How to clean a saddle
by Caroline wood
Thursday 01 September 2011
Firstly, it needs to be understood what the reasons for cleaning saddles are. One vital reason is for safety. When cleaning a saddle this is the time to check for any damage such as stitching coming undone or cracks to the leather if the saddle is leather. If your saddle is leather, another reason for keeping it clean and supple is that untreated leather will in time become dangerous as it will crack and break.
You also need to think about the comfort for your horse as nice supple tack will feel much nicer for the horse than unclean brittle tack. What you are actually cleaning off your saddle is another question. Obvious things after a day’s hunting will of course be mud and dirt. Saddles will also build up grease from the horse especially on the saddle flaps and stirrup leathers.
To remove grease and dirt, hot water is a must. I see so many people trying to clean their tack in lukewarm water. Hot water will remove grease and dirt so much easier. A good sponge is also essential and should not be dripping wet as it is not necessary to get the saddle soaked in order to clean it. Wring the sponge out in hot water and wipe over the saddle paying particular attention to areas where grease and dirt build up, where a bit of 'elbow grease' may be required.
Rinse your sponge frequently and do not forget the underside of the saddle, especially girth straps. It may not be necessary to take off stirrup leathers and irons or girths every time your saddle is cleaned, but it is good practice to remove stirrup leathers and irons periodically and transfer to the other side of the saddle. The reason for this being that the left stirrup leather will stretch more as this is the side you mount.
I often check my stirrup leathers from time to time to make sure they are still the same length. You will be surprised at how often they can be one or two holes out on the left side. Once your saddle has been thoroughly cleaned it then needs a saddle soap or dressing on it to keep it supple. There are various products on the market, most of which do a good job. Most people have their own preference and some work better than others.
Before the winter, and during it, if my saddle gets wet, I will condition it with neat’s-foot oil once it is dry. Leather saddles will last a lifetime if looked after. I prefer to clean my saddle after every use, which in the summer just needs a wipe over before saddle soaping. In the winter this takes a bit longer with mud and dirt to remove, but I think it is worth the trouble to keep the saddle in good condition.
Tack rooms can become very cold in the winter and this will make the leather stiff if not cleaned regularly. Some people will have a heater in their tack rooms during the winter months to help prevent this.
Synthetic saddles are of course much easier to keep clean, only needing a wipe over and the stirrups leather soaping. All the same they still need looking after and checking for any signs of wear.
Photo by Just Chaos.
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