Tonight we have an interesting leather strap and toggle I picked up on the second hand market a few weeks back with little clue as to its use:Thanks to Richard Fisher I have been able to identify this as a piece of pack saddlery, the strap boasting the designation of ‘Bands, Belly, Straps, Supporting’. This strap was one of four that attached to a pack saddle, carried by a horse or mule, using the large wooden toggle on one end:Attached to this toggle are two leather straps, each with a series of holes punched through:These pass under the belly of the animal and attach to other straps to help hold the pack saddle securely on. The straps have two marks on them, one says ‘Rawle London 1940’:The other is marked ‘R Ling & Son 1942’:Note also the /|\ acceptance mark. These straps are in remarkably good condition considering they are 75 years old and have probably seem little maintenance in that period. The 1937 Manual of Horsemanship, Equitation and Animal Transport offered the following advice for maintaining horse tack:
(1) Saddle seats, flaps and rifle buckets, which are required to be kept stiff, should be slightly dubbed annually, but they should be sponged occasionally with soap.
Other leather in constant use should be softened with good soap every day, and should be well dubbed every six months as follows:-
The leather having first been moistened with a sponge, the dubbin (warmed if the weather is cold) should be lightly rubbed in with a sponge or brush; after two or three days it should be rubbed off, and the leather should then be well polished with a brush or cloth.
(2) Leather must not be washed with soda or soaked in water. Its vitality is entirely destroyed by hot water. Washing with soap and lukewarm water, quickly and without soaking, will do the least harm if the precaution is taken to apply dubbin or good soap while the leather is slightly damp.
Soft soap should be very sparingly used, as it contains an excess of alkali and turns leather dark.
It is rarely necessary to scrub leather work. Parts affected by sweat from the horse, such as inside surfaces of breast collar, girths, etc., should be sponged after use with clean cold water and then soaped.
Drying leather by the fire destroys its durable properties and is forbidden.
Leather parts of harness and saddlery can be rendered more durable, and a bright colour retained much longer, by avoiding washing in water as much as possible. Leather work must, therefore, not be allowed to soak in water whilst it is being scrubbed.
(3) Dry cleaning by brush and rubber will be found sufficient to remove dust and dirt in many instances. After such cleaning, a little soap or polish for articles in daily use, or dubbin for those to be stored, may be applied.
Beeswax and saddle soap, commonly used in the service to give a polish to the grain of the leather, are not objectionable, provided that good soap is used to keep the leather mellow. The leather work of all saddlery should be kept soft and supple.