I remember as a kid hearing that rain was bad for saddles. “Don’t let it get rained on,” I would hear. I thought it was because it would get spotted because of the rain drops. Okay, sure, you don’t want the drip look, but it’s not the end of the world for a leather saddle to get rained on. In fact, a good soaking will soften your leather and even get rid of some dried on gook and sweat.
Dry leather can become brittle and crack especially near the areas where the leather doubles over on bridles and doesn’t often get cleaned when the rest of the bridle is cleaned. Billets, saddle strings and fenders are usually the first parts of the saddle to suffer from dryness. Dry leather lacks moisture. It needs moisture, water, in order to become soft and pliable. If you have stiff fenders on your western saddle, soak them in buckets of water. One saddler recommends turning them in the ‘forward’ direction with a pole while they’re soaking, so you can get your feet in the stirrups easier. Western or English, no matter the style of saddle, water can be beneficial for dry and stiff leather.
Now you have softer leather that you can maintain with whatever saddle soap or conditioner you prefer. Keep in mind the environment you store your leather tack in should be temperate. Leather is skin (ew, I know), so extreme cold or heat can weaken the integrity of the leather. Watch for mold or mildew if it’s been damp outside or in your storage space. Too much moisture can be just as damaging as not enough. Stitching can rot with over-conditioning.
Cleaning your equipment won’t seem like a big ordeal if it becomes part of your daily habit. You can ride safely and securely when you know you can rely on your tack. 😊