If you have fallen in love with the Vaquero style of tack and riding, you've most certainly seen rawhide. If you've never looked into the art of rawhide braiding, I strongly recommend doing so, as it is rumored to be a dying art form and will give you an immense amount of appreciation for the time and talent that goes into making pieces.
Rawhide can be used as accents on bridles, reins and breast collars. It is used for bosals and even entire bridles and rein sets. They are treasures to see and to own, and one must care for them properly so they last for years.
Rawhide is not cared for like leather. While there are many opinions for the best way to care for leather, there are just as many opinions in how to care for rawhide. The main goal is not to saturate your rawhide in water. Use a damp brush, cloth or sheepskin to remove excess dirt, and let air dry. Once dry, apply a product with a wax or a fat, to help repel water and horse sweat.
Luis Ortega was one of the most influential braiders of our time. Ortega’s favorite method of caring for rawhide was to first clean it with liquid glycerin. Once he had removed all the dirt and sweat, he would apply a light application of Fiebing’s saddle soap. Using only the white soap, he would cut a small square of it from the can, carefully rub in the soap, then wipe off any excess.
As with all tack, make sure you hang it in a dry place, free of moisture and rodents. Care for your rawhide gear, just as you would your saddle or bridle, and it will last years to come.