Posts tagged #Equestrian

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

When the temperature is on the rise, how do you help you and your horse deal? More walk breaks, chilling in the shade, lots of water, and a refreshing hose down are just the ticket - oh, and maybe a cold tall glass of lemonade for you, too! However, there’s another key element of your equestrian partnership that is also impacted big time by hot weather - your tack. In this fifth article in our 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather series, we will be sharing with you the full low down on how heat harms your leather plus tips for how to prevent damage.

Why Heat Hurts

For all of its perceived toughness, leather sure is finicky. Leather doesn’t like it too hot or too cold, preferring to hang out at room temperature. Basically, around 68F is it’s favorite temperature. Higher temperatures are rough on your leather because they dry the leather (and stitching) right out in a big old hurry. This of course causes brittleness, hardness, and ultimately loss of leather fiber strength. The impacts are cumulative, as well, increasing with repeat exposure.

Right….so who lives in that perfect room temperature world? Even with a climate controlled tack room (drool-worthy!), constantly maintaining your leather equipment in a moderate temperature range is ridiculously unrealistic and impossible. And that’s ok, because we’re all in it together to live our horsey lives to the fullest and accept and embrace the wear and tear that comes with it! The trick is to just try to keep your leather out of as many high temperature situations as possible in order to minimize heat damage and keep your equipment supporting your horsey life for as long as possible.

What Can You Do?

Here are some super simple, easy, and realistic tips for keeping your tack happier in the heat:

  • Store your tack in a cool, well ventilated location whenever possible. For example, this could be a climate controlled or air conditioned room or a tack room with open windows/doors. Even running a fan in your tack room is a great help.

  • If your tack needs to sit out at a horse show or while on the trail, keep it in the shade and cover it loosely with a towel or cover.

  • Don’t store tack in your car for very long if at all possible. Even with the windows down on a hot day, that car will get super toasty in a heartbeat. If you wouldn’t leave your dog in the car, the car won’t be a good place for your tack either.

  • Get as much ventilation as you can in your horse trailer tack room in order to help keep your tack cool while driving. As with cars, once parked, try not to store your tack in your horse trailer for very long either.

  • If your tack trunk at horse shows will be sitting in the sun, try not to store your most precious tack in it. Those tack trunks literally turn into ovens in the sun, making french toast of your leather in the process. If you can, hang up your tack first thing in the morning (on the stall door, in the grooming area….) and then put it away in your trunk when you leave at the end of the day (when hopefully it is cooler and the sun will be down shortly). We highly recommend never keeping your saddle in your tack trunk unless the trunk will be kept in a ventilated and constantly shaded area. Even then, if possible it’s a great idea to prop open the trunk door/lid for ventilation.

The Takeaway

Ok, so none of these ideas are too bad at all! Of course, you might not find them to be practical all of the time, but every little bit helps, and these as simple things that will turn into automatic habits before you know it. Keep cool out there and save us a popsicle!

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

Miss the other articles? No problem! Check them 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

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-light 

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-bugs-dust-grime

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-ph

Yes, pH Matters - Get Happily Ever After For Your Tack By Avoiding the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather

Quality leather tack is certainly one of the bigger investments we make as part of our time with horses. So it goes without saying that you’d like your precious saddle, harness, and other leather gear to last for an awfully, awfully…..awfully long time. We’re just like you…always babying your tack, cringing at every scratch and ding, or freaking out every time it gets put away “wrong”. We probably look crazy to non-horsey people, but hey, they’d probably get a little out of sorts too if something that cost them a few dozen Benjamin’s got roughed up.

No matter your discipline, most of the ways you protect your leather focus on addressing environmental or factors external to your leather, as we’ve been discussing the past few months in our 7 Worst Enemies of Leather Series. However, you can also protect your leather by taking into account its actual inherent physical properties.

