Soap Your Saddle

Use these tips to get your tack in tip-top shape.

Use these tips to get your tack in tip-top shape.

Soap Your Saddle
Keep your saddle and tack in good shape. AQHA file photo.

Rainy days present the perfect opportunity to clean your saddle. You’ll need saddle soap, neatsfoot oil, several rags and sponges, and lots of elbow grease. Because it’s a messy chore, it’s best to put down a sheet of plastic and get to work in the garage or barn aisle.

Here Are a Few Tips:

•    Remove all saddle parts: latigo, cinch, back cinch, stirrups, conchos and other silver pieces.

•    Scrub the entire saddle – all but the sheepskin on the flipside – under the fenders and in all the nooks and crannies with saddle soap.

•    Remove stains from leather with cleaning fluids (or cleaning fluid mixed with cornstarch for stubborn stains).

Get into the routine of saddling your horse correctly by downloading AQHA’s FREE Saddling a Horse report. Or, keep scrolling down to see a video from a great AQHA alliance partner, the Certified Horsemanship Association.

•    Rinse

•    Use neatsfoot oil to condition the leather. Do not over-oil the saddle because this will soften it too much.

•    When the oil is dry, buff the leather with a soft cloth.

•    Use sandpaper to raise the nap of roughouts.

•    Straighten out the kinks in saddle strings by pulling them through a leather conditioner-treated cloth held between your thumb and forefinger.

•    Use a circular motion to brush suede or roughout seats with a wire, bristle or rubber brush.

More Tips

•    Use toothpaste and a toothbrush to clean grime off bits.

•    Hang your bridles from old saddle soap tins nailed to the tack room wall to help them keep their rounded shape.

•    When trimming your horse’s ears, place cotton inside them to reduce clipper noise.

•    Use the dish-washing tool with the sponge at the end of a hollow tube to clean tack. Fill it with liquid saddle soap instead of dish soap.

•    Use a chamois to rub down your horse after a bath.

All of your saddling questions are answered in AQHA’s Saddling a Horse report.

The Certified Horsemanship Association has provided you with a chance to learn how to saddle your horse correctly. The purpose of CHA is to promote safety and education for the benefit of the horse industry.

13 thoughts on “Soap Your Saddle”

  1. I found the content useful, but the video play was intermittant. Don’t think it was my computer playing up.

  2. The video first shows her tying a cinch knot then it says to use the buckle and after using buckle tie cinch knot. Poor editing.

    Cleaning tack – The word now is that neatsfoot oil rots leather and you should use synthetic conditioners. Also, if your leather has mold, like in the south, you should wipe it off with vinegar to kill mold spores before cleaning and conditioning.

  3. I’ve tried all the new synthetic conditioners and have to say that I always go back to saddle soap and neatsfoot oil because I’ve found that most of the synthetics leave a film or residue even if they call for rinsing. One thing though, I always allow the leather to dry after rinsing the saddle soap off before applying the neatsfoot. I have my original show saddle (over 40 years old now) and the leather is still in great condition minus scrapes and marks from wear/cat lol, although I have to admit the leather is thicker than what newer saddles are constructed with.
    Saddle soap and neatsfoot for the win in my ole and humble opinion.

  4. Karen, I am 63 years old and been doing this horse thing for over 43 years, I have always used neatsfoot oil and saddle soap, I have never had a problem with any leather rotting. I lived in S. Cal for 30 years and now in Reno, NV (where its very dry) for 33 years. I have never tried the synthetic conditioners.
    AQHA Life Member

  5. I live is so central tx so I have mold problems – could someone elaborate more on cleaning mold? Someone mentioned vinegar?

  6. I think the main reason people now use conditioner instead of oil is because saddles now are very light in color compared to 30 years ago. Just getting them wet will darken them up so conditioners are used instead. Oil is still fine and I use it all the time but it stays far away from my light show tack.

  7. I was surprised to read good rainy day project! I thought you should clean only when sunny and warm so the saddle drys good. How long does it take to dry roughly?

  8. Karen,
    Pure Neatsfoot oil is recommended for leather and will not rot it. However, any conditioners with a petroleum base will. NEATSFOOT COMPOUND is one of those products. So be careful not to mistake it for pure since they do come in similar containers. Most “synthetic” conditioners use petroleum and/or vegetable oils and can be harmful. Any oils that can put animal oils back into the leather can work. Over oiling will darken and loosen the fibers in the core of the leather. This can cause the leather to break down.

  9. Katy,
    There is a mold that feeds off of the core of the leather in damp , warm places. Sometimes it appears like a white or greenish colored dusty substance and even sort of waxy. You wipe it off and later on it’s there again. Reason being is it’s roots are down in the leather’s core (The center between the grain and flesh) This mold looks harmless but in all reality it is very invasive. once it destroys the core, your leather is dead. ( yes, it’s a dead cow but leather has to breath and have oil to stay alive just like your skin. It can’t fight off molds anymore and it can’t produce it’s own oil anymore, so this is where you come in.
    The best way to kill this mold is to use a water /vinegar solution and really let it soak into the leather. Let it sit for a while and make sure you get it in all the leather. The hard to reach and hidden areas are areas the mold will really grow, so use this solution to get these areas as best that you can. you can clean the saddle during this period too since it is already wet. After the leather dries, apply PURE Neatesfoot oil. the water pulls the oils out of the leather. Any time your saddle gets wet, it would behoove you to apply oil. Hope this helps y’all.

  10. I had an English saddle that got a bad case of mold. I tried Vinegar and also Listerine and it continued to grow back. What finally worked was Lysol spray. I had to spray it twice at different intervals. Once I