Monday, April 27, 2015

Higher Standards Leather Care - Part 1

There's a bit of tried and true wisdom that you will hear not just from horseman, but from people from all walks of life. The saying goes, "Buy once, cry once," and it means you might have a bit of anguish over the price of quality items but they will last unlike products that cut corners.  Even when you're on a strict budget, you'll often hear suggestions to buy high quality tack that's been used and it will serve you well. The other thing you need to remember is that taking proper care of your quality tack will extend its life and be more comfortable for you and your horse.

When I purchased my saddle a few months back I knew that the old routine of glycerine soap and neatsfoot oil was a bit out of date and that I'd need to find a new set of products to care for it. I am somewhat new to caring for calfskin so I needed a gentle cleaner that didn't strip moisture and I wanted to keep that plush and lightly sticky finish that it came to me with. I was also looking for a conditioning balm that would do the hydrating job but not leave a greasy film like neatsfoot oil.

While checking out products I came across a thread on the Chronicle of the Horse message board that had hundreds of reviews for a small hand made brand of soaps and leather balm called "Higher Standards," that had a very loyal following.  As you know by now, I love supporting smaller brands and I'm also a bit nosey so I really wanted to try these out and see what the fuss was about.  The only problem... my "new to me" saddle came to me in amazing condition and was in no need of a proper scrub down so any kind of testing I wanted to do just wasn't going to be enough to get a good read on how the soap and leather balm performed.

I packed up the blue containers, a few sponges and a polishing rag and headed to the barn with the perfect test subject in mind, a tough as nails, will out live us all, Stubben Edelweiss on the rack of lesson saddles.
The Stubben right before I got started.

Underside of saddle flap before cleaning
Some dirt and sweat on the panels

The leather on this saddle is pretty stiff and overall needed a good cleaning.  The stirrup leathers had also seen better days and needed a drink after having the remnants of spring mud cleaned off. I also intended to give the whole saddle a generous coating of leather balm to see if there was any chance of softening up that tough exterior. As I got to work I was quite pleased with how nice the scent of the soap was.  I had the "Ben's Rosemary Mint" scent but this soap also comes in an assortment of vanilla lavender, citrus ginger, and rosemary citrus offerings. The next thing I noticed was that this soap didn't create large amounts of suds but it did glide over the leather and did a great job breaking up dirt and gunk.  I followed the directions of wringing out the excess water from the sponge and wiping off the soap by flipping the sponge over.  There was quite a bit of funk on this old Stubben but as I worked I could see that there was some pretty great progress being made. The saddle soap on its own has a cream conditioner incorporated so instead of a waxy, squeaky glycerin finish I had a soft, semi flat sheen on the leather. What I really liked is that the soap didn't seem to darken the finish and that was quite evident on this havana colored saddle. I also really enjoyed discovering that just a little soap goes a long way.

Next week I'll show you what this Stubben looked like after the soap and conditioner and will even give you an update on how it held up after a week of use. Check back for the after photos and the final verdict and until then, happy riding!

No comments:

Post a Comment