In winter, and especially in the northern parts of the country where the temperature changes from the daytime to the nighttime can differ dramatically, we need to think about what we can do to help our saddle and tack stay in good shape and ultimately extend their usable lifetime. The constant freezing and warming that occurs is hard on leather and synthetics alike. Leather tends to dry out and crack and synthetics can become brittle, crack and sometimes even break.
For the best winter saddle care, if at all possible, the best thing to do is store your saddle and tack indoors in a controlled environment so they are not constantly heating and cooling. Whether you store your equipment inside or outside it’s a good idea to clean and condition it before putting it away for the winter.
We like to use Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean our leather with. We mix a capful with a quart of warm water and then use a sponge to get all the horse sweat and mud off. If your leather shows any sign of cracking it’s a good idea to oil it before conditioning. We use Neatsfoot oil or plain olive oil for this. It really penetrates the leather. We put some in a bowl and then use a rag or old washcloth to apply the oil so it coats the leather. Oil both sides. Olive oil is good for leather only, don’t use it on synthetics.
After letting the leather absorb the oil, we use Bick4, which is a conditioner made by the Bickmore company. It will bring back the luster of the leather and take out any surface scratches.
Synthetics, whether Bio-thane or plastics, can be cleaned with a mild soap and water solution. No conditioning is required.
Although we should check the condition of our equipment before every ride, a fair amount of us just saddle up and go. Now would be a perfect time to really take a good look at all of our riding gear to see if anything is showing signs of wear. It’s better to get something repaired now rather than have a problem on the trail later.