Bridle Repairs

My records keeping with regard to repairs is a little spotty, but as far as I can recall there have only been a few times that tack has been sent back to me for fixing up. I've been going since about 2006, so I'm pretty happy with that.

When things do come back, I take a good look at the areas for repair with the intention of preventing similar breaks. Sometimes its brute force that makes repairs necessary, and other times? It's my fault. That was the case with the bridle I just finished repairing this morning.

Model tack makers are all about scale. Is it in scale? Is it out of scale? How can I get it to look more real? With reference to strap goods, scale isn't about how thin the leather is or how narrow the straps are. Appropriately in scale bridles, breastplates, and other sundries are going to be in proportion to the model in question. It's easy to go a little overboard in the mad pursuit of "in scale," though. I'm pretty sure that's what happened with this bridle.

In a larger scale, this photo probably wouldn't be alarming. Undoing the noseband, cavesson, and throatlatch are necessary to get the bridle on and off. In Stablemate scale and with my tack specifically, it's utterly horrifying. There were three breaks on this bridle, all in buckle areas: noseband, cavesson, and throatlatch. They happened because the straps, at those points, were too thin and probably the biggest stress points of the bridle. 

Here's a closer look at the noseband break. You can probably see the way it tore at the hole, right where it buckled. The already thin leather would have been pulled against the wire there as the horse was bridled; the noseband braces against the horse's widening head and its very easy to tug too hard against it while fussing with the rest of the bridle. Had the straps been of the appropriate thickness, this probably wouldn't have been a problem. In this case, I think it was only a matter of time.

So damage assessed, now the question was "How do I fix this?!" I could have patched things up, splicing new straps onto the old cavesson and cheekpieces, but that's asking for another break. I really thought that I was going to need to remake the entire bridle with the exception of the reins, but after fussing over it for a bit I decided that I'd try to salvage what I could and completely replace the broken parts. How much can be saved all depends on how it comes apart, and to get at the repair areas I'd have to completely dismantle a bridle that had been glued together EVERYWHERE.

Turns out I was able to save more than I'd thought; the bit and reins were saved, as was the crown piece (including the buckle end of the throatlatch) and browband. I replaced the entire noseband and all of the straps on the near side of the bridle. Here's a shot of the salvage:

Something to consider when trying to decide what should be kept vs. replaced is not only can you, but should you. If the kept part is at risk for damage, its always best to repair now while the bridle has been torn apart. There are only so many times you can rip something like this to pieces before it won't go back together properly.

I'm afraid I have no good shots of the in progress repair, as it was done primarily in the evening and the light was horrible. Here are some things to remember, though.

  • Look at your work with a critical eye; try to figure out why the break happened and construct the repair to lessen the chance of it reoccurring.
  • Save what you can, but be realistic: would it be more efficient and safer to make an entirely new piece?
  • Clean the piece carefully to remove residual stickywax and help new glue adhere properly.
  • When in doubt about a part, replace it over patching it.
  • Remove the old glue before putting things back together to cut down on bulk. Best way? Skive it off very, very carefully.
Here's the (re)finished product!

The stickywax is a little messy...sorry 'bout that!