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Keeping Leather Looking New

Saddles and tack are a major investment. With proper care and treatment, they can last a lifetime.

The Nature of Leather

When caring for leather, keep in mind that leather is a natural, biodegradable material. It was, after all, an animal’s hide. The tanning process preserves leather, but leaves it stiff and rigid. Leather is re-moisturized with oils in order to restore suppleness and pliability.

Western saddle

Too little moisture: Over time these essential oils evaporate and must be replenished or the leather will deteriorate and become brittle. Leather is composed of fibers held together by protein bonds. When the leather dries out, the bonds break and the fibers pull away from each other. This permanently weakens the leather and could possibly compromise the safety of the rider.

Too much moisture: Improper cleaning, careless maintenance or damp storage conditions can lead to damage caused by moisture. Once spores get into the leather, it’s difficult to keep them from growing back again and again whenever moisture is present.

Proper Cleaning

After every use, saddles and tack should at least be wiped down with a damp cloth. Sweat, salt and dirt can damage leather as well as irritate your horse’s skin.

Ideally, leather should be rubbed down after each use with a high-quality cleaner such as Farnam® Leather New® Glycerine Saddle Soap. It cleans and moisturizes to keep leather lightly conditioned between periodic deep-conditioning treatments.

Farnam® Leather New® Glycerine Saddle Soap is available in a handy trigger spray bottle ideal for covering large areas and in a foam applicator for treating hard-to-reach nooks and crannies without drips and runs. Both leave a high-gloss shine and won’t stain or rub off on clothing.

Deep Conditioning

All leather tack should be deep conditioned not only at the beginning and end of the season, but also several times throughout the year — depending on use and climate. For optimal results, it is best to condition leather every 30–45 days.

After every use tack should be wiped down with a damp cloth. Sweat, salt and dirt can damage leather as well as irritate your horse’s skin.

Normal cleaning and light conditioning only treat the outer layer of the leather. Deep conditioning penetrates and re-moisturizes the deep-down fibers to maintain suppleness and strength. Avoid over conditioning, as leather can only absorb so much moisture. Always use a quality conditioning product.

Farnam® Leather New® Deep Conditioner & Restorer contains a unique blend of high-quality natural and synthetic oils that penetrate quickly to restore lost moisture. It contains no silicone, waxes or petroleum distillates, and is not water based like other conditioners. It is also useful on new tack to make the leather more supple and to speed up the break-in process. Plus, it leaves no greasy residue and won’t harm stitching.

Storing Your Leather

The best place to store your leather is in a clean, dry, climate-controlled area. Prevent direct exposure to sunlight — UV rays can dry out and damage leather. Likewise, avoid damp, dark places where moisture can get in harm's way.

Never cover saddles or tack with plastic — the leather needs to breathe. Remember that saddles tend to take the shape of whatever they’re placed on, so always store them on forms that approximate the shape of a horse.

Take the time to take good care of your leather — and it will take good care of you for years to come.

Stable Talk | Farnam