There can be a lot of confusion as to how often you should clean your saddle, with many old horse books stating to clean them with every use! This however is not always feasible or most likely, necessary. A good rule of thumb, is how often you actually use it. If you are someone who only goes for the occasional leisurely ride, you will not need to clean your saddle as frequently as someone who is competing in a sporting event where the saddle is exposed to dirt, mud and sweat.

If your saddle is kept uncovered or you happen to ride in an arena where your saddle is exposed to dust, it may be wise to clean your saddle to prevent grit from ruining the finish of the leather or drying it out. For general maintenance, wipe the saddle down with a dry cloth and for better precaution, use a saddle cover. With all this in mind, this article will explain how to use saddle soap in four easy steps.

Cleaning Equipment You’ll Need

Remove all Fittings

Before beginning the cleaning process, it’s important to take off all the saddle fittings such as the girth, stirrups and any buckles. This way you can easily access all the hard to clean places, where dirt and grime has a tendency to gather. With a lightly dampened cloth, wipe down any remnants of dust, dirt etc Always ensure you don’t wet the leather too much as this can actually dry the saddle out.

Clean the Leather

You’ll need to dampen the sponge, but once again make sure it’s not too wet. Dip the sponge into the saddle soap and build up a lather. Be careful when choosing saddle cleaners as sometimes they can contain harsh detergents which can over time damage the leather. Apply the lather to the leather and work it over the saddle in small circular motions, making sure you cover all surfaces including the top, undersides and between the flaps. Make sure you continue to rinse and re-lather the sponge, and in areas where there is more dirt built up, repeat a couple of more times ensuring not to wet the leather too much. Never apply soap or water to suede as you can easily wear through these sort of soft surfaces, instead simply use a stiff brush. The underside of a western saddle should typically be brushed with a stiff brush. Note, if you have an English saddle, don’t over wet the underside as you may damage the wool flocking underneath the leather.

Clean off Soap Residue

Remove any soap residue left behind with a damp towel followed by a dry towel. Ensure you wipe over the saddle thoroughly, as grit can get stuck in the residue and can eat away at the leather. A cotton swab or corner of a towel can come in handy when cleaning any stitching or small detailing.

Leather Conditioner

It’s important to condition your saddle after in order to keep the leather soft and to prevent it from cracking. A non-detergent conditioner is ideal such as neatsfoot oil, lanolin or beeswax. Apply the leather conditioner very sparingly as you don’t want to clog the leather and attract dirt. Be careful not to apply too much as the oil can soak through to the padding or tree underneath causing unnecessary damage.

It’s worth noting that some leather conditioners can darken the leather, so it is wise to test it first in a discreet place. Beeswax along with other thick conditioners can sometimes leave behind residue, but it’s nothing a towel and a little elbow grease can’t fix. To sum up, if you are looking for an easy, safe and affordable way to clean your saddle, look no further than saddle soap!


    March 10, 2022 — Greg Grant Saddlery