Taking care of your saddle is an absolute necessity. The reason for this is to maintain the quality and condition of your saddle throughout the years. For new riders, horse owners, or just equestrians who haven’t paid much attention to caring for their saddle, this will be the perfect step-by-step guide to teach you how to clean your English saddle.
The steps you must follow when it comes to cleaning your saddle include:
- Dusting off and wiping down your saddle
- Cleaning the entire saddle with saddle soap
- Using a clean, damp rag to wipe away the suds
- Using a leather conditioner to moisturize and polish the leather
- Taking a dry rag to buff the saddle and wipe away any leftover conditioner
- Cover your saddle with a saddle cover or a saddle pad
- Store your saddle in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight
Step 1: Dust Off & Wipe Down Your Saddle
If your saddle has been sitting in the tack room for a little while and it is not properly covered and protected, chances are that it is likely covered with a layer of dust. Even if your saddle hasn’t been just sitting, you would be surprised at how dusty and dirty it really is down in all those little crevices.
To dust and wipe down my saddle, I usually take a rag and dampen it with warm water. Cold water would work too, but I’ve noticed that leather will generally soften and become easier to work with if I use warm/hot water to wipe it down with.
When your saddle has been completely wiped down and no more dirt and dust remain, you are ready to move onto our next step!
Make sure to rinse your rag out and set it aside. You may need to use it again (assuming it isn’t too filthy).
Step 2: Wash Your Saddle Thoroughly with Saddle Soap
Just like when washing your hands, your hair, or your face, you also need soap to wash up your saddle. There are many different brands of saddle soap that you can use to clean the leather and remove any dirt, dust, or grime.
There are generally two types of soap you can use to clean your saddle. There is liquid soap and bar soap. With liquid soap, squirt it onto your saddle and with a dampened rag or sponge, begin to scrub your saddle all over. Make sure you are using a damp rag to clean your saddle as a dry rag would just absorb the soap.
With bar soap, use a wet rag or sponge and use the bar of soap to get your rag or sponge all sudsy and bubbly. Then, use that to scrub your saddle clean.
If your rag isn’t super dirty from wiping your saddle down, feel free to use that same rag for this step!
Don’t be afraid to be generous on the soap! Get that saddle clean!
Step 3: Wipe Away The Suds
Now that your saddle is all nice and soaped up, it is time to take off all those bubbles. Get a clean, new, dampened rag to wipe all the suds off of your saddle. You may need to rinse this rag off a couple times if it is extra bubbly from all the soap you used.
For this step as well, I recommend that you use a warm rag rather than a cold one to help soften the leather and help it to absorb the leather conditioner.
When you are finished, your saddle should look dark, shiny, and clean and should still be damp to the touch.
Onto the next step!
Step 4: Rub in the Leather Conditioner
Once your saddle is clear of any more soap and bubbles, go ahead and move in with the leather conditioner. You can use a rag, sponge, or even your hand to rub the conditioner into your saddle.
Think of the conditioner as lotion for your saddle. Rub it in on top of and underneath all parts of your saddle and make sure to especially work it into all the moving parts of your saddle such as your billet straps and stirrup leathers.
During this process, you should be able to see a difference in how your saddle looks now as compared to how it looked before you went through this process.
Step 5: Buff the Leather and Remove Excess Conditioner
If you are like me, you probably went a little overboard on the leather conditioner. If there is some excess conditioner on your saddle in certain spots, don’t worry! This next step will help you.
Take a new, clean, dry rag and rub your saddle all over in circular motions. This not only helps to take off any extra leather conditioner, but it also helps to give your saddle a last shine and dry it off a little bit too.
At the end of this step, you will see how your saddle looks now that it is cleaned, conditioned, and dried.
Step 6: Protect Your Saddle in Storage
If you are cleaning your saddle before your ride, at this point you are good to go ahead and use your saddle. If you are cleaning your saddle just for maintenance or after a ride, you need to start thinking about putting your saddle away.
Instead of just sticking your saddle on some saddle rack or even on the ground, you should take the proper measures to protect and preserve your saddle while it is not being used.
Covering your saddle with a saddle cover is the best way to store your saddle. If you are storing your saddle for an extended period of time, getting a heavy duty saddle cover that your saddle zips into would be your best bet. If you will be using your saddle regularly, you can just get a basic saddle cover that just goes over the top part of the saddle to keep it covered and dust free.
If you can’t find a saddle cover or you just haven’t gotten around to buying one, I would use an old saddle pad to cover your saddle with. This way your saddle is still safe and covered.
Step 7: Store Your Saddle Properly!
Once your saddle is all nice and clean and has been covered and protected, it is time to put it away.
The idea place to store a saddle is on a saddle rack in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. The reason for storing your saddle on a saddle rack is so the saddle is up off of the ground and the tree is supported.
You want to keep your saddle in a cool place out of direct sunlight to keep it from cracking, drying out, and baking in the intense sunlight.
Leather Cleaning Products I Recommend:
- Leather Honey Conditioner
- This product works great for moisturizing and conditioning your saddle. It has high reviews and is proven to work well on not just saddles, but also boots, bridles, breast collars, and other leather tack and equipment.
- Leather New Polishing Leather Soap
- This is one of the easiest saddle soaps to use that I have ever worked with. I recommend this soap to anyone looking for a fast and easy product to clean your saddle with.
- Fiebing’s Saddle Soap
- This is one of the most popular solid saddle soaps on the market. I use this saddle soap on my leather tack to get a good deep clean.
Now you know the steps you must take to clean your saddle. I hope this guide helps! Happy cleaning!