Your saddle is probably your most expensive piece of tack. When used regularly it is advised to clean your saddle at least once a month. If you use the saddle multiple times a day or go on trail rides regularly it should be done more often. Proper maintenance extends your saddle's life expectancy.
- Remove any loose parts from your saddle before you start cleaning. Stirrup straps, stirrups, girth and saddle pad should be removed. Remove excessive dirt with a cloth or brush.
- Use saddle soap (fluid or solid) or a tack cleaner to clean the entire saddle (seat, panel, saddle flap, skirt, and knee roll)
Saddle soap will remove sweat, dirt and grease. Don't use too much water as this will make the leather tough. Make sure to wring the spunge you might use. Too much moist might result in the stitching coming loose.
- Before treating your saddle make sure it is dry and clean. Leather dries best at room temperature. Mind though, don't store the saddle next to central heating or any other heat source as this might desiccate the leather.
- Now that the saddle is clean and dry you can treat it with leather balm, oil, or conditioner. Again, treat the entire saddle. Don't use leather oil for the seat.
Rub the balm or conditioner with a cloth or spunge and oil with a brush. A proper rub works wonders and is often better than simply applying profusely. Leave it to soak before rubbing it dry with a clean, pilling free cloth. Before you use it again you could wipe the saddle one last time to remove excess leather balm.
Watch out with leather oil. Oil is absorbed much quicker and therefore needs to be applied more often. This does make the leather extra supple, and thus extremely useful for girthstraps and stirrup leathers. Leather oil is not the best choice for the knee roll and seat (soft parts).
- Watch out with suède saddle flaps. Don't treat these with balm or oil, but use special suède sprays
- Story your saddle in a dry, well-ventilated area and use a saddle support. Watch out ammonia smells, as this deteriorates leather. Freezing temperatures don't hurt a saddle.
- Use a saddle cover to protect the saddle from damages and dust.
- Remove the pad, sheepskin pad and girth each time. Bacteria from sweat and filth can damage your saddle.
- Use a clean saddle pad regularly. It's not just for the saddle, but for your horse's coat as well.
- Stainless steel cleaner is available for your stirrups.
- Treat your saddle at least one day before use to allow the conditioners to do their job.
Maintenance of synthetic saddles
Synthetic saddles are much easier to maintain. Remove sweat, dirt and filth on a regular basis. Use a moist cloth and a spray for synthetic products. Rub the saddle with the moist cloth, use a hard brush to remove tougher filth. Use a clean moist cloth to wipe the saddle.
No additional conditioner is needed.
Tip: many synthetic saddles have leather detailing. Don't forget to use balm on these parts.
How to select the uptimal gullet:
1. Ensure your horse is standing square and is on level ground. In order use the Easy Change Gullet Gauge it needs to be positioned where the tree points will be within your saddle. Once you have the saddle in position make a marking under the spot where the saddle nails are located on each side of your horse.
To check that your saddle is positioned correctly, check that your chalk markings are approximately three fingers distance from the edge of your horse’s shoulder.
2. Place the Easy Change Gullet Gauge vertically over your horse’s wither. Align the Gauge with the reference point you previously noted.
3. Ensure the gauge over your horse’s wither where the chalk markings are and check to see that the marked bearing area is lying evenly in contact with your horse on BOTH sides. The centre of the gauge should be well clear of your horse’s wither.
4. The gauge will now indicate the correct coloured gullet for your horse. Repeat the procedure with the gauge every three to six months to ensure your saddle stays comfortable for your horse with changes to its shape and muscling with maturity and fitness level.
It is recommended to repeat the steps here above every three months to see if you are still using the right tree size for your horse.
Note: once you have determined the right tree size and the saddle is not properly balanced, it is advisable to have a qualified saddle fitter look at your saddle and horse.
How to Change an Easy Change Gullet:
After determining the correct tree size, you can change the gullet yourself to adjust the tree size. The gullet is located at the front of the tree, near the withers. This is what can be changed. It works as follows:
1. Remove the screw located under the skirt at the head of the saddle, or some models, the screw located at the top of the chamber.
Repeat this step on the other side.
2. Locate the large tab folded under the head of the saddle in the chamber. This is held in place with Velcro. Untuck the tab from under the panel on both sides and lift it away from the tree –you will see your saddle’s gullet plate.
3. If you have flexiblocs attached to your saddle, take them off. If your saddle has a point girth strap, you will need to release the Velcro tab securing it in place. Gently pull the panel away from the tree to free the steel post from the hole in the tree. Slide the panel down and off the tree point. Repeat this step on the other side.
4. You can now see inside your saddle and are ready to change the Easy change gullet plate.
5. Remove the screw at the end of the gullet plate and repeat on the other side. Take the gullet plate out of the saddle. Apply pressure to stretch the tree in the direction you will be changing the gullet – wider or narrower for 30 seconds. Fit the new gullet in the channel and start each screw with your fingers until the gullet is lined up and then fully tighten both screws.