View Full Version : conditioning a new saddle

May. 8, 2009, 12:55 AM
Ok I have always had a used saddle, in fact I had the same saddle for 10 years.

I finally got to go buy a new one tonight (my old one broke:cry:) It is a M. Toulouse and has decent leather on it. I was wondering what you all do to break in and condition a new saddle? Do you just oil the crud out of it? I have always used Neatsfoot oil, is that appropriate?


May. 8, 2009, 03:52 AM
Many saddles come with instructions. If your's did, follow those... I like olive oil, but pure Neatsfoot is probably o.k... I'm not sure I'd oil "the crap out of it". But I'd put several coats of oil on it. Ride in it, clean it daily, and oil it again every few weeks for the next month or two depending on what the leather tells you.

May. 8, 2009, 09:08 AM
Many saddles come with instructions. If your's did, follow those... I like olive oil, but pure Neatsfoot is probably o.k... I'm not sure I'd oil "the crap out of it". But I'd put several coats of oil on it. Ride in it, clean it daily, and oil it again every few weeks for the next month or two depending on what the leather tells you.

wow didn't even look for directions in all the tags! I was also exaggerating the oil part a little though I have never heard olive oil that's interesting. Anyone else use it?

May. 8, 2009, 09:13 AM
I just cleaned my (Dover Circuit Elite) after every single flippin' ride with Horseman's One Step. Once a week I would put Lederbalsam on the undersides of the leather. After it softened up I went back to my once a week cleaning with Tattersalls and once monthly Lederbalsam on the underside. I'll clean it extra if mud splashed up on me and wipe down any sweat marks after a ride.

May. 8, 2009, 09:16 AM
I'm old so I dig neatsfoot, judiciously applied in layers.

Whatever you do, oil almost every surface of the saddle-- billets, inside the sweat flaps, even reaching gently a little ways up between the panels and the underside of the seat.

I would not oil calf skin knee pads and seat. This leather is fragile and too much oil there can really shorten its life, especially if you want to ride in jeans. My Bates Caprilli (an original Australian one) came with these instructions and the seat has taken all kinds of jeans-related abuse very, very well.

May. 8, 2009, 09:22 AM
Yeah...but my favorite is something called Effax that comes in a yellow bottle, not that expensive. There are several others out there.

I prefer a light weight saddle oil for new tack over multple ingredient stuff, this one has been pretty good. Absorbs well, very litttle bleed or residue left sitting on top of the leather.

My favorite regime (and been at this 40+ years) follows.

Ride in the saddle-warms it up and loosens it up a little to help open the pores.

Put the oil in a warm spot while you ride, in the sun or your car.
Put the saddle in the warm spot while you put the horse up to further warm...and nothing like just hanging it over the fence in the sun this time of year.

Using a small sponge or 1 to 2" wide paintbrush, apply a light coat of oil all over-don't forget between the panels and underneath.

STOP there, resist the urge to glop more on.

Repeat the process about every 3 days for the first couple of weeks then once a month for a few months. Do it after riding to avoid "saddle butt", especially if you wear light breeches.

Using the saddle is going to do more then any glop to break it in and the multiple light coats of oil ensure a more even color.

If your saddle starts to get kind of damp to the touch or has a waxy residue sitting on top of the leather that smears when you touch it? STOP, it's overconditioned, let it soak in.

Avoid glycerine at this point-it seals moisture in and can seal anything else out. Just wipe with a CLEAN, damp sponge while you are oiling during the break in period.

Also, you probably need very little on the seat itself, one or two coats. It's the underneath parts that will sop it up...watch the knee rolls. I use an almost dry sponge on those, some manufacturers recommend nothing at all, so check.

Hunter Mom
May. 8, 2009, 09:25 AM
I was told to use (and know a lot of other saddlers recommend) Hydrophane, which IMO works better than neatsfoot. You can brush it on with a paintbrush for really even coverage, then let it sit. Make sure you get the underneath as much (if not more) than the top of each leather you can. Also, don't over-oil. When it starts to feel broken in, it's probably good.

May. 8, 2009, 10:39 AM
OH! This is one of my favorite things to do in the world!! I LOVE conditioning new tack!

Here's what I do.... and no gasping and fainting when you read it....

1) Take a sponge and spray it with Windex. Rub and wipe-down every single surface of your entire saddle. Top, bottom, inside and out. Leather is often coated with a light wax to keep it from being discolored if it comes in contact with water before being safely delivered to wherever. If you don't "strip" the leather, the oil can't soak in properly.

