A while back I picked up a really cheap bridle at a tack sale. I loved everything about it, except for one important part - the color was a complete nightmare! Being as it was only $20, I bought it anyway. We've all been tempted to do this from time to time I am sure. As I learned today, there IS hope.
Every rider has always heard that certain oils will darken leather, some conitioners only darken while the product is wet (like Leather Therapy), and others are a little more permanent - like neetsfoot oil. Every rider on a budget should be aware of just what neetsfoot oil can do for an ugly, light colored bridle.
What you'll need:
Jug of Neetsfoot Oil
Ziplock bags (I used several sandwich sized baggies, but a single 1 Qt/L size bag would do better really.)
Here is the original reins that came with the bridle. I did not treat them because I have rubber reins that I prefer to use, plus it's fun to see the comparison:
Step one: Take bridle apart. This will allow it to fit into the bag better.
Step two: Get all bridle parts into the bag, packed as nicely as possible.
Step three: Pour enough neetsfoot oil into the bag for the tack to "soak" in. You'll need at least 1 cup. This can be poured off and re-used later, neetsfoot oil is not the cheapest thing ever.
Step four: Seal bag. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible, and make sure the bag is well sealed. Shake bag untill all the leather is drenched.
Step five: Leave bag for 30 min - 2 hours, then remove leather, wipe extra oil and then set bridle parts out to dry. Pour extra oil back into the bottle for later use.
Here is the end product on the bridle, set next to my nice HDR browband for comparison, as well as the reins in the original color (Bottom - Original Color, Middle - After Oil, Top - HDR):
Some cautionary notes: I don't recomend this for a high priced, or specialty dyed leather (like white, pink, etc.). High priced is a given, and specialty dyes often cover more like a paint then a true leather dye.
NEVER soak overnight. Neetsfoot oil has a potential to rot your stitching if you do this. It is safe to use so long as you don't soak for too long (according to my research the thing that rots stitching is a combination of Neetsfoot and Mineral oils, but better safe then sorry).
If you're Vegan/Vegitarian and only make exceptions for leather tack, be aware that neetsfoot oil is a byproduct of processing cattle. Seeing as you're already using leather tack this may not be an issue - however it is something that you should be aware of.