So You've Just Bought Your First Saddle, Now What?
There's so many milestones when it comes to riding: Whether it's being off the lead for the first time, or working up to a new competitive level, these moments are absolutely priceless in our minds. So what about that day you come home with your first ever saddle? While it may seem like a low-effort purchase, proper leather care is essential to maintaining the quality of your tack, allowing it to last you decades.
So how do you take care of your saddle? The first step after taking it home should always be a good old fashioned hot oil bath. Think of it like a face mask: oiling provides new leather with much needed moisture, allowing it to stay supple and soft. This will also darken the leather a few shades, making it look absolutelt stunning. All you have to do is take 1-2 cups of olive oil, pop it in the microwave for 50 secs-1min (making sure the oil is hot, but not scalding), then using a sponge, douse the entire saddle.
While the saddle is drying there will be some discoloration, but don't panic! This is just the oil soaking in. For the first time doing this, you may need to apply a few coats to ensure your saddle is ready to go. After that, an oiling touch up every 3 months is perfect, using olive oil or other types provided by tack cleaning companies (We LOVE the Christian Lowe Saddle Oil).
After that, the process is fairly straightforward. For cleaning, try to do so after every ride, using hot water to get any grime off. We recommend the Effax Leather Cream Soap, or Fiebing's Liquid Glycerine Saddle Soap.
Once the saddle is cleaned it's best to let it dry well before conditioning. If it's wet before adding a balsam/cream type conditioner it can trap water in the leather causing mold. After it dries the saddle/tack can be conditioned with a liberal amount of your conditioner. Normally tack can be used an hour or two after this process so there won't be much oil/ conditioner transfer to breeches etc.
Most tack can either be cleaned and conditioned weekly or bi weekly depending on usage, it is always good to wipe it down though after every ride (and clean the bit). Billets do not need to be conditioned every cleaning as they are made from different leather and can stretch out too much if over conditioned, once every few months should suffice. All leather tends to be a little different and used differently in varying conditions and climates. Overall, use your tack cleaning tools as often as needed, so make sure to frequently check the condition of your leather, seeing if it needs any extra 'boost'.
While it may seem daunting, getting your first saddle is an awesome experience, and once you get into a routine of it, proper leather care is a breeze that is definitely worth it in the long run.
Recommended leather products:
Antares Leather Products
Christian Lowe Products