It probably took you a while to decide on the right leather saddle for your horse. Price, fit and your individual discipline are all part of the saddle equation. It's likely you take meticulous care of your own skin, following a strict regime of cleaning and moisturizing. Leather saddles are made from porcine or bovine skin, requiring similar, regular care to stay in top condition.
To take proper care of your leather saddle, you'll need saddle soap or a similar leather cleaner, leather conditioner, small sponges, towels and a small bucket for water. Purchase some leather wipes for spot cleaning. When cleaning, use a only a small amount of water and cleaner -- foam shouldn't form on the tack, nor should the saddle get damp. Use another slightly damp sponge to remove the soap. About once a month, use conditioner on your saddle. If you live in a dry climate, you'll need to condition your saddle more frequently. After applying the conditioner lightly with a sponge or clean cloth, let it soak into the saddle. For best results, condition your saddle when you know you won't ride the next day, so that the conditioner has more than 24 hours to work its way into the tack.
Clean After Use
You've just come back from a long ride. After you hose down or sponge off your horse, groom him, pick his feet and go through the rest of the post-ride routine, you might not feel like cleaning your tack. If you can't muster a thorough cleaning, make sure to wipe any dirt and sweat off your saddle with leather wipes. Make sure to give your saddle a good cleaning after every other use, at minimum.
Always keep your leather saddle on a saddle rack designed for that purpose. If you're not going to use it for a while, make sure to store it properly. That means keeping it in a temperature-controlled environment, which might not be the average tack room. If you don't use your saddle, you should still condition it a few times a year, to keep the leather from drying out.
When shopping for a leather saddle, buy the best new or used one you can afford. A well-made and well-cared for leather saddle will last for years, while cheap leather tack usually won't stand up to long, hard use, no matter how frequently you clean and condition it. Think of a good leather saddle as an investment. If you take good care of it, you can sell it down the line for a decent price. Cheap saddles don't hold their value.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.