How to Care for a Leather Saddle

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How to Care for a Leather Saddle

The saddle is one of the most expensive and important pieces of tack. It is the item that has as much connection with the horse as it does with the rider and if not properly cared for can seriously affect the comfort of both.

Providing the saddle is well fitted and is suitable for the type of riding, it is very comfortable and puts exactly the right amount of pressure on the right areas of the horse’s back to allow it to work freely.

Cleaning the saddle is probably the most important area to be covered but there are other considerations.


More saddles are damaged beyond repair by being stored in a damp or cold environment. If they are put in such places, even if covered, then the leather will suffer and ultimately perish. If rodents can get to them they can be badly chewed and damaged.It is as well therefore to store any saddle in a dry environment at a good height off the ground. Cover the saddle with an old blanket as this will keep the dust and, if there is any damp, mildew off the leather.

Saddle racks are easy to make so the saddle can sit, as if on a horse, on the central and strongest part of the unit. Storing a saddle with its ‘wings spread’, so to speak, puts pressure on the construction and in time will weaken it. Before storing a saddle it is very important to make sure it is completely clean and dry. Mud or sweat left on the saddle will eventually cause it damage. Water on any of the metal work will cause rust, which can weaken some very important elements of the saddle.

Stripping Down

To strip down a saddle every so often is very important. This means that every element of the saddle is closely examined and checked. If it is not done regularly then pockets of dirt and sweat can build up in tight corners and start to rot the leather.

Other Dangers

Leather in general does not react well to damp conditions but it also dries out in very hot conditions. Don’t be tempted to leave a saddle in a hot boiler room or drying room for too long as the leather will dry out and start to become brittle. If left for too long in these conditions it becomes very difficult to revive the leather and it may become beyond repair.

Chemicals, detergents, paint and oil can be very damaging to leather so make sure that nothing can be spilled on the saddle when it is in storage.

Leaning saddles on their backs against wall can damage the particularly thin leather that covers the seat. Avoid this as re-covering a saddle is very expensive.

The storage and standard care of a saddle is common sense. If the location is dry and clean and the saddle itself is dry, then it will not suffer. Check it every couple of months to make sure that some unsuspected incident hasn’t occurred and possibly apply a little saddle soap to keep the leather supple.

As far as the daily care of a saddle is concerned the general rule is that it should be cleaned every time you use it. This is often an unrealistic expectation and generally not required. If a saddle has got particularly dirty and sweaty it should be cleaned but it is not necessary to clean the saddle if it has been used for a short hack on a summer’s day. In fact a little sweat and constant use helps keep the leather in good condition. Saddles that are not used very much are often in worse condition than those that are.

The saddle is almost entirely leather. Leather when well looked after will last a great many years. It needs to be kept supple and well cleaned. There is a very straightforward method to cleaning a saddle properly.

For the everyday or regular clean the following equipment is essential:

If the saddle has got particularly wet then it may be advisable to apply some more powerful feed to the leather but only after it has been properly cleaned of any mud and dried out fully. Here the use of Neatsfoot Oil or CoachoLine might be appropriate.

Method of Regular Cleaning


Strip the saddle down, taking off the numnah (saddle blanket), stirrup leathers, martingale or any other attachment.


With a damp but not wet sponge wipe over the whole area of the saddle. Take care to clean the bottom side of the saddle and under the saddle flap.


Clean well into the stirrup bar; be sure there is no build-up of old soap in that area.


Be careful not use any household soap or detergents in the water as these can seriously erode the leather.


Do not make the saddle too wet. If there are areas that are very damp, leave the saddle for a while or rub it down with a dry towel.


Take the saddle soap and dip the soap (not the sponge) into the water.


Use the second and dry sponge to work in the saddle soap. If the second sponge is made wet, the saddle soap tends to get too lathery or frothy. It will then not sink into the leather in the right way.


Once the second sponge is well soaped, sponge down the saddle in all areas with the saddle soap. You cannot really over-soap a saddle; the leather will soak it all in providing there isn’t too much water in the soap. The saddle should start to show a lustre. This is not a shine but more of a healthy gloss, very like good, healthy skin.


With a towel, give the stirrup bars and any other metal work a good polish. Towel the stirrup irons, having soaked them in the bucket of warm water.


Clean the stirrup leathers, martingales and any other leather tack in the same way as the saddle.


Having cleaned and soaped the saddle thoroughly, the stirrup leathers, breastplate or other accessory can be re-fitted to the saddle.


A tidy finish to the job and good way of storing the saddle with stirrups attached is to pull the stirrups right up the leathers to the stirrup bars and push the spare stirrup leather back through the stirrup. Like this the stirrups do not dangle. This makes the tack much easier to store tidily or carry.

A blanket or towel can be placed over the clean saddle to prevent dust settling on it. This is particularly useful when storing a saddle in a barn or old stable block as birds can often fly in and out of such places. Their droppings stain the leather and can damage the saddle.

If a saddle gets very wet or very sweaty and dirty then there are some more extreme remedies to quickly rescue the leather before it gets too badly damaged.


Take the wet saddle and dry it out in a warm place but without using direct heat.


Remove as much of the dirt and moisture from the leather as you possibly can.


Be careful to check under the flaps and the underside of the saddle.


Take some high quality Neatsfoot oil and pour about a cupful into a pan.


Warm up the oil on a low heat so that it is hot but not bubbling.


Take a clean brush (soft kitchen basting brushes work well) or cloth and liberally apply to the saddle.


Leave overnight to suck in the oil and regain its lustre.


Providing there are no oil deposits on the surface of the saddle, give it a light saddle soaping after 24 hours and store in the usual way.


There is a product called CoachoLine, which does a similar job to Neatsfoot and does not require any heating up. The only danger with this product is that if it is over applied to the seat of the saddle it can stain breeches or jodphurs red.

An underused saddle is much more likely to suffer damage or decay than a well used one.  Leather actually improves with use and so caring for saddles or any high quality leather is almost more important when they are in storage or not being used daily.

How to buy Leather Saddle Soap on eBay

You can find saddle soap quickly and easily on eBay. While you shop, don't forget Saddles, Other Tack, Grooming & Health, Bridles, Supplements & Treats and Food. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click Equestrian.

Categories: 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 and Videos. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.

Product Finder

Use the Saddle Soap Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by brand, model and condition. (new or used)

Keyword search

Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find new saddle soap, type the keywords "saddle soap new" (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 Leather 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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