How to Care For a Saddle

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How to Care For a Saddle

Your saddle is well worth looking after. It is probably the most expensive piece of equipment you will ever buy as a rider. Every time you sit on your saddle and use it, it gets dirty.

Whether you are hacking out on roads and fields, riding cross country, hunting or endurance riding, you will end up with mud, dirt and sweat on the saddle.  During the summer months there will be less mud but a lot more sweat. 

Dirt will build up even if you are show-jumping or doing dressage in an arena. Mud and dirt also ends up on the saddle when the inside of your boot rubs against the saddle flap. No matter how clean your boots are, it always happens.

Sweat Damages Saddles

Your horse’s sweat ends up all over your tack. If sweat remains on the tack after use the leather will deteriorate and start to rot away. Over time, small cracks and splits start to open up in the leather.

These cracks provide a way in for water, dirt, grime, grease and the salt that is found in sweat. This weakens and damages the leather, eventually causing cracks and splits that cannot be repaired. This together with heat can cause the leather to dry out. Eventually it will crack or harden.

Most people put a cotton numnah (saddle blanket) under the horse’s saddle. This helps cut down the cleaning considerably. A numnah can be put in the washing machine and then dried, meaning that the whole underside of the saddle remains relatively clean. However, there are still the inner edges of the saddle flaps that the numnah might not have quite reached. Take care to clean these areas as they will be dirty.

Cleaning Leather Saddles

Cow hide is most commonly used for tack as it is exceptionally strong and hard-wearing. Calfskin, pigskin, or suede may also be used on more luxurious saddles, especially on areas such as the knee pads and skirt.  A leather saddle, well looked after, will last a life time or longer. To keep your tack in tip top condition you need to keep it clean and feed it. To ensure long years of use and to keep your tack in prime condition you need to clean it thoroughly after every outing. As a general rule when cleaning, conditioning and oiling your saddle always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Cleaning Equipment for Saddles

  • A bucket half full of hand temperature, warm water
  • A small piece of cloth, a piece of old towelling, face flannel size is ideal
  • An old tooth brush
  • A bar of Saddle Soap (usually sold in an oblong bar or in a tin)
  • A tin or spray can of Saddle Balm
  • Approx 14 x 5cm square of synthetic sponge (you can cut up a big one, smaller pieces are easier to handle)
  • Another piece of clean, old towelling
  • A clean tea towel

Saddle Soap and Saddle Balm are especially formulated for good quality saddles and other tack. Search eBay for reputable brand such as Carr, Day & Martin or Rideway. These brands also sell good quality sponges that are fairly dense in their make-up.  This makes them easier to use for cleaning a saddle than the typical household sponge which holds too much water.

Never throw any old towels away. They are endlessly useful especially as you can cut them up to smaller, more useful sizes, to help with your cleaning. Should you need to acquire some pre-owned towels, eBay is a good place to look.

Prepare your Saddle for Cleaning

Remove your stirrup leathers and irons and any numnah (saddle blanket) that might be attached to the saddle. Then take a clean cloth, soak it in warm water and wring it out thoroughly. Use it to wash any mud or sweat off the saddle. Do not soak the saddle, just wipe, or gently rub, off the dirt.  You may need to use an old tooth brush to get at any difficult, stubborn, bits of mud stuck in the stitching. Also remember to clean the underside as well as underneath all the flaps. Then let the saddle dry naturally for a while. If the saddle has been really wet, for example if you have been caught in a rain storm, clean it in this manner, but then leave it to dry a good few hours, so that it has totally dried out. Let it dry in a naturally warm room but away from direct heat. You will notice that the saddle now looks pale and dry. Now you need to replenish all the natural oils that have been removed. 

Using Saddle Soap

  • Take some saddle soap and dribble a small amount of warm water onto it.
  • Then take a clean piece of sponge and rub it firmly on the bar of soap. 
  • Next rub the soapy sponge onto the saddle
  • Repeat until the whole saddle is re-soaped

Do not dunk the sponge directly into the water as it soaks up too much and is then too wet to use. If your saddle soap becomes too soapy and frothy you will end up wetting the saddle all over again.  If you accidentally do this, start again with a new piece of sponge.  You will quickly discover the correct proportion of water to saddle soap by starting with as little water as possible.

As you are soaping your saddle, check that the stitching is all secure. Make sure that you soap over all the stitching as this helps to keep it strong.

You should clean the stirrup leathers in the same way.

Cleaning your Irons

  • Remove the irons from the leathers
  • Immerse them in a bucket of warm water
  • Scrub them carefully with a toothbrush
  • Towel dry and buff them up

If you have suede knee pads on the saddle, every so often take a strong wire brush, and brush the suede really hard. This will fluff up the pile of the suede again, removing the shiny, smoothed down look that comes with use.

Once or twice a year, when you have the time, give your saddle a really good 'feed', by using special Leather Balm instead of saddle soap. It is richer and thicker, and really helps soften the leather.  Leave the saddle to rest for a day or two to let the balm really soak in.

When you have replaced your clean stirrup leathers and irons, lay a clean tea towel over your clean saddle, to keep the dust off it.

Cleaning Synthetic Saddles

You can buy synthetic saddles as well as pure leather ones. You should clean these in the same way as leather. Use a warm, damp cloth to remove the dirt and sweat. Spray on a specialist saddle cleaner spray that has been formulated to protect the synthetic material. Remember to rub off any excess.

Storing your Tack

If for any reason you are not using your tack for a few weeks store it all in a warm, dry room.

How to buy Saddle Soap on Ebay

Now that you've worked out which Saddle Soap you want, find them quickly on eBay. While you shop, don't forget Bridles, Headcollars & Halters, Saddles, Lunging, Rugs & Sheet and Other Tack. To start shopping, go to the Sports and Leisure category. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click Equestrian.


The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Books & Magazines, Driving, DVDs, Horse Wear & Equipment, Prints & Art, Rider Clothing & Accessories, Stable Accessories, Trophies, Videos and Other Equestrian. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.

Product Finder

Use the Equestrian Product Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by type of product, brand, model and condition (new or used).

Keyword search

Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find Saddle Soap, type the keywords "Saddle Soap" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy Saddle Soap with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your item

Read the details in the item listing carefully. Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you. If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page. Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.

Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? 
  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? 
  • Are they positive about the seller?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.

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