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Restoring an old saddle

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  • Restoring an old saddle

    Hey all, need some advice on restoring a saddle to usability.

    We found an old dressage saddle left behind by an old owner that hasn't been used in a few years. It's been caught in a flood, and otherwise stuck in a corner, so although the basic structure appears just fine, the leather is stiff, dry, and even creased in an odd position at the bottom of one flap.

    I'd like to try to restore it, because it is the same make as my jumping saddle, which I love and fits my horse beautifully.

    I cleaned it up with glycerin soap yesterday just to remove the dust/cobwebs, and then coated it with oil (neatsfoot) once before I left for day. But the oil was soaked up in seconds. Will a coat each day begin to help this saddle?

    I also have some Hydrophane, if that may help. I like that stuff a lot, but use it very sparingly.

    So any help or ideas with restoring a saddle that's terribly dry and stiff would be great!

  • #2
    You might want to try something like leather CPR or possibly leatherique if it has any cracking.

    Comment


    • #3
      I would continue with the neatsfoot oil or Lexol conditioner. That's all I've ever used on my tack --and it is OLD stuff! (bridles are at least 40 years)

      Comment


      • #4
        This is a little random, but there are some very very good threads on leather care on the ultimate dressage forum by a member named c4. He's a saddle fitter and has some great advice on leather restoration/care. I discovered some of his posts over there while looking for saddle advice.

        Generally, the best option is to go SLOOOOWLY. Very thin coats of conditioner applied daily and sparingly. I'd recommend avoiding oil because it's not all that great for the leather fibers (the fibers swell when they soak it up, then as they dry, they are weakened from the swelling - creates limp leather that is more prone to cracking.)

        I'd clean it up really well with something like Effax Combi or Leather Therapy has a nice cleaner as well. Glycerine soap isn't a great cleaner but an all right conditioner. The only problem is, glycerine develops that gunky grey stuff when wet. Anyway, clean it up well and make sure you get all the dirt rinsed or wiped off.

        Then I'd try a conditioner that isn't just oil. I have Leather Therapy's conditioner, and it is very good and prevents mold. Lexol's conditioner is also very nice. Then take it slowly. Don't over saturate the leather. Put on a nice thin coat once a day to give the leather time to absorb the conditioner. It might take a little bit, but doing a small coat daily will be better for the leather than dousing it.

        And I'd probably try to use an actual leather conditioner, not Neatsfoot. It tends to make the leather kind of limp, and most leather people will tell you to avoid oil for the most part because it often weakens leather. An oil based conditioner can be all right, but there are a lot of options out there.

        Oh, also, if it has been flooded (not just gotten a little wet), there may be some serious mold problems in the flocking. Just something to keep an eye on.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks all for the advice!

          Tried some Leather Therapy on it early this morning (the restore and conditioner) in a thin layer and maybe it's my "pllllease be better?" imagination, but the underside was a little more pliable...I think? I hope?

          Re: Flooding, good point as far as the flocking. How does one look into that, do I take it to a saddle repair or fitter individual to consider replacing the flocking? I don't even know if it fits my horse and me yet, but if it does, I'm willing. It's a practically new saddle and if it fits us anything like my jumping saddle of the same brand, I'll be beyond thrilled. The whole saddle was not caught in a flood, just the flaps (looks like its previous owner laid it on the floor flaps down, they are spread out and kind of stuck in that position if it makes any sense. The flood water would not have risen beyond flap-height). It does not appear that water got to it beyond the flaps, as the "top" of the saddle and padding under the flocking are ready to go, very soft, supple, and nice.

          Now that it's cleaned up, it appears barely used. No cracking, but there is some water damage where the flap has probably been creased for over a year. Structurally, it appears sound, though. It is a Smith Worthington Symphony, and I have been horribly hard to fit saddle wise...an ANCIENT SW all purpose (but not very deep, not at all what I think of AP saddles to be) is the best saddle I have EVER sat in and I bought it as my XC and jumping saddle. So I'd be thrilled to ressurect this dressage saddle if it is anything like THAT!

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes, a saddle fitter can adjust the flocking. Actually, I recommend having someone check it out just to make sure it is structurally sound. If you have any specific questions about that model, you could always email Kurt at Smith Worthington. I've heard he is wonderful to deal with.

            Comment


            • #7
              Sonic pending on how dried out the leather is you may need to apply leather therapy more than once. I recently did it to some old stirrup leathers that were barely used and very dry. Worked wonders.
              \"You have two choices when a defining moment comes along - you can either define the moment, or let the moment define you.\" Tin Cup

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree that you're on the right track with the neatsfoot oil. I pulled a saddle out of my grand-mother-in-law's barn that once belonged to her husband.....and had been unused and uncared for for about the last 40 years.....

                I used a large bowl and a paint brush, and slathered the entire saddle with the oil everyday for 2 weeks. That was just how long it took to not soak up all the oil within a few seconds. Once it didn't immediately soak up all the oil I slathered on it, it was fine after I allowed it to set for another week to finish the last oil treatment. Now it's my favorite saddle, all of the leathers are pliable and crack-free.

                Good luck!

                Comment


                • #9
                  If it's all leather - no suede knee rolls or seat - then buy 5 gallons of cheap vegetable oil and put it in a big tub, take off the stirrup leathers and stirrups and dunk the whole saddle in the oil and leave it there for a week.

                  Make sure you put a lid on the top to stop vermin getting in and thinking it's a meal.

                  Then hang it over the tub to drip dry then set about polishing it up.

