Working with horses and cattle requires comfortable, durable clothing to do the job well. Western clothing designers have developed garments and accessories that both look good and suit the unique cowboy lifestyle.
Cameron Baldus (pictured above) of Bowie, Texas, is the wife of performance and ranch horse trainer Ben Baldus, and she’s also a Western wear model. She offers some tips to help keep your Western attire in good condition.
After wearing your straw hat during a summer day, Baldus suggests placing it in a location where it can get airflow, to allow any sweat to dry out before wearing it again. For a felt, it’s best to store it in a hat box. She says that her husband usually sets his hat in a safe place, brim side up, which helps the hat brim keep its shape. She adds that some horsemen believe there is another good reason to leave it upside down.
“I’m not superstitious at all, but apparently there’s cowboy lore that you’re supposed to store the hat like that so that all the luck doesn’t fall out,” Baldus says.
Baldus sends most Western shirts out for either dry cleaning or laundry with heavy starch. Even if she washes them at home, she makes sure to iron them. The most important thing is to check all the buttons to make sure they’re intact before wearing.
At a competition, Baldus keeps a Tide pen nearby, in case of stains. If you do get a stain, she recommends blotting and pre-treating—even if it’s just with a paper towel—and taking the shirt to the cleaners as quickly as possible.
You can reduce stains with some style choices, too.
“If you know you’re going to be doing some work that is dirtier, you can roll the sleeves up on your shirt or put a vest on to keep your shirt in better condition,” Baldus says.
To keep your jeans in good condition, Baldus suggests washing after each day of riding—maybe after two days if it’s winter and you’re not sweating. And during the day, if you get shavings or horse sweat on your jeans, if you can, address it as it happens.
“If the hem of your jeans gets dirty while you’re cleaning stalls, I grab a stiff horse brush from the tack area, and brush off the hem throughout the day,” Baldus said. “That helps quite a bit.”
The most important thing you can do for your chaps is to wipe off dirt and sweat and apply leather conditioner suitable for the material every couple of rides, to keep them from cracking.
Baldus also advises inspecting the hardware before use to make sure conchos haven’t come loose and strings are not broken.
“The biggest thing you can do for any of your gear is to double-check everything before you get ready to ride or show,” Baldus said. “Make sure it’s all in good working order. That will help save a lot of stress. Inevitably that stuff breaks or falls apart, and it’s somehow at the least opportune times.”
Your boots take a beating when working around horses and cattle. Baldus takes a bristle brush to the leather at the end of each day to remove excess grime. If they’ve gotten wet, she’ll spray on a leather conditioner and leave it overnight. Allowing the boots to dry before wearing them again is key.
“Even if you only do it once a week, if you can put your boots out to dry out completely for a day and apply conditioner, that will really help them,” Baldus said. “I’ve had several bootmakers tell me you can put leather conditioner on the inside of the upper part of the boot, too, and that helps.”
Baldus sticks to practical jewelry for riding and showing, and uses jewelry cleaner for those pieces. For sterling silver items, she cleans with a silver cleaner and frequently wipes off the dust, dirt and grime.
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