I am having some trouble figuring out how to break in my 9 year old daughter's new dressage saddle. I was told by someone to put it in the watertrough and then oil it and ride in it but that seems like it would rot the stitching. Then someone told me to clean all the waxy stuff off with ammonia water and then once it dries to oil it (I used Beininwachs sp?) Anyways I tried the later and the ammonia just beaded right off. I have conditioned it is not soaking in, just sitting there getting sticky and disgusting. I always bought used saddles and now I remember why. Anyone know of a better way to get it broken in? THANKS!!
Wow - ammonia will strip your saddle. That waxy coating is called the "bloom" and you can usually work it into the leather when you condition it. It's actually the sign of a fairly healthy saddle (providing that it's a new saddle and not an old, moldly, used one).
The best way I've found to condition a new saddle is to use a good leather conditioner, like Passier Lederbalsam, or even Lexol, and then work it in by applying a light coat, then bending and folding the leather, working it both ways (be sure to put the conditioner on the "rough" side of the leater, too) and really rolling it hard. You'll notice that the leather will look dry again, so put on another light coat, and work it again until the leather feels supple and pliable. I've heard of people using olive oil and warming it up (NOT hot!) and painting it on, but I'd be scared of scalding the leather that way. Good ole' leather balsam or Lexol, or Leather Therapy conditioner, worked in and then rolled, will do the trick nicely.
It may seem hard to roll the leather at first, but if you work it one way, then the other, and then roll it up and down, then side to side, you'll find that it softens up pretty quickly.
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So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."
Wipe as much oil off as you can. Clean the saddle with warm/hot water and glycerin soap. Rinse the saddle with clean water. Wipe and allow to dry, then condition.
If your saddle's maker recommends a conditioner use that. If not you are on your own. Passier, Stübben, Butet, and others have conditioners that will work. Pessoa and some others recommend oil. Apply it in accordance with the saddler's instructions. Just because a little is good does not make a lot great. Do not soak in oil. A naturally flocked saddle can be ruined by too much oil. Many of the newer threads are not effected by oil but the linen thread still used in many good saddles can be effected. Oil can also attract abrasives to the thread which can hurt your stitching.
Second the Effax/Effol products! They are the best on dressage saddles. Everyone has a different method as we can all see! But I have found that on a new saddle an initial oiling with saddle oil-applied with either a sponge or paint brush-while the saddle is sitting in a sunny warm location works pretty well. Coat once, let soak in, and then coat a second time. If the saddle is still sucking up oil a third coat is fine, if not wipe off the excess and let sit for about 24-48 hours before riding in it! Or you'll get oil on your breeches!
After that oiling maybe once or twice a year depending on how it feels is fine.
Ammonia is a very old cleaning method that I have used as recommended by a trainer...I have found that it will strip all caked on dirt off of your tack, but also pulls off the dye. Bad news for black tack! Stick to glycerine or Effax leather soap and you'll be fine!