In which Swampish weather isn't easy on us (or on our leather)

We went riding on Sunday, in the rain.

The bottoms of my feet were dry, and I stayed warm.
But not dry where the jacket gutters down onto my saddle,
Fiddle doesn't approve of this much rain.
It is said (erroneously) that the Inuit have 40 words for "sn*w."
(In fact, the Sami language of Lapland has about 180 words for sn*w and ice--why doesn't anybody ever talk about that? But I digress...)   

Here in the Swamp, we have a huge rain-related vocabulary.  Maybe not 40 distinct words, unless you count the cussing.  But a lot of words.

We need them.  We have an intimate relationship with water here.

The rain we normally get is called just plain "rain," or "showers."

Very light rain is "sprinkles" "spit" or "mist."

If it's heavy, we get "buckets."

Sunday we got "monsoonic."

We would've been dryer if we'd stood neck deep in the lake with all our clothes on.  For three hours.

The effect of all that water is predictable: we Swamplanders also have an intimate relationship with moss, mildew, and that stuff that grows a greenish rind over anything that gets wet and stands still for more than an hour.

Halfway clean: notice the accumulation of a winter's "green" on the skin of the trailer!

It wasn't just our clothing that got drenched, on Sunday.  My saddle was sodden as well.

Heavy sigh.

When I mostly rode in an arena, my saddle got cleaned every Sunday afternoon.  We'd ride for an hour or two, then drag all the tack up to the house, put a horse movie on the TV, and drink cocoa (in winter) or iced tea (in summer) and talk nothing but horses for an hour or two while we meticulously soaped and oiled every inch of the leather.

Now that I'm out riding in bad weather for hours at a time, two or three days each week, all year round, I don't have the luxury of all that time on a Sunday afternoon anymore.  But when the stuff gets that wet, I know from experience that it's time to dig out the leather kit and get busy.

Swamplander leather kit:
soap, water, oil, leather balm, and a few cleaning tools

 I start with the soap and water.

Any glycerine soap will do, but I like Dr Bronner's lavender soap.  It smells nice.

Wash, and then rinse with minimal water.
The leather is wet enough, it doesn't need more water at this point!

Next: leather oil.

I use Obenauf's Leather Oil for everything except the seat.

It looks like I'm putting on a lot of oil....

...the "working" parts of the saddle absorb oil really fast... the time I've worked all the way around the saddle,
 most of the oil has soaked in.

You can really tell what parts of the saddle are exposed to the elements.  The parts that are normally covered by my packs aren't nearly as "thirsty" for the oil, but it all soaks in overnight.

For the seat, I use a preserving leather balm.

The main ingredients (vegetable oil, beeswax, and propolis) are used in food, so I apply this stuff with my hands.  It smells like beeswax, and helps the leather to shed water under normal "shower" conditions.

I use a pretty heavy coat of the leather balm on the seat

By the following morning, the balm has soaked in,
and leaves a soft, slightly tacky feel to the seat with a little extra "grip"!
As long as I'm cleaning the leather, I might as well run everything else through the wash as well.

The dining room chairs serve as racks and hooks for all the clean purple stuff

shiny, clean, and PURPLE!
Reassembled, and ready to take back out into the weather again:

No, I can't think of another piece of purple tack that will fit on my horse.
Let it rain! know.  Maybe we could have some sun?  Just for variety?

Either way, you know.

It's good.


  1. Thank you for this. I've been working up the courage to ask on the PNER Green Beans site.

  2. Love to see how other people clean stuff, but sorry for the soaking! I don't think I'm hearty enough for that weather. I'll send you some sun if You'll send me some rain, deal?

    That leather oil looks really good. My saddle gets the opposite problem, too dry.

    And I do think you could add a little more purple: those colored stirrup cages!

    1. Irish Horse, you are welcome to all the rain you want to tote home. According to our local weather-guessers, 2014 hasn't been the wettest spring ever...quite. But almost.

      And I do have purple stirrup cages. Love them!

    2. We're not quite the driest spring..yet! 8-) Amazing we're both on the West coast. Missed the stirrup cages, so you're right, I think you're at the purple saturation point!

  3. that reminds me - at some point i'm gonna have to buy a leather care kit. i haven't needed one since the 90s. your saddle is so pretty, love the seat color.

  4. Love the extra "lavender" (saddle soap) you've added...

  5. I hope you have some sun by now. Catching up, obviously. :)
    Hmmm...more purple. Ask your farrier for purple horse shoes...? or there's always purple Sharpie's for that!


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