As an equestrian, you want what’s best for your horse. When it comes to equipment, that means choosing materials that are comfortable and durable. And while leather has been the traditional choice for many years, there are now some great non-leather — even Vegan leather — options available, which may align more with either your ethical concerns or your riding style. Here’s a look at why you might choose non-leather equipment for your next ride.
What is Vegan Leather?
Vegan leather is a term used to describe materials which are designed to replicate the look, feel and durability of traditional leather but without using any animal products. Many materials are used to make vegan leather, from biothane to neoprene to nylon, there are a variety of vegan leathers on the market now, allowing riders to keep their ethics while still delivering quality equipment. Some products even use natural materials such as cork, kelp, pineapple leaves, and fungi instead of synthetics like plastic. Companies such as Kentucky Horse-wear have been leading the line in providing a better and more ecologically friendly solution for riders all over the U.S. With Kentucky horse products you can protect your horse with all the comfort and safety of high-quality horse-riding equipment. This company uses imitation leather that is comfortable, waterproof, durable, and impossible to differentiate from authentic leather.
Why use Non Leather Tack?
There are several reasons why equestrians turn to non-leather tack. They may feel ethically against using animal products, they may want a more ecologically friendly solution, want easy to maintain and durable tack or simply want to take advantage of the fun colors available in non leather tack. I’ve used non leather tack for years — I love Zelda’s bright red bridle for daily use and keep spare biothane bridles in my trailer as back ups if a bridle, reins or halter break. Over the years I’ve also used synthetic saddles such as Wintecs as they are light weight, less expensive and easier to deal with on rainy days.
The production of authentic leather uses toxic chemicals that are harmful to workers and the environment. The process also requires an animal to die. Vegan leather uses non-toxic materials, and the production process is ethical and environmentally friendly. The materials used to make vegan leather are easier to find, and the production process is more sustainable. It also provides a safer environment for workers in the faux leather production line.
Leather substitutes are often more durable than leather products and vegan leather strap goods are also quite strong. I’ve used synthetic stirrup leathers for many years (Wintec Webbers) because they don’t stretch like real leather. They don’t last forever, but they do hold up well under daily use.
Synthetic materials are generally pliable, soft and light weight and because they do not absorb water or sweat, they are unlikely to rub or irritate your horse. I use a biothane breastplate when I ride with a treeless saddle
Unlike leather, vegan/synthetic leather doesn’t require regular cleaning or conditioning, and they are much less likely to need repairs or replacement than traditional leather tack. I love the fact that you can dunk your bridle in a bucket of water or run a sponge over a saddle and you don’t have to worry about mold or dryness ruining your tack. I’ve had some of my bridles for more than 10 years and they still look like new. In fact my spare bridle, which I keep in my trailer for emergencies, is biothane because I know I can pull it out in a pinch and it won’t be moldy or cracked. And I’ve been using synthetic grippy reins from Taylored Tack forever. I find them especially helpful out hunting because the have a nubby surface that prevents your reins from slipping through your fingers even when they get wet from rain or because your horse is sweating.
Finally, it’s worth noting that non-leather tack can be just as attractive and professional as traditional leather tack. I know it’s not traditional, but I love Zelda’s red bridle from Two Horse Tack — it’s probably six years old and still looks as bright and cheerful as the day I bought it. Many riders choose vegan leathers because they are still able to show off their style without compromising their values. Whether you’re a dressage rider, eventer or western enthusiast, there is non-leather tack available in a variety of colors and styles so you can look your best while still being true to your ethical concerns about using leather.
When it comes time to choose your next tack purchase, consider all of the advantages that non-leather options offer. From animal welfare and environmental benefits, to easy care and cost savings – there are many reasons why vegan leather might be a great choice for your next ride.
3 thoughts on “The Benefits of Leather-Alternative Tack”
I’ve always been a ‘flat leather tack’ sort of woman…but when your local environment is akin to that of a car wash, as is the case in Western Washington, synthetic tack is advisable. Or maybe I’ve just gotten lazy. Not that I allowed my leather tack to get moldy or mildewed but when your typical barn tack room is unheated, Mildew Happens. I draw the line at colors, though..sorry, Liz. For me it’s black or brown tack. What I didn’t care for was cheap plastic being used for areas on tack that are subjected to a lot of manipulation, for instance, buckles. I’ve seen where the plastic exterior breaks and shows the white interior. Hopefully the industry has come further than the first generation of cheap plastic. From what you’ve written, I think it has. You have to admit, thought, that there’s nothing that beats the smell of good leather. Plastic smells..well, like plastic.
But I also must admit that a saddle such as a Wintec is lighter in weight than a wool flocked leather one. and when one’s back and shoulders age, and yet one’s tack room cabinet is still chest high if not higher, a synthetic is easier to handle.
I do love good leather but I also like the convenience of synthetic. I save the good stuff for foxhunting. The synthetic saddles are a lot lighter, which can help. When I was recovering from my broken wrist, the only saddle I could easily hoist onto Zelda’s back was my Freeform Ultimate Trail. It’s leather but minimal and oh-so-light. I’ll have to write about it as I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in the blog.
And as for color. Zelda just looks good in red. First I bought a red Ghost saddle (since sold on) and then I bought the bridle to go with it.