2) Using either an old paint brush, or just your hands, apply a light coating of oil to every single surface of the entire saddle. (Some folks say NOT to oil the billets, that it makes them stretch, but then they are so stiff it's nearly impossible to tighten the girth...)

And about the oil.... I have always, and still do, use Neatsfoot oil. I do know people who have used Olive Oil, and it does work, but it just has to be more expensive!
By the way, the reason people will tell you NOT to use Neatsfoot is that it supposedly "rots stitching", but I have tons of tack that has no rotted stitching and is older than I care to mention.

3) Mangle the crud out of every single moveable surface on your saddle. Seriously. Fold, bend, roll, and otherwise torture all the panels, flaps, billets, and whatnot every direction you can get them to move. (The same goes for bridles or other strap goods.)
This vital step, what I call "working the leather", is to help your panels and flaps (and reins and headstalls), "mold" to the shape of your horse and to the shape of your body. It gets rid of the hard flat-ness that new tack has.
Don't forget the little flap that covers the stirrup bar! One of the trickiest, yet most essential, pieces of leather that you'll want mold-able.
Your fingers and hands will be tired when you get done with this activity!

NOTE: This is the only time you will make the leather bend in inappropriate ways, but it helps the oil soak in better, and it gives you "grippy-er" leather while you're breaking in the seat.

4)Apply one more light coat of oil all over. Let it soak in.

5) (And here's where I will disagree with FindEight for practically the first time ever....) "Clean" every inch of leather with good old regular bar glycerine saddle soap.
Be careful not to use too much water. And I prefer a washcloth for this application rather than a sponge for just that reason. I roll the bar around within the washcloth until I have a paste-like layer all over the cloth. Then I rub it round and round all over the leather and into all the cracks and crevices and really condition the leather.

Yes, Glycerine DOES seal in moisture, but it also closes the pores on your newly abused saddle and keeps the oil where it belongs, in this case, keeping the right kind of moisture in the right places. It also redistributes surface oil and helps "blend" all the new color. Plus it gives your new tack that GLEAM that well used leather has.

I have used this technique on three of my own saddles-- A Dover somethingorother, (which I sold almost immediately...), a Butet, and my new CWD (which, actually, I did use their special stuff instead of Neatsfoot, but otherwise followed the regimen listed above), and also on two other saddles that belonged to clients.
They all turned out beautiful and comfy and have lasted a long time. They ride like a used saddle on the first ride and have almost no break-in time.

After the initial oiling and working, as others have suggested, a follow-up application of oil (or whatever conditioning goo you like...) is a good idea every month or so.

May. 8, 2009, 10:44 AM
Olive oil cost? CHEAP. It does not need to be organic, extra virgin from the heart of Tuscany, cold expeller pressed by monks under the first new moon of each month while uttering Gregorian chants.

Store brand, 1.90 a quart.

May. 8, 2009, 11:49 AM
Yeah...but my favorite is something called Effax that comes in a yellow bottle, not that expensive. There are several others out there.

Findeight, did you happen to see that women's letter in COTH's "In The Country" section a few weeks ago about this product? Based on your recommendation about it I had planned to buy some since I love Effax's Leder Combi, until this letter pointed out that it contains whale oil. :eek: Since I haven't seen the ingredient labelling I can't confirm she is correct, but I decided I didn't want to contribute to the killing of whales so I'm not planning to use it. :(

May. 8, 2009, 12:57 PM
Yep, use olive oil on my tack all the time. A harness maker told me it does not rot the stitching.

May. 8, 2009, 01:04 PM
My procedure:
1. Heat neatsfoot, apply liberally.
2. Dry overnight, oil again the next morning.
3. Clean with glycerine that night.
4. Apply lederbalsm type product.
5. wipe of lederbalsm goo.

My last saddle didn't need any more than this as a break in.

Hillside H Ranch
May. 8, 2009, 03:28 PM
I just got a new saddle through Trumbull Mountain and the reccomended using the Effax Lederbalsam. They also reccomended using the Effax Combi, but only when the saddle truly needed "cleaning" and that I would definitley need to use the Lederbalsam after using the Combi. They told me that they used to reccomend Neatsfoot Oil, but that they no longer reccomend that b/c they feel that the Lederbalsam is a much better product.