Taking Care of Your Saddle
Isn't leather divinity? The look, the feel, the smell - everything about a soft leather saddle is so luxurious. If you love your leather saddle, you'll want to do everything you can to keep it looking wonderful for years to come. But, let's not forget to take care of the saddle tree and panels too, which are really the foundation of a good saddle and so important to the health of your horse. Taking good care of your saddle will not only increase its useful life, but will also help it retain value. Below are a few tips to help you protect your investment!
1. Wipe your saddle clean after each use.
If sweat and dirt build up on your saddle, it may lead to the leather cracking and breaking. This decreases the value of the saddle and can be very dangerous if critical equipment, such as a stirrup leather, breaks while you are riding. Therefore, you should wipe your saddle with a slightly damp sponge of warm water after you ride. And, if your saddle is extremely dirty, a good saddle soap may be helpful. Use as little soap and water as required so you do not saturate the leather. In addition to protecting the leather on your saddle, a clean saddle also rides better.
2. Apply leather conditioner on your saddle.
Clean the saddle first and allow it to dry completely. Then condition your saddle to keep the leather soft and prevent it from cracking. How often you need to condition your saddle will depend on your saddle's type of leather and your riding conditions. Your saddle leather should feel neither brittle nor limp and floppy. If your leather seems limp, it's likely that you are over-conditioning, which will weaken the fibers and decrease the useful life of your saddle. If in doubt, check with your saddle's manufacturer for recommendations.
3. Be careful about conditioning billets.
Too much oil weakens the leather and can cause your billets to give way when you are riding. It's a good idea to condition your billets about once a year to keep them from drying out, but do not over-condition.
4. Keep your saddle covered when not in use.
A saddle cover will protect your saddle from collecting dirt and dust and will discourage furry friends from making it a scratching post.
5. Store your saddle on a padded saddle rack.
Padding on a saddle rack protects the leather from abrasion and indents that saddle racks can cause. It also prolongs the life of your panel material, as panels with wool, foam, or air will compress quicker on a hard surface.
6. Travel with your saddle on a padded saddle rack.
It's fine to occasionally position your saddle on the cantle or pommel, but if you travel with your saddle on a regular basis, invest in a saddle rack that is covered with padding. Storing your saddle on the pommel regularly may damage the tree and wrinkle the flaps.
7. Don't leave your saddle in a hot car.
Extreme heat can dry out the leather and warp some saddle trees.
8. Lunge without stirrups or cover the stirrups.
Lunging with stirrups attached may leave dents and scratches in your leather. To protect your expensive leather saddle, lunge without stirrups or cover the stirrups with a thick fabric or padding while lunging.
9. Do not stack saddles on top of each other.
Stacking saddles can lead to divots in your panel material and wrinkles and scratches in your leather.
10. Keep your saddle dry.
High humidity and dampness will encourage mold and mildew growth on your leather. If your saddle does get wet, allow it to dry naturally and away from heat sources.
11. Run your stirrups up instead of tossing them over the saddle.
As previously mentioned, the stirrups may leave dents and scratches in your leather. Be cautious when allowing your stirrups to touch your saddle.
12. Avoid mounting from the ground.
Besides being harsh to your horse's back, mounting from the ground can also twist the tree over time.
13. Maintain your saddle panels.
At a minimum, foam and air panels should be checked once per year and wool panels should be checked at least twice per year. If you have a saddle with new wool flocking, it should be evaluated after the first 20 hours of riding. Since wool conforms to the shape of a horse's back, avoid using a wool-flocked saddle on multiple horses.
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