How to Clean a Saddle

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One of the most important things an equestrian needs to do is take care of their equipment. We invest a lot of money into our tack, apparel and other horse gear. So we need to make sure that it stays in the best condition for the longest amount of time possible. This won’t just make your hard earned dollar go further and make your stuff look really nice, but it will also be safer for both you and your horse.

So when it comes to taking care of our equipment, cleaning and conditioning our leather tack is a good way of maintaining its condition. I will personally clean both my Ego 7 Orion Field Boots and Bates Caprilli Close Contact + Saddle in the luxe leather after every ride. I’ll also clean my horse’s bridle and other leather tack after each ride too. This will get rid of any sweat and dirt off of the leather and will help the leather stay soft.

While I’m cleaning and conditioning, I make sure to pay attention to all of the stitching and seams. Just like when you’re brushing your horse, this is the perfect opportunity to check the condition of your equipment. That way, you can foresee if there are any places that need to be restitched or repaired in the future before it’s too late. Trust me, you want to prevent any accidents from happening. I once borrowed a saddle in which the stirrup leathers had been used so much and were so brittle that one of them broke while I was riding and on my way to a jump. It’s a very scary feeling when something that you’re trusting to support your weight gives out from under you so unexpectedly.

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Now with all of that in mind, I thought I would share with you how I clean my saddle (which is also the same way that I clean my boots). Since I bring my gear back home instead of leaving it at the barn, I’ve bought my own soap and conditioner. At the stable, I’ll clean my school horse’s bridle with the soap that they supply. Regardless, the principle is the same. As for the saddle soap that I use on my gear, I tend to gravitate to the Stubben Glycerin Soap. Bates recommends that you use a glycerin based soap for their leather. And the fact that this one is in a resealable container that will keep it clean is a big plus in my eyes. There’s nothing worse than a dirty bar of soap because everything sticks to it.

I first start off with filling up a container with warm water. Then I’ll grab my sponge, wet the sponge and then wring it out before I go into my soap. The goal is to get the sponge damp enough so that it can apply the soap all over the saddle, but you don’t want it too wet so that the saddle gets soaked and there are soap suds everywhere.

I tend to work from the top down. So I’ll start at the seat of the saddle, then work towards the stirrup leathers and then the flaps. From there, I’ll lift the flap to clean the girth billets and the other side of the flaps before I turn the saddle around and clean the underside. I make sure to clean every area that I can reach and where dirt might be collecting. Obviously, don’t force your way anywhere on your saddle, you don’t want to encourage the wear of the seams of your saddle.

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Finally, once the whole saddle has been cleaned, I’ll go in with a conditioner. Again I made my purchase based on Bates’ recommendations. They say that it’s best to treat their leather with a balsam. They do supply a small container of it when you buy one of their saddles to initially break it in. Since I’ve finished that little container, I decided to buy the Bates Leather Cream. Even though it’s not as thick, I find that the saddle absorbs it well and the leather is left really soft and supple. I’ve used a more ointment like balsam in the past which I find leaves a bit of a greasy residue that takes a while to absorb. This cream doesn’t take long at all. In fact I usually end up reapplying a second coat to the areas that get the most wear like the knee rolls and the seat. That way, they stay in the best condition possible.

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The application process is pretty similar to how I clean my saddle with the soap. I’ll apply the conditioner either to the sponge or directly to the saddle. Then, in a circular motion, I’ll work it into the leather everywhere I had gone with the soap.

So far, I’m quite happy with the results of this routine. It leaves my boots and saddle moisturized and in ‘like new’ condition. They’ve never felt dry or brittle. I guess time will tell. Hopefully this routine will extend the life of my investments.

Let me know if you have any product recommendations or if you clean your tack differently than I do. I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time, happy riding!

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