I have a confession to make: I have a mild obsession with leather care products. I’ve Googled the words “tack cleaner” and “tack conditioner” more times than I care to admit. And I’ve read a zillion reviews on oils, soaps, conditioners, and combis (thanks for enabling me SmartPak and Chronicle of the Horse). So when my Effax Cream Soap, which has been my go-to daily cleaner since Christmas, started running low, I thought about buying a refill. Because I love that stuff! But then I thought, “You know, maybe there’s something different. Better. Something that conditions and really cleans.” As awesome as the Effax is, it doesn’t quite cut through the dirt like I’d like. Especially on my braided reins; the laces get gunky.
Somehow I stumbled on a thread on Chronicle of the Horse about a user who created her own saddle soaps in her house. Scented saddle soaps. And everyone was raving about them. When I saw that Karen O’Connor’s groom adored them (!!!), I was sold. Not that that stopped me from reading a few (a lot) more reviews about Higher Standards Leather Care before I purchased my very own saddle soap from their website. A tub of soap runs about $20 with shipping.
I chose Fox’s Vanilla Lavender, though there are several scents to choose from. The smell is amazing (if only computers did scratch-n-sniff). Plus, the soap comes with its own tack sponge, which I thought was a nice touch.
I cleaned the breastplate first. The dirt and mold came right off with minimal scrubbing and when I was done, the leather felt much softer and pliable.
My bridle came next. The soap cut through the grime around my cheekpieces and between the bend of my reins, where they curve over the bit, like it was nothing, leaving a very attractive black smear on the sponge. It didn’t, however, quite power through the gunk stuck to the braided leather on my reins. After scrubbing vigorously, I finally had to resort to using my fingernails to clean it out. Like the breastplate, the soap left my bridle feeling supple and soft.
I let them both sit over night to see what they would feel like the next day. Sometimes that great, just-cleaned-and-conditioned softness goes away once the product is absorbed, leaving the leather feeling stiff/tacky/sticky/gummy/etc. With Higher Standards Leather Care, that’s not the case. Both bridle and breastplate still feel silky and pliant, with just a little bit of grippiness (I personally like a little bit of grip to my leather).
Four out of five horseshoes for being a fun, effective tack cleaner that leaves leather feeling soft without the need for an additional conditioner or basalm.