Hanging next to each other on a crowded tack shop wall display, an array of english bridles can look deceptively similar, even though their price tags range from $100 to $500. But bring those bridles back to the show room after five years' use and their differences are clear. Many of those on the lower end of the price scale may not make it back in five years, and those that do will often show their age in flimsy, stretched-out and/or cracked leather. Bridles made under the KL Select banner, however, will return looking not much different than when they left the store for everyday use in the schooling and show ring.
Formed as the Kensington Leather Company in 1987, the KL Select line of bridles attained a national reputation for top quality in the ensuing decade. Finest quality English leather and expert, loving craftsmanship in a moderately-priced bridle became KL's calling card. In 2004, the company introduced the Red Barn line of bridles and, more recently, KL Italia has joined the roster.
The Red Barn and KL Select lines are made of the renowned Sedgwick leather. Originating from Sedgwick, England, this leather is both beautiful and durable. Only blemish-free, top quality, Grade A cowhides make the cut as the source for Sedgwick leather, and the source for the KL Italia leather is of equally unsurpassed quality. The end result is a bridle that is instantly broken in and needs no oiling, and hand assembly that pays attention to the smallest details. The bridles' stitching is densely and evenly spaced and straight, the edges of the leather are dyed and the hardware fittings are strong and snug. Compare these characteristics with those of bridles made of lesser grade leathers and less emphasis on workmanship and the difference is evident.
KL's Dorrie Carters, a dressage rider herself, occasionally encounters "old-school" customers who remember the days when the first thing you did with a new bridle was dip it into oil, to darken the color and, mostly, to begin the process of softening it enough to ride in comfortably. She shudders at that thought today! "You should treat our leather the way you treat the leather seats in your luxury car or the leather jacket you bought at Neiman Marcus." A light wipe with oil is fine for those who want to darken the shade of their new bridle, but oil is otherwise never part of the regular maintenance routine for a KL Select strapgood.
The term "Sedgwick leather" turns up in the tags of many manufacturers' bridles, but Dorrie cautions that it's common to make some components out of Sedgwick and use a lesser grade leather on the rest. Red Barn bridles are 100 percent Sedgwick leather and KL Italia counterparts are 100 percent made of highest quality Italian leather. (Italian leather is slightly thicker and softer than Sedgwick, Dorrie explains. Both are the highest quality and the choice between them is based only on customer preference.)
The KL Select lines make loyal fans of their customers and that's a good thing because these bridles stay in use for years. "We have people who've had our bridles for close to 30 years," she notes.
Complete customizability is another valuable attribute of bridles under the KL banner. "Many of our customers want a part of their bridle changed," she notes. KL Select carries everything from cob to oversize components and getting them is no problem.
"When people spend a little bit more for our bridles, it's not just the bridle they're getting," Dorrie says. "They are buying a commitment from us. We answer our e-mails, return phone calls and do everything necessary to make sure they have a bridle that fits their horse." The company's generous return policy is not taken advantage of very often, but represents KL Select's commitment to quality in every way, including and especially, customer service. "We really stand behind all of our products and our customers become members of the KL family."
In addition to bridles and leather strapgoods, KL Select carries rider and horse apparel, united by KL's trademark emphasis on top quality in everything
For more information, visit www.klselect.com or call 860-437-7232.