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Spring Cleaning for Saddles
Mar 27, 2015

Spring Cleaning for Saddles

Looking good!
Looks like a brand new saddle!
With longer days and warmer weather, I'm sure everyone is getting the itch to get outside and get some stuff done. For many of us it's cleaning out the garage (still on my list) and for others it's scraping pens (also on my list) and cleaning tack (starting to check this one off)! For this post, we wanted to give some tips and tricks to cleaning and re-conditioning leather. This process applies to all kinds of finished leather (not rough out) and for all types of saddles (English and Western). Pictured is a Hintermayer Dressage Saddle. Before pictures on the left, after on the right. The last time I checked, I had 2 horses. Each of these horses has a more complete wardrobe than I do, with 3 saddles and matching bridles per horse. As anyone can imagine, that's a lot of leather to clean every year. I started with this saddle, as it needed the most love. The first thing I needed were supplies. * Warm water * Neutral-PH soap * Ammonia (to strip the wax where the leather needed to be dyed) * Leather-New * Ariat Mink Oil (in cake form) * Black Leather Dye * Atom Wax * Old tube socks and various rags and sponges and a scrap piece of denim * Tooth Picks and Q-tips, and a toothbrush * Bees Wax * A can-do attitude! With the warm water and neutral-PH soap (couple squirts in a couple quarts of water) and a tube sock over your arm (inside out), gently wipe down the leather, taking off all surface dust and opening up the pores of the leather. You can take a toothpick and q-tip to the stitching and get all the gunk out at this point. With half diluted ammonia and equal amounts warm water, gently wipe the areas where you need to re-dye the leather. In the case of this saddle it was the front of the knee rolls, and the seat/pommel area. When you're ready to dye the leather, be sure you are wearing clothing you don't mind getting dye on, and that your saddle is on a sheet, or on concrete where you don't mind permanent stains. Take a clean cloth and put some dye on it, then gently wipe the faded leather, try to not let it drip. Let the dye set in the leather, then rub the excess off with a towel, and sparingly apply the atom wax to seal it in. Then let the saddle sit for about 20 minutes before continuing to work on the saddle. Once you are ready to continue cleaning and conditioning the saddle, bring out your Leather-New. This product works fabulously getting into the hard to reach areas, and I find that it makes my leather shine. I use it on the underside of the flaps, billets, latigo (on a Western saddle) stirrup leathers, or fenders (Western), and skirt. If you really have grungy areas, use a bristle brush or tooth brush to scrape off the skudge (yes, that's a technical term) and make sure you don't damage your leather. The final stages of 'Spring-Cleaning' for my saddles is the final conditioner. I use my fingers, because the warmth of my hands further opens the pores of the leather, and allows the conditioner to penetrate deep in the grain of the leather, making it soft, supple and water resistant. Using the Ariat Mink Oil sparingly, I massage it into the billets, under the jockey flap, and under the flap. On a Western saddle, I would use Ariat Mink Oil on the underside of the fenders, on and under the skirt, around the pommel and gullet, around the rigging, the entire latigo and back cinch. Bees wax the leather edges and buff with denim when it's dry to help seal the edges of the leather. For a final shine, I use a scrap of denim and polish the leather on Western saddles (nylon on finished English tack). If you have silver on your saddle, getting silver polish really makes it pop! As I let motivation catch up to me, I will be deep cleaning all three of my western saddles, and will be using the same process for them as well. We hope this helped you out, and happy spring cleaning!