What is a “Pony Skin” foal?
A pony skin foal is a nurse mare foal born so a mare can provide milk to the thoroughbred foals born for racing. It is illegal to send foals under six months of age to the slaughterhouse, so these foals, from one day up to six months old are skinned for high end leather products.
Cordovan leather = fine leather named after Cordoba Spain.
Genuine shell cordovan is rare. Most leathers come from cows, but cordovan comes from horses (which are not, by the way, raised for this purpose). The “shell”, and let me put this as delicately as possible, is the subcutaneous layer that covers the equine posterior. Each horse provides two shells, which is just enough for a pair of shoes. A single shell isn’t long enough to form a seamless belt, so genuine shell cordovan belts will always be pieced. The most non-porous leather known, shell cordovan is distinguished by its lustrous waxy finish, superior durability, and suppleness that readily conforms to the shape of the wearer’s foot.
Cordovan is a corruption of Cordoba, the city in southern Spain where the technique of tanning this leather originated. Even today high volume production and fancy technology are powerless in its manufacture. Old school handwork is what gets the job done. The shells are put through a natural, vegetable tanning process, then hand-stained, glazed, and finished over a six-month period that demands the measured pace of craftsmanship and patience. Genuine shell cordovan is a leather with characer. It is known for taking on a rich patina that improves with wear and polishing. And tough as, well, a horse’s butt. (Taken directly from www.bensilver.com/style04/styleguide_link4.html)
It’s those things that account for the expensiveness of true shell cordovan leather. Added to which there’s only one tannery which still produces cordovan leather, Horween Leather in Chicago (www.horween.com). Having been in business since 1905, they are proud to offer fine leather products made from foal hides. Coincidentally, Horween’s other claim to fame is providing the leather for NFL footballs and professional baseball gloves. *** (please see comments below from Horween Leather.)
*** Dear Sirs,
I came across your web site and just thought for the sake of factual accuracy you would like to know the following. First, shell cordovan is indeed horsehide, but most assuredly not from foals- older horses only and the hide is strictly a by-product. Secondly, the leather used by the NFL for footballs is not horsehide and contrary to popular misconception it’s not pigskin either. Actually its cowhide, and once again the hide is a by-product of another industry. Thanks for your time—
Skip Horween, President
“Dear Ms. Pomroy,
Thank you for your note. I have no idea how those skins are used but I can assure you that we do not and have not used them. I have seen “pony” skin leathers and they are usually either hair on tannages that are labeled pony whether they are or not, or leathers that are from small (not young) horses. I also do not know who, if anyone uses these skins. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Equine Voices wishes to express our “Thanks” to Mr. Horween for his information in helping us to keep our facts in order.
Please take note:
Although many companies that carry leather products may not disclose what kind of leather these products are made of, if you care about these innocent lives, you may want to ask.
If you are wearing Birkenstock shoes…..you guessed it! Many styles are made from foal skins!
How about the gloves the New York Yankees play with, or any other baseball team??? Shall I say more?
Dog collars, shoes, leather sheaths by Case to hold your knives, bow hunting gloves, car seats. The list goes on and on, if it’s high end or low end, it’s possible the product is made from hides of foals like the one above.
If it’s illegal to slaughter foals under the age of 6 months in a slaughterhouse, how can this practice be legal now, and how can companies continue to be allowed to purchase hides from foals too young to go to the slaughterhouse?
Have you ever looked in the eyes of a 3 month old foal who has been taken from his/her mother while the mothers milk should be their main staple, run through an auction, numbers glued on their butts, and have stood in a kill pen waiting to become a couch or a purse? I am looking at 15 of them every day, and still, to this day, my jaw drops at the thought and the reality that such cruelty exists.