I have a New Cavalry bridle that is – no joke – like 25+ years old. Dang, these things last. It’s going strong except for one thing. No matter how much I clean/oil it, the leather is starting to dry out quickly (after a ride or two, it’s back to being dried out). Is this a sign it’s finished? Are there any products that might bring it back?
We have good luck for most leather that is getting dry with a liberal application or three of Lexol.
Try it first in a little spot, some odd tanning processes at times react with odd colors, but most fade quickly.
If applying too much at once, leather may get so soft is noodley until it dries a bit.
You could try lard. It brought several dried bridles back into usefulness for my lesson stable.
WARNING: Avoid getting the lard on rubber, avoid getting the lard on metal buckles, and make very, very sure that you immediately put the ends of the straps through the keepers.
I find that with the lard I do not need to soap or condition anywhere near to what I used to do in a vain attempt to get pliable leather.
It works great on the old type grain saddle and bridle leather, but the calf leather does not seem to absorb it.
You mean, like, Crisco??
I read an out of print book about riders’ contact with the tack, by a saddler, and he recommended using ONLY animal fats on leather, and as little water as possible. I had been despairing about my saddles, I was going through a rough physical patch with a head on collision with a drunk driver and my case of MS finally manifesting itself in a way that I could not ignore.
My Crosby saddle was dry (PDN Wide Front, English grain leather). I larded it because what did I have to lose, my poor saddle was so dried out! First application, I worked the lard in with my fingers, twice on the flesh side and once on the top side, let the saddle sit a day or two, re-larded it, let it sit a week, re-larded it again and I started using my saddle again for riding. My Stubben Siegfried was also dry, the lard only worked on the seat, flaps and billet straps, but those got much more supple than before.
Nowadays when my riding teacher finds an old piece of leather tack that had been in a corner for years she just hands it over to me to lard it up. Dried up leather becomes usable again, though it rarely responds, to the larding as well as leather that had previously been taken care of and conditioned before being lost in the corner of the tack room.
I use the regular lard that is sold in grocery stores.
I was told by a saddler to brush on olive oil, but do not use olive oil on the girth straps, use leather conditioner for that.
Brush on the olive oil and let it soak in in the hot sun.