be the reason for your horse’s lumps and bumps, dry skin, and sensitivity at the girth. Coupled with winter’s cold dry air, it is easy to see how your horse’s skin could quickly become chapped, flaky, and uncomfortable. Think about your poor hands this time of year.

If you are dealing with girth area issues, we suggest you consider not only the fit of your girth but also if the leather care products you are using are contributing to the problem. When shopping for superior leather care, look for products that are gentle, and steer clear of harsh and counterproductive ingredients such as alcohol, lanolin, glycerin, petroleum based products, mink oil, and other similar materials.

We totally sympathize with you, too. One of our horses a number of years ago, Pierre, was very sensitive to products and would break out along his girth and under his bridle leather. This is just one of the reasons we developed our own line of gentle animal friendly leather care products. You can definitely take comfort in the fact that there is a solution out there for you. With a little research and possibly trial and error, you’ll be on your way in no time to happy horses and no more lumps and bumps!

Posted on February 20, 2019 .

Announcing Collegiate Sponsorship Program

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Brand new for 2019, we are very excited to announce the launch of our Collegiate Sponsorship Program. The Program is open to college equestrian teams of all disciplines and already has several inaugural members, including the Stanford University Equestrian Team, University of Oregon Equestrian Team, University of Kentucky Dressage Team, and University of Arizona Equestrian Team.

College equestrian teams face many challenges, so we are glad to lend a hand to help keep teams thriving and to support these up-and-coming athletes, the future of horse sports, with their dreams and goals. We look forward to working with many teams this year! Teams interested in learning more about the Program are encouraged to contact Teal Shoop, our CEO, at customerservice@sterling-essentials.com.  

Posted on January 25, 2019 .