You might not spend that much time thinking about the work that’s gone into making your horse’s bridle, but the quality of the leather used and processes it goes through can make a huge different to its performance, explains Julia Andrews, Managing Director of Kate Negus Saddlery…
We are very, very particular about every aspect of the process that happens when a Kate Negus bridle is created. We pride ourselves on the quality our bridles offer and, as such, how long they last with the correct care. We have people come to our tradestand and tell us how many years they’ve had their bridle for, and we now actually run a sort of ‘trade in’ service, allowing people to swap their ‘old’ Kate Negus bridle for £50 off a full priced new one!
You can, of course, buy bridles that are much cheaper, made from non-British leather – and that’s completely your choice. It’s just we believe that the bridle is essential and getting the best you can afford can really pay…especially when you get bespoke fitting thrown in for free!
The information below explains how our bridles are made, but the process is similar in many ways for different makes. Of course, we can’t speak of other people’s quality control or how much they do by hand, but the stages are largely similar.
So, first of all, the leather is tanned. Our leather is tanned in Yorkshire using a method that’s unique to us. The leather we use is full grain, which means that it’s the strongest and most durable type of leather. It’s resistant to moisture but as at this stage it hasn’t been sanded, there may be some imperfections. To eliminate these, these ‘butts’ are sorted and only around 30% make the Kate Negus cut!
Once the leather has been tanned, it’s sent to the workshop. We have all our bridles made in Walsall, which used to be the place for saddles and bridles. A lot of bridles are made abroad now because labour costs are lower, but we harness the traditional skills that have been passed down through generations. We do carry a lot of ‘stock’ bridlework, but also have a made-to-order range and can make anything bespoke because we have this connection with the people who make our products. The lead time is just three weeks on a made to order item.
At the workshop, the leather is inspected again by the cutters and then cut, by hand, into the pieces needed. The leather then moves onto the stitchers who do the majority of stitching by hand using two needles and a clamp. At the end of this process, the pieces have the edges dyed and sealed by hand to ensure they perform. This happens to all our elements, even the smallest keeper, hence you get a neat edge on your tack.
The bridle parts come to us separately because that’s how we buy them. As we make up bridles to fit every horse’s dimensions, we ‘pick and mix’ when an order is placed to ensure the perfect fit.
Some bridles clock up a lot of air miles during their production and delivery – as you can see, ours don’t. The process we use ensures quality and allows the leather to be checked at each stage. Of course, when the pieces arrive with us, we check them too, before they’re sent out.
To find out more about Kate Negus Saddlery, the bridles, how the bespoke process works and more, just see www.katenegus.com