Supple tack, which is?conditioned well with a leather conditioner,?means more than ?pretty.? It means that it's also:
1) Comfortable for your horse (imagine wearing a stiff leather bracelet all day);
2) Safe (dry, brittle leather tears much more easily than well-condi?tioned leather);
3) Preserved (so that it lasts longer).
Your choice of a leather condition?er is important. And the products we used in this trial all did at least an acceptable level of conditioning. Some, however, excelled.
We noted some differences in application methods. A few of our testers enjoyed hand-rubbing condi?tioners into their tack. And, indeed, this is a time-honored method that also has the added benefit of ?condi?tioning? the skin on your hands.
Most of us, however, prefer to use a cloth or a sponge, as it's simply, well, neater. If you choose a cloth, it should be soft, such as an old T-shirt. Sponges should be well-wrung out (no excess water) and clean.
But?and this is impor?tant?if the container tells you to apply the product one specific way, you are going to get the best results by using that method.
For example, the Pes?soa Leather Oil stated you should use it warm. This means bring it in the house, at least, so it's room temperature. If it gets warmer, all the better. In fact, nearly all these prod?ucts will go deeper into the leather if they?re warm (never hot!).
The preference among pastes, sprays, liquids, tapioca-like creams is much a personal one. Sprays are, of course, the quick?est, and the Belvoir Conditioner is designed with just that in mind. For routine conditioning after a cleaner (see October 2011), this would be the simple way to go.
However, for deep long-lasting conditioning, we found that thick liquids or pastes penetrate better and last longer.
Many of the conditioners are now offering water-repelling charac?teristics, which can be helpful if your tack often gets wet. Of course, drenched tack still needs to be well-conditioned before it dries out or the drying process will damage the fibers in the leather, permanently weakening your tack.
Mold is always a concern with tack. Both Leather Therapy and JM Saddler claim they have products that inhibit mold. That may well be true. However, once mold infiltrates the fibers of your leather, it is never truly gone. The only tried-and-true way to keep your tack mold-free isto remove the mold as soon as you see even a slight tinge of it.
OurTrial. Most barns have plenty of old tack around that needs conditioning, so we weren?t hurting for a lack of test subjects.
Many products stated they don't darken leather, but our testers quibble with the comment. Always spot-test your tack if there's a con?cern about color.
We wanted to find products that produced consistent results, in that we knew the conditioning effects were thorough and long-lasting. (After all, we?d rather be riding than cleaning tack.)
We didn't want to harm our leather (no product was harmful), but we did put some emphasis on ease-of-use. While hand-rubbing may be the way to go, not everyone has that kind of time.
We found that using too much product produces sticky results or excess that requires a final wiping of the tack, even before that buffing you do at the end to give the tack a nice shine.
BottomLine. It wasn?t easy, but the four products that stood out during our trial were: Equips Sad?dle Food, Leather Therapy Restorer and Conditioner, Lexol Conditioner and Ultra Leather Therapy. Decid?ing among them was nearly a coin toss, but we'll give the nod for fa?vorite to Leather Therapy. Best Buy goes to Equips Saddle Food (to see leather conditioners as a chart, click here).