Can you save your horse’s cracked leather tack?


Old leather that has started to crack is not safe. You may be able to restore some flexibility, but not strength. You might be able to make it look good, but it’s not safe to use.  So you can sort of save your cracked leather tack.


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What is leather, really?


  • Remember that leather was once alive – and through the tanning process, the animal hide becomes the leather we are all familiar with. The tanning process stabilizes the proteins of raw hides so that the hides don’t putrefy – AKA decay and smell.


  • The tanning ingredients can be a various assortment of chemicals, veggies, chrome, formaldehyde, synthetic polymers, aluminum salts, and even brains. YES, even brains.


  • If leather is not tanned, it will eventually putrefy – like a dog’s rawhide chew that gets soggy and stinky. I’m pretty sure no tack manufacturer that wants to stay in business will make saddles and bridles from untanned leather. Just something interesting to know!



cracked leather on a stirrup strap

These stirrup leathers have seen better days!


Leather fibers are a tangled mess, held together with protein bonds.


  • The tanning process prevents those protein bonds from decomposing. BUT – if the bonds dry out, the protein’s bonds will shrink, snap, and break. You can’t repair these bonds.


  • For the leather to be safe, it must be supple – strong and flexible. You can oil and condition ‘till the cows come home and that stiff piece of rein or stirrup leather. The flexibility will come back, but the strength won’t. And then this happens:


leather stirrup strap that has snapped

Whoops! It’s almost guaranteed that broken tack only happens while you are trying to show off for someone.


Things that contribute to cracked leather tack:


  • Wet tack dries out quickly, as the water bonds to the proteins, and then it all dries out. Stretched leather can sometimes reach its breaking point and snap, too. If you find yourself stuck in the rain, wipe off your tack and condition it asap, preferably when it’s still damp.


  • Then you have mold and mildew to contend with. It spreads quickly, so address this promptly and clean everything away from the tack room.


  • When in doubt, assume that any cracked leather needs to be replaced or repaired. You can always convert the old piece of tack into a bracelet, belt, shadow box, or frame to remember your horse. Lots of options!


These reins are old. And also, very uncomfortable to hold. And STIFF.


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Clean anything and store anything with this versatile hook. Easy to bring to horse shows, too!

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Decker, 12-Pack Tack Sponge for Horses

There no time like the present to clean your tack after every ride!

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Thank you!



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