Caring for Rawhide
Rawhide tack can be created from a range of animal hides, including, Kangaroo, Calf, Cow, Goat and Horse. The availability of more perceived exotic hide such as Kangaroo have become more commonly used in North America. Its combination with calf/cow hide creates some beautiful braided rawhide tack combining tonal and textural differences.
Goat rawhide although similar to Kangaroo interms of its tensile strength and durability and its ability to be cut very thinly is less used in the North America. Although based on its all-round performance it’s a choice hide for intricate braiding. However, it is fair to say if all tack is maintained and the braiding and hide is of significant quality that they will last for many a year and that there are many examples on the market of both fantastic and poor products made from all of these hides.
Maintaining your rawhide
Maintaining your rawhide tack is paramount and if you want to maintain the integrity of the braiding and hide. The following applies to both Kangaroo, Goat and Calf (Latigo) leather. It is important to understand that rawhide should not be treated in the same way as leather due to the fact it is literally in its natural state, unlike leather which has been exposed to the tanning process. Rawhide is more durable and resilient to sweat (salt) than leather.
The only product which should be applied to any of is a rawhide cream, to clean and preserve. Do not use any oil based leather treatments which will soften the rawhide, Ray Hols Vaquero Cream gives great performance and ease of application.
When cleaning use three clean soft cotton cloths. First use the cream to loosen the dirt on the bosal gently massaging the braid in a clock wise fashion, then with the second cloth remove the dirt and then finally re-apply the rawhide cream using the third cloth. Rubbing the final dressing in with your hands is also an option as it will be more readily absorbed as your hands warm the cream, but potentially not the most sparing option. The bosal will tend to become more dirty on the inside of the nosebutton and lower part of the cheeks where it makes regular contact.
Depending on how dirty/wet it gets will really dictate how often it needs to be cleaned and nourished. It could be that in a dusty, hot environment you need to clean more frequently (daily) due to sweat or oils being secreted by the horse to a few times a week or once every couple of weeks. Temperature will also have an impact on treatment, ideally the bosal should be hung at room temperature, excessive dampness or heat on a regular basis without treatment will compromise the braiding.
If your hackamore becomes very wet, it is best to let it dry naturally at room temperature (warm). Remove the mecate and hang in long lengths to air dry. Wipe your bosal with a soft cloth and invert the bosal suspending it by the heel knot with a piece of non-coloured thread e.g.dental floss, white cotton and leave to dry. Be careful if hanging on a nail or suspending with dyed thread as this can incur some staining through rust or leaching of the dye into the rawhide. The applies to all rawhide tack whether you’re dealing with a full rawhide headstall, a part rawhide, a rawhide hanger, romal reins or a quirt (hang vertically and allow to air dry at room temperature)
Rawhide tack can be virtually used in any climate if looked after properly. Riding here in the UK in a country where we are subject to the 4 seasons and during three of these months a significant amount of rainfall. I can confidently say that with the exemplary quality of braiding and quality of hide, combined with the normal required maintenance and common sense any equestrian would attribute to their tack, that that you will able use and cherish your hackamore for many a year to come!