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Good leather? Bad leather?
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Good leather? Bad leather?

Question: How do you know if the tack you are buying is good quality, or bad quality? 

Answer: Well, different types of leather have different properties. For example, cow leather can be very smart and durable however buffalo leather is extremely tough and hard wearing. This is why buffalo leather is often used for racing leathers.

The most common leather used is from cattle so that is where we'll stay for the time being. When choosing a saddle you should consider, whether you are buying a GP, Western, Dressage, SJ, or XC saddle. You will also consider how much you have to spend, whether you buy new or second hand, size and the quality of the tack. Often the cost and the quality go hand in hand for example a cheap saddle is less likely to be top quality leather and a more expensive one is more likely to be higher quality, however this isn't always the case. 

Top quality leather is taken from along the spine of the cow. This is where the leather is best and is not stretched. However, the lack of leather along this part of the body compared to the rest is minimal so it is very expensive. Bad quality leather is taken from the belly of the cow. This is where it stretches and contracts which makes the leather not as durable and is often thinner.

There are many ways to tell if the tack you are buying is good quality leather. Pick up these tips before dipping into your pocket:

  • Top quality leather has a beautiful natural smell to it, no matter how old or how new it is. The more you handle leather the more you will be able to tell what smells like good leather. If you don't think it smells quite right then this is the first sign to identifying bad quality leather.
  • Look for leather that is soft and supple. Especially if you are looking to buy second hand tack. If you bend the leather and you see it starting to crack it is useless and may become very dangerous when riding. It should be bendable, soft and not stiff. Even if it has not been oiled, tack should still stay supple. However, when buying new tack if the leather feels overly soft then this is not good either. This sort of tack has had too much oil applied and is often a technique to disguise bad quality leather.
  • Check the brand. Checking the brand is often a good way to tell the quality of the leather. Some very good brands are; Stubben, Bates, Walsall, Crosby. The brand will be stamped either on the buckle guard or under the skirt. Look online for brands' reputations or ask friends who have tack from these retailers.
  • The dye should still be a strong colour even if the saddle is old. The dye job should still be a very similar colour to hen it was manufactured. It should not have faded or be blotchy.
  • Check the smaller details of the leather. Why would you put quality craftsmanship into poor quality leather? Well, you wouldn't. It wouldn't make logical sense. If the saddle has be hand stitched it is often top quality leather. Has all the stitching been finished off neatly and is it even? 

However, the price doesn't always reflect the quality of the leather. That is why it is really important to use these tips!!! You never know you may be able to pick up a top quality saddle for less than you thought!

More about leather, Tack

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Leave a Comment

  1. Buckaroo Balance
    Buckaroo Balance
    interesting article! I'm a cowgirl & with the picture of the western saddle was curious what you'd have to say! We look for many of the same things in western saddles, but here in the US there is an influx of lesser quality leather from Mexico, hard to tell without feeling the leather & the saddle for yourself but the weight of the leather & who tanned it are sure helpful bits of info!
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  2. Teresa Ray
    Great info
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