The Ultimate Guide to Proper Saddle Care
With any new saddle purchase, you should know the steps to keeping your saddle in great shape. Saddles are significant investments, and with the right amount of care and maintenance, your saddle can last for years. To make sure you get enough bang for your buck, use this ultimate guide for proper saddle care.
Cleaning Your Saddle
Cleaning your saddle is the root of quality saddle care. Here’s all you need to know about cleaning a saddle.
Supplies You’ll Need
Along with your purchase of a new saddle, make sure you have all these essential cleaning items to go along with it:
- Leather cleaner
- Saddle or glycerin soap
- Leather conditioner
- Bristle brush
- Accessory cleaner
- Small bucket
Saddle Cleaning Steps
Step One: Preparation
The first step in cleaning your saddle is to prepare it for washing. Start by unfastening any buckles and removing any fittings so that you can better access all the areas of the saddle. Once you’ve removed all the accessories and buckles, use a slightly damp towel to remove any loose dirt buildup or other particles.
Step Two: Cleaning
After you’ve prepped your saddle, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty cleaning. Using a damp sponge, apply a thin layer of saddle soap, glycerin soap, or leather cleaner to your saddle in a small, circular motion. Make sure to cover the entire leather area of your saddle, avoiding any suede areas and including the undersides of the leather and between the flaps. You may also need to use a bristle brush to dig into tight crevices and regions.
Depending on how dirty your saddle is, you may need to rinse the sponge and reapply the soap several times. The goal is to make sure you’re rubbing the cleaner, not any leftover dirt residue, into the saddle.
Step Three: Removing Residue
Once you’ve lathered and rinsed your saddle, it’s time to make sure there’s no leftover soap residue. Switching to a clean, damp towel, wipe down the saddle to remove any excess soap residue. It’s especially important to clean the crevices and folds where soap can easily accumulate. Otherwise, the residue can damage your saddle if left for too long.
Step Four: Conditioning
Leather conditioner will naturally restore the fibers in your leather saddle to avoid dryness, which can result in stiffness and cracking. Use your leather conditioner sparingly and follow the instructions on the label, as using too much conditioner can cause damage.
Step Five: Cleaning Metal Fittings
After the leather portions of your saddle are clean, move on to the metal fittings. Wipe them with a dry cloth to remove any excess cleaner. If your saddle has silver buckles or trim, apply a quality silver polish, but make sure you don’t get any on the leather.
How Often Should You Clean Your Saddle?
Ideally, you should clean your saddle after every ride. Every time you ride, your saddle will accumulate dust, dirt, and sweat. If you don’t ride as frequently or don’t have the ability to wash your saddle after every ride, keep a close eye on its condition. Look for signs of excessive dirt buildup, which will signal it’s time for a cleaning.
Additional Cleaning Tips
- If the leather on your saddle is very dry, there are plenty of additional treatment products, such as oils and balms, that will restore your saddle’s moisture. You’ll want to use these products sparingly and according to the products’ instructions.
- For synthetic leather saddles, use warm water mixed with a gentle soap. Make sure you let these saddles dry in the sun after washing them.
- Warm water is very drying to leather, so make sure you immediately follow up with conditioning.
How To Store Your Saddle
Anytime you must store your saddle for an extended period of time, you should thoroughly clean and moisturize it first. Regardless of how long you store your saddle for, finding a temperature-controlled environment in which to keep it is suggested. Extreme heat and cold are often detrimental to leather.
Covering your saddle with fabric or newspaper will let the saddle breathe when it’s not in use while keeping it free of any dust or dirt buildup. If you’re leaving your saddle out in the open, be wary of rodents. Leather can often attract rodents searching for food, so it’s best to keep your saddle in a safe, rodent-free location.
Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Saddle
No matter the care you put into your saddle, there will come a time when you must replace it. Every time you clean your saddle, you should also inspect it for excess or abnormal wear. Some wear and tear, such as loose stitching, will warrant a repair, while others will require replacing your saddle altogether. Here are a few other things to look for:
- Wear on the seat. Inspect the area where your pelvis and thighs meet the saddle seams. This area holds the seat onto the skirts, and it can quickly become worn down.
- Worn-out panels. Padding, including foam and wool padding, will degrade over time. Foam loses its support, and wool flocking can get lumpy and compressed. To check the panel conditions, poke the saddle’s panels and look for uneven, soft, or lumpy areas.
- A compromised saddle tree. If you hear unusual squeaking or if balancing becomes more complicated, it’s time to replace your saddle, as the tree is likely broken.
Depending on the repair cost with a saddler and on the age and state of your saddle, it may make more sense to replace your saddle than to repair it. If you find it’s time to replace your saddle, check out Coolhorse’s selection of new ranch saddles for sale or one of our many other saddle offerings, such as roper, show, and trail options.
Saddles are expensive investments. To make sure your money doesn’t go to waste, you’ll want to keep your saddle in the best shape possible. Follow this ultimate guide to proper saddle care to keep your saddle well maintained for years to come.