saddle cleaning for the extremely meticulous: a lot of work!
Jim was as good as his word regarding the cleaning of the New/Old Saddle: he took it completely apart, and cleaned and conditioned every last inch of the leather!
Truthfully, I'd be afraid to take my saddle apart to such an extreme degree, mostly because I'm not sure I could put it all back together again.
However, by disassembling it so completely, he can be sure that there isn't any rotting leather hidden underneath that could be dangerous to the horse or rider. He also needs to replace a lot of the screws, because many of them have been stripped.
He used glycerin soap for the initial cleaning--oooooh, the suds were filthy. It took several times over the leather before the soap stayed white. I like Dr. Bronner's soap for this stage, partly because it smells nice, and partly because of the weird writing on the label, which can keep me amused for at least an hour while I'm washing tack.
We discovered that the velcro fitting pads on the "horse side" of the saddle are backwards from my saddle! On newer saddles, the saddle has the "hook" side and the fitting pads have the
"loop" side, and this saddle has it set up the other way 'round. I wonder how old this saddle really is?
Last night the whole house smelled like leather conditioner-- a pleasant smell, especially to those of us who associate the odor with horses and their saddles.
I discovered years ago (the hard way, of course) that mink oil, which is the traditional leather oil and conditioner, not only rots the stitching on saddles, it also drives my dogs insane. It makes sense: no self-respecting dog wants anything that smells like a mink hanging around the house. Fortunately, the mink-oil-treated saddle was just on trial, and I decided not to buy it, partly because it didn't fit my horse and partly because my little dog would circle it and growl for hours.
Early in our endurance riding adventure, Jim discovered Obenauf's leather care products, made from animal oils (but NOT mink!) and beeswax. Because we live in the swamp ("where the weather is always damp") we not only condition our leather saddles, boots, and other gear, we waterproof the heck out of it.
Obenauf's was originally formulated for use on firefighters' boots, which are frequently immersed in water and then taken into very hot buildings, so it suits our purposes very nicely.
Also, it works best when applied and worked in by hand--and it softens and moisturizes hands really nicely too!