I found Honeyson Fellow's bridle in the pile of old basement tack earlier this week. It's a nice bridle, but after several years of neglect it's dusty, dried out and stiff. The reins are kinked and do not lie properly on his neck.Almost any type of leather cleaner that is appropriate for real tack will work on your model tack. I prefer lighter, non oily products that smell nice such as the two pictured below. Avoid all types of leather oils. These will darken your tack and may also adversely affect the glued areas.
I never apply the cleaner directly onto the tack. Instead, I pour a little onto a soft cloth and use that to gently clean both sides of all the straps. I am careful not to saturate the leather as that could lead to color changes and may also weaken the glued areas. This is definitely a time when less is more. You don't want the leather to feel wet just a little "tacky". Let the bridle dry completely, and then go back and buff the straps with a dry cloth.
Here's Fellow's bridle after a good cleaning. It looks and feels brand new again. Hurray!
Excessive wear on the straps is another common problem. This is especially true for bridles with photo etched buckles. After a few shows, it's not unusual for the strap to start looking worn and fuzzy. The left side cheekpiece and throatlatch on this endurance bridle are a perfect example of this.
Of course it's impossible to undo all the damage, but a little gum tragacanth will go a long way towards restoring the strap.
Simply dip your finger into the bottle and rub the gum tragacanth onto the leather paying particular attention to the edges and flesh (back) side. Once that's dry, I will often go back and refresh the holes with either an awl or a pencil punch.
After just a minute or two, Balthazar's bridle is looking show ready once again.
In addition to slicking down the fuzzies, the gum tragacanth also acts as a stiffener. Not only will the strap look neater, but it will be easier to feed it through the buckles and keepers. I keep a little bottle of gum tragacanth in my live show box to spot treat problem areas as I'm tacking up.
Questions, comments, more tack cleaning advice? I'd love to hear it! Please share your thoughts in the comments section.