And this is probably the MOST IMPORTANT, but least known and most ignored factor when it comes to the health of your leather. (It’s ok, you are not alone. We didn’t know this either until we started working on our company and creating our own line of leather care products.) :)

So we’re going to let you in on the big secret that nobody else is talking about by covering this little known fact about leather care in this fourth installment in our series of 7 articles. Just what exactly does the physical make-up of leather have to do with the leather care products you pick, and then how do you make sure you pick the best products that will keep your leather as happy as a cow in clover?

It’s all about two letters: pH

One of the very best ways to protect your leather tack and your investment is to ensure that you care for your leather using products that support the natural pH of the leather. Ok, so what on earth do we mean by natural pH?

The term pH refers to the measure of acidity or alkalinity of a material on a scale of 1 to 14.

On the pH scale...

-          Acids have a pH between 1 and 7

-          Alkaline materials (also called bases), such as soap and most cleaning products, have a pH between 7 and 14

-          Neutral materials, such as water, have a pH of 7

And modern tanned leather has a pH averaging around 5 (give or take), so leather is acidic.

 

Why does pH matter so much?

Ok, so now it gets super interesting. (Have we mentioned before that we really love science? LOL!)

A chemical reaction occurs when materials of differing pH touch each other. This means that 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 an elementary school science project volcano. Do you remember adding the vinegar to the baking soda in the volcano and then watching it foam and erupt? This same reaction is taking place in your leather at a cellular level.

The reaction caused by using leather care products not matched to the pH of leather results in damage and premature deterioration to your tack, including:

-          Hardening

-          Brittleness

-          Darkening

-          Loss of strength

Although this damage may not be immediately visible, microscopic damage is still occurring every time a non-pH matched product is used, and this irreversible premature deterioration will become apparent over time.

However, isn’t leather just like our own skin?

Shouldn’t the leather be able to withstand alkaline products since we use alkaline products, such as detergents and soaps, on our skin all of the time?

Yes, leather is essentially just like your skin (our skin is similarly acidic) 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 deterioration of our leather tack. Deterioration is often chalked up to leather “just normally aging”, but often this isn’t really the case and is actually the result of improper care.

One of the challenges to ensuring proper care is to find leather care products that are matched to the pH of leather. Many common leather cleaners and saddles soaps on the market are alkaline, so they will unfortunately react with and damage leather.

The Takeaway

Ok, so basically, you’ve gotta just say “no” to alkaline products. Anything “soap” is out for sure. More acidic products like vinegar (pH around 2.5) and lemon juice (pH around 2) should also be avoided.

When searching for leather care products, look for products that are formulated to be the same pH as your leather. Look for wording such as “pH balanced” or “pH matched”. Products with a neutral pH are also a good choice, as these will not react with your leather either. Wondering about our products? This is why Sterling Essentials’ Leather Cleaner is pH matched to your leather and our Leather Conditioner has a neutral pH. With consistent care, using pH matched leather care products will go a long way toward helping you keep your leather in mint condition and lasting for years to come. 

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

Miss the other articles? No problem! Check them 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

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-light 

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-bugs-dust-grime

Introducing the Sterling Essentials EIS COOL Shirt

Big News! Introducing the Sterling Essentials EIS COOL Shirt! It’s been a long time in the making, and we are delighted to bring you these beautiful and top-notch custom shirts.

Look your classy best and turn heads in our official logo sunshirt by Equi In Style. Exclusively available through our website and for a LIMITED TIME ONLY! Pre-order yours now through July 1, 2019. The item will ship mid-July.

Shop now at: https://www.sterling-essentials.com/products/sterling-essentials-eis-cool-shirt

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!

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!

Find Us At Spectrum Saddle Shop

If palm trees are on your daily horizon, then you know that Spectrum Saddle Shop is one of the THE places to shop for tack and apparel in Florida. We are delighted to share the news that our products are now fully stocked at this fabulous shopping destination, as well as in Spectrum’s premier mobile store!

There is something so exotic sounding about doing your equestrian shopping from a mobile shop set up under blue skies and swaying fronds…..or perhaps we are just already mourning the approach of rainy, dreary days ahead in western Oregon. :) Regardless, be sure to stop in and visit Ellie and her crew for all of your needs!