                  Flocking is dead easy to have replaced. Most of my saddles are done about every 3 years. The flocking is high grade sheep's wool and any saddler can do that job.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Wow, all, thanks so much for all this info...having never restored anything (The SW I bought had not been used much and is about 20 years old, but was in great condition and took just a bit of oil to make it nice and soft), this is all new to me.

                    So happy to hear that it's very doable, repairs if necessary are accessible, etc.

                    pharmgirl, thanks for that info...I know there are some folks in our area who use the SW saddles, and I know I can say I am now SOLD riding in an old one and seeing lots of lovely new ones with the same quality and balance. I will drop Kurt a line (assuming saddle DOES fit Slim and me) and see if he has a rep who can give it a once-over and make sure it's sound.

                    yankeeclipper, you're totally right...I did it again this morning. Will have a look again tomorrow after work and decide what next.

                    Thomas and Char, thanks much for the ideas, and Thomas, I was very much wondering if there was a "stock" oil I could get from a grocery in large volume and submerge the saddle for a while. That sounds like just what I can and should do!

                    Before we closed up for the night, we thought we might try to "re-shape" it a bit as well, and tied a bit of twine around it loosely to encourage it to stay a bit more fitted.

                    Thanks again all for the great ideas and info!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If this saddle is truly dry, I think only neatsfoot oil (or some other kind--I don't know about this) will work and be cost-effective. Layers, as others said. But if you want to get it to a saddler anyway, why not take it there now--in it's near death condition-- and ask the pro's advice?
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Some years ago my daughter bought a very high dollar saddle at a local auction (for $10) that was covered in bird pooh and had the dryness of a dead prune!! She was advised by people on this board to soak it in a tub of water - THEN go with the leather conditioners. Takes a lot of guts to do, but it did work!!!
                        www.crosscreeksporthorses.com
                        Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Sonic Boom View Post
                          Thomas and Char, thanks much for the ideas, and Thomas, I was very much wondering if there was a "stock" oil I could get from a grocery in large volume and submerge the saddle for a while. That sounds like just what I can and should do!
                          I just get mine from a food wholesalers. The cheapest they have on offer. Here it's £10 for 5 gallons of vegetable oil. We cook with it. I feed it to the horses. I use it for dunking saddlery and harness in every year - don't forget you can reuse it next year if you put it back in it's container and keep it where it's relatively shaded and cool so it doesn't go rancid)

                          See posts 12 and 16 on this link:

                          http://www.themanestreet.com/forums/...ble#post553913

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I contacted Tandy Leather about restoring the finish on a saddle.

                            They recommended this product

                            http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/h...ure=Product_11

                            After you have restored the saddle to working condition and verified the tree is still sound and all that.... if the finish on the saddle looks bad you might give this product a try. The people at Tandy leather were very helpful in answering my questions.

                            Good luck.
                            Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                            Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                            -Rudyard Kipling

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm just going to pop in again and say be very careful with the oil. I'd take it slow with the leather therapy for awhile and see how it goes. I know some people disagree about oil being not that great for leather because it's how they've always done it (I used to be one of those), but I think there are much better products for leather care these days than straight oil. The way I understand it, the oil gets soaked into the leather fibers and they swell. Then once the oil dries up, the swollen fibers have been stretched out and weakened. You do get a "soft" feeling from the leather but that's because the fibers have weakened and gone limp. Olive oil applied sparingly can be all right, but I would definitely not glob it on.

                              There are some oil-based conditioners that are okay, but I'd avoid dunking the entire thing in straight oil. Applying even and thin coats of conditioner for a couple of weeks is probably a better option. The thin and even applications help all of the products in the conditioner absorb evenly. Also, I can't imagine soaking the top of the saddle in oil (seat and flocking?) Seems like the padding might not deal well with that. Also, since it's not cracked, you may be able to get this baby looking quite good!

                              Also, as far as water damage, I've heard of people getting the entire saddle wet again and then slowly drying the saddle out. Basically, this involves laying damp towels (use less and less damp towels as it dries) over it through the drying process to make sure the saddle dries out evenly (helps get rid of water spots and such). I don't know that I'd dunk the entire saddle (probably avoid the seat and flocking since it might not dry as well), but you can definitely get it pretty wet. I've not actually done this myself though, so I'm not 100% on the details. Leather tends to be pretty tough though, so I'd guess this would work out pretty well as long as you followed it with a good conditioner.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Check the stitching of the billets VERY CAREFULLY!!! Have a really good yank on them to make sure none of that stitching is rotted or damaged in any way.

                                And, seeing as it's a really easy thing to do, I'd talk to Smith Worthington before I dunked it in oil, water or anything--find out what they think.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Sonic Boom View Post
                                  Hey all, need some advice on restoring a saddle to usability.

                                  We found an old dressage saddle left behind by an old owner that hasn't been used in a few years. It's been caught in a flood, and otherwise stuck in a corner, so although the basic structure appears just fine, the leather is stiff, dry, and even creased in an odd position at the bottom of one flap.

                                  I'd like to try to restore it, because it is the same make as my jumping saddle, which I love and fits my horse beautifully.

                                  I cleaned it up with glycerin soap yesterday just to remove the dust/cobwebs, and then coated it with oil (neatsfoot) once before I left for day. But the oil was soaked up in seconds. Will a coat each day begin to help this saddle?

                                  I also have some Hydrophane, if that may help. I like that stuff a lot, but use it very sparingly.

                                  So any help or ideas with restoring a saddle that's terribly dry and stiff would be great!
                                  I've had the best luck with Passier Leisderbalm (sp??) for really nasty stuff.
                                  Providence Farm
                                  http://providencefarmpintos.blogspot.com/

                                  Comment

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