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What is Bridle Leather

What is Bridle Leather?

Bridle Leather refers to the way that a piece of leather (cow hide) is finished at the tannery. Bridle leather has both the Flesh and Grain side of the leather stuffed with greases and finished with wax. This is generally a labour intensive process, thus expensive! Only the best grades of leather are treated like this, it would be uneconomic to treat poor quality leather in this way. Few tanneries produce good bridle leather, we buy only from J & E Sedgwick and J & FJ Baker who we (and many others) feel produce the best bridle leather in the world.

The purpose of bridle leather is threefold;

  • It's expected to look good. That is, it must have good depth of colour that changes over time and use and be attractive to look at, it must age well and it must not have natural imperfections that weaken the leather.
  • It is expected to be smooth, comfortable and flexible to handle. It is designed for use in bridles, so must be comfortable for a horse to wear next to the skin. Therefore the treatment of the flesh side is as important as the grain side as the flesh side is typically worn next to the horses skin and must be smooth.
  • It is expected to be both strong and durable. The riders life literally depends on bridle leather not failing unexpectedly. Its is subjected to quite high loads, and must tolerate this time after time. An item of saddlery is typically expected to last for 10 or more years of use, so not only must the leather be strong, but it must survive poor weather, dirt, everything being in contact with a horse throws at it for many years.
All in all, bridle leather is pretty amazing stuff. We use it as it is simply the best leather available for our purposes. It is pleasant to work with and produces a beautiful product. Once it leaves us we know that it will mature well for our customers and become a trusted old favourite, becoming both more beautiful, characterful and tactile as it ages. There aren't many products produced now that get better with age, but good bridle leather is certainly one of them.
 
Harness leather is a very close relation to bridle leather and will have been produced in very much the same way to the same set of criteria. It will generally be thicker than bridle leather, the harness leather we use tends to be 5mm thick, as opposed to 3.5 - 4mm. The strength of harness leather is most critical and during the finishing process is traditionally dipped into hot grease to ensure the core of the leather is very strong and flexible for its weight. Despite that, the finish of the harness leather is very much the same as bridle leather and it will not be greasy to touch. Harness leather is effectively bridle leather but with the emphasis on strength.