To make a bridle with rawhide and romal reins like shown in the photo http://bit.ly/1VpFPFy we start by making the rawhide from cow hides. When a tannery receives cow hides from the packers they immediately place each on horizontal wooden beams and cut each hide right down the middle to make 2 sides.When a tannery receives cow hides from the packers, they immediately place each on horizontal wooden beams and cut each hide right down the middle to make 2 sides.
The split sides are placed in large vats filled with a special concentration of lye and water to soak. The lye causes the hair to come off the hides. Each vat is fitted with a big paddle wheel to agitate the water. The agitation evenly distributes the lye water over the hide until the hair comes loose.
Not all the hair comes off with the lye so to make sure it is all removed the hides are run through roller machines. The rollers pop off any hair that didn’t come off in the lye water.
Rinsing is the next step. The hides are soaked in clean water to remove the lye. This brings the hide back to a neutral ph. Once they are neutralized the hides are stapled to wooden frames to dry. The hides are watched very carefully at this point so they dry to just the right temper. The end result is rawhide!
When the rawhide sides arrive at Dennis Moreland Tack from the tannery, we carefully cut the sides into strings for braiding. To produce evenly sized strings we put the rawhide sides into barrels of water, and once they are completely soaked, we hang them over lines to dry to the perfect point to be cut into strips. The sides are cut by hand into 1½ to 2 inch strips with a draw gauge tool. As they are continuously cut with the draw gauge the strips get closer and closer to the correct thickness for braiding. The final cut results in a finished string 1/16th inch thick.
To edge the strings, we cut an extremely fine piece of each of the 4 square edges away. The edging allows each string in the braid to lay down well and it removes any sharp edges that were left in the strings after they were cut.
To braid rawhide correctly, the strings need to be quite dry. If the strings are too wet when used the braids will have gaps in the finished product. If they are too dry they become impossible to braid and must be mellowed by being worked between a fid tool and thumb while rawhide cream is applied. This brings the rawhide back to the right mellow state required for perfect braiding.
All the rawhide at Dennis Moreland Tack is cut and braided entirely by hand. Each string is edged by hand to lie smoothly against the horse’s skin. Visit www.dmtack.com or call 817-312-5305 for information. We’re a full-line handmade tack manufacturer and we’re here to help you.