You and your horse are not the only ones who suffer from the heat, get parched in the sun and get filthy with dust in the Summer. Your tack and equipment is taking a beating.
After your horse, your saddle is probably your greatest investment and caring for it with the seasons in mind can make it last for decades. Here’s a guide on treating it that can be used across all of your tack and equipment (not your fine leather boots, see our Guide for Fine Leather for using different products and methods). At EQ, we have an array of Leather Services including the treatments for new tack, revitalizing boots, and re-conditioning saddles – and I always tell people: water doesn’t hurt your leather, but sun, sweat, salt, and dirt does!
Intended for 2–4 times per year, this treatment is the basis for re-conditioning, coloring, correcting damage or removing mildew. In summer this safeguards against dust, sweat, and sun and in the winter against harmful moisture. This process will strip and eliminate deposits from the leather, then restore moisture and suppleness and add a layer of protection.
Begin with the saddle turned upside down and work upwards – this way, every surface is treated and, in the final steps, ensures the final protective layer undisturbed once applied.
Its not out of the question to expect this result from a summer-ravaged saddle
TOOLS OF CHOICE:
Everyday Tack Tools
- Bucket of water
- Tack sponges (not kitchen scrubby sponges)
- Saddle soap (two of our faves: Fiebing’s Saddle Soap, Stubben’s Glycerin Soap)
- Conditioner (We use Effax, Stubben, Belvoir and Leather Therapy)
- Terrycloth towel, rag, or lint-less cloths from an auto parts store
- Nail brush or toothbrush
Special Re-conditioning Tools
- Basting brush and small artist’s paint brush
- Small container for oil (we use an empty mink oil past jar)
- Diamond Paste (not just for bits, cleans stirrup bars, buckles, etc.)
- Neatsfoot Oil (it’s denser and gives you better control than others)
- Deep Conditioner (deepest is Stubben’s Hamanol but usually Belvoir Leather Balsam)
- Mink Oil paste (the easiest ingredient for weatherproofing and softness)
- Gently wipe the tack / saddle with a clean, dry towel to remove dust
- Apply soap generously with dampened (not wet) sponge; work up a lather
- Rub in repetitive circular motion with the sponge areas that have oil buildup, discoloration or deposits (tackle an area about the size of your hand)
- this is the “stripping down” phase. Do not panic if some colour is ”lifted out” of tack during this phase, it will return with oil and conditioning
- Use the brush on metal surfaces; buckles, stirrups, etc. Try soap first; if deposits remain or there is a sign of mildew (usually white on leather or green on/around metal), use vinegar.
- Rinse with damp sponge until no lather remains
- Wipe excess moisture with cloth, paying particular attention to stitching
- When clean, polish metal with Diamond Paste
Allow saddle to dry (ideally, overnight) before oiling. Check leather thoroughly to identify particularly dry or discolored areas. Again, start upside down:
- Apply oil with a basting brush. Oil will be applied like paint, in coats, and may require a “touch up” in areas
- Do not pour oil drops directly on to tack – it will cause inconsistent coloring
- Where oil has not produced the desired result, use finger, paint brush or corner of cloth to apply a spot amount
- Allow oil to dry overnight before continuing
- Wipe excess oil with cloth, paying particular attention to stitching
- Apply a conditioner such as Leather Therapy or Belvoir Leather Balsam with a clean sponge or cloth.
- Allow to set for several minutes then wipe excess with cloth – again, pay particular attention to stitching
- Using bare hands, apply Mink Oil paste with a gentle rubbing action but not “rubbing in” or cracking/bending leather
- Ladies: take care not to scratch the leather with your nails!
- Wipe excess paste away with cloth, paying particular attention to stitching and crevices — do not allow excess buildup to remain.
- Leather should be supple and extremely soft – congratulations, you’re done!
Ashley Matchett Woods is the owner of The Equestrian’s Concierge at Sonoma Horse Park in Northern California. EQ offers expert cleaning, darkening, weatherproofing, conditioning and restoration services for your saddles, tack and fine leather boots.
www.EquestrianConcierge.com — www.blog.EquestrianConcierge.com