A leather saddle is a big investment, so you’re going to want to do whatever you can to extend its longevity. Even with heavy use, the proper care can help ensure that your saddle will last a lifetime.
There are two basic principles that will help your saddle: storage and cleaning.
When you’re not riding your saddle, where do you keep it? Start with the proverbial cool dry place. Too much sun and heat can dry out the leather, and cause it to crack, while too much moisture can cause it to stretch.
It’s important that your saddle retains its shape, for your comfort as well as that of your horse. A saddle stand helps keep your saddle high enough off the ground so everything can hang free, including the stirrups. Make sure the stand is wide enough so the saddle doesn’t sag in the middle. A saddle cover will also help provide protection against dust, dirt, insects, or anything that can spill on it. Sheets or cloths are sufficient, just don’t use plastic, as that can trap moisture.
If you travel with your horse and tack, get a padded saddle carrier for to help add a little extra protection against scratches and dings.
It’s a simple fact: If you ride your horse outside in the elements, your saddle will get wet. Before putting your saddle into its storage area, gently wipe away any excess moisture, and let the leather air-dry naturally, without heat.
But more than that: If you ride your horse, your saddle will get dirty. Give it a thorough cleaning regularly. Start with saddle soap (use bar soap or paste, not liquid soap) with a good sponge, and create a good lather with as little water as possible. Clean all sides of the leather and straps. Let your saddle dry naturally.
You’re already keeping your saddle in a cool dry place, but don’t let it get too dry. A good saddle conditioner can treat the leather without adding too much moisture. Follow the directions on the products, but lightly applied coat will be enough.
Make It Routine
This may sound like a lot of work, but it is all worth the effort. Just as you take care of your horse, you will want to take care of your tack, and the results–especially long-term–will be worthwhile.