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.


  • Remember that leather was once alive – and through the tanning process, the animal hide becomes the leather that 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 – just 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.


  • In order 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 easily, 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 be sure to 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, or make a shadow box or frame to remember your horse. Lots of options!


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


go shopping button for horse products
I swear by lederbalsams to keep leather conditioned, and I also like a few oils. Shop here! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support!


Effax Leather Balsam 500 ml

Fiebing’s 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil, 32 oz. – Natural Leather Preservative

Hydrophane Leather Darken Oil, 500 ml ( 17 fl.Oz ) – This one WILL darken your tack.

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap – Baby Unscented – 8 Ounce