You’ve shopped around and found the perfect saddle fit. It sits your horse’s back nicely, it feels like it was made for your rear, and it’s comfortable enough to ride all day. Maybe it was a long road to find the right saddle, or maybe you lucked out and nailed it on the first try. Either way, now that you have your new ride, you’ll want to take care of it and make it last for years to come.
Caring for your saddle can ensure that it stands the test of time. It can also keep it a comfortable ride for your horse. Cleaning it properly is also key. Here are 5 tips to ensure a proper cleaning for your cherished saddle.
Take Time After Each Ride
You certainly don’t need to do a deep clean on your saddle after every ride. But, taking a few minutes to knock the dust off isn’t a bad idea. Keep a piece of sheepskin or a soft towel in your tack room and give your saddle a quick wipe after each ride. Arena or trail dust, rain, mud, sweat, and other things can accumulate quickly on your leather. Wiping away residue can help prolong the life of your saddle and keep your leather looking fresh.
Another good habit to develop pre or post ride, is to check the underside of your saddle. Look for anything that might irritate your horse’s back. Check for areas of wear that you need to keep an eye on. Your saddle pad should keep the underside of your saddle clean, but being detail-oriented and checking often can save you headache down the road.
Assemble the Team
We’re not suggesting that cleaning your saddle is more than a one-person job, but you will need a team of products or supplies to get a good clean. Before you begin your thorough cleaning, knock off any mud or deep-seated dirt with a bristle brush or air compressor. If using a brush, don’t go wild with the scrubbing and damage the intricate tooling.
A good leather soap of your choosing will be your next MVP. A sprayable saddle soap is handy for hitting the spots you’re aiming for. Don’t forget to have a soft cotton cloth or something similar to rub in that soap. After the saddle air dries you can move on to the next steps. If your saddle is older or the leather has stiffened up, a leather cream or conditioner might be what the doctor prescribed to get that leather softer. For those that ride on the trail or ranch, and might get caught in the wayward rainstorm, a coat of waterproofing might not be a bad idea.
Did You Miss a Spot?
If you’re going to clean your saddle, clean the entire thing! Don’t be fooled into thinking that wiping a thin layer of saddle soap across the skirt is enough to protect the leather. Get on top and under the fenders, clean the stirrup leathers, behind the cantle, and shine up that pommel. Don’t neglect the back billet, and back cinch. Polish up that tooling but be sure to wipe off any excess soap or oil, and don’t overdo it with product.
While you’re at it, give your cinch a good cleaning and remove any hair or buildup that could irritate your horse. Take the time to wipe down your saddle strings and shine up your conchos to put the final touches on.
Time For a Quality Assurance Check
Keeping an eye on your tack for signs of wear or tear is good practice before every ride. However, during a deep clean is a great time to look over your gear carefully and make note of anything that might prove to be trouble down the road.
Is your latigo leather stiff and brittle? Does your cinch show signs of fraying and wear? How about the cinch hobble between your back and front cinch, is it in good shape? Take the time to look over all the small details that can be easy to miss when you’re saddling up. Leather that is cracked or split on any of your gear is a safety hazard and should be replaced immediately.
Don’t Undo Your Hard Work with Improper Storage
If you’re taking time to check your gear and caring for it with proper cleaning, don’t undo your hard work by storing your saddle improperly. If you can’t store your saddle in a climate-controlled area, keep it in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
Let it dry completely after cleaning it, before storing it away. Leather needs to breathe, so don’t store your saddle in a tight, compressed bag or anything of the like. Let each saddle have its own saddle rack and try to avoid stacking them on top of each other. Then, feel accomplished that you’re taking care of your expensive investment and keeping you and your horse comfortable at the same time!