How much do you know about the metals used in your harness & bits? Did you know some bits taste better than others to your horse? Do you know what kind of maintenance is involved in different metals? Read ahead to be prepared!
Stainless Steel - most durable
"Stainless Steel" as it's most commonly called is usually of the 18.8 grade. That means the makeup of this especially strong metal has 18% Chromium and 8% Nickel added. Both of these chemicals increase the strength and finish of stainless steel. This allows the “steel” not to rust making the buckles used in horse equipment very strong in fact almost unbreakable, the color does not change and the metal does not stain. Stainless steel buckles can be casted or stamped from steel.
This is the fastest growing metal used in the horse business due to its strength and durability. The color of this metal is almost white in shade. The one issue with stainless steel is that it is a tasteless metal, which is not as pleasant tasting as bits made with other metals.
Solid Brass - most comfortable
Solid brass is an alloy of Copper and Zinc. It is a soft metal and works well against the skin of a horse due to its softness. The metal is a beautiful yellow color when shined. Unfortunately when it is not clean and shined, it takes on a dull orange color and looks unkept. This metal is the hardest to keep up but has the most impact on a set of show harness. There is no metal that carries the same lustre as solid brass. Due to its makeup, buckle tongues or prongs must be stainless steel for this buckle to be strong and useful. Solid Brass tongues simply pull thru the buckle frames when stressed as they are not strong enough to be used in the horse equipment application. Solid brass buckle tongs that match the buckles are perfect for waist belts and other non stress applications. Most solid brass is sand casted from ingot bars.
Nickel Alloy - classic favorite
Nickel alloy is what is termed a “Super Alloy”. It’s a metal made from Nickel and Copper. Over the years it has had different names in the equestrian market. It also known as “never-rust” . This metal was very popular in the post war until the mid 1980’s. It was commonly used in harness and bridle buckle work and in the making of bits. The metal has a beautiful silver color when shined. It needs some maintenance but not that of its brother metal, brass. Bits that have this special alloy mouthpiece also taste good to horses and promote a wet mouth. The alloy secretes copper when wet making it soft in a horse’s mouth. Unfortunately this “super alloy” isn’t commonly used any longer, but it’s a wonderful metal to use around horses.
Chromium Plating - shiniest finish
This special blue look finish is usually applied for a bright luster onto any base metal that will allow for plating. Many metals that are hand formed and not cast are chrome plated to give the buckles or bits a finished white metal look. I find that the base materials used are usually solid brass, then triple plated with Copper, Nickel and then finally flashed in Chrome for the brightest finish.
Chrome plating is tasteless and can wear and chip as it is electroplated onto the base metal. This finish does serve as the brightest finish in the industry supplying the 'blingiest' look!
Take a look around at all you harness metals and see if you can tell them apart.
TIP: You can test to see if you have any steel based metals by checking to see if they stick to a magnet!
Have fun, be safe and stay shiny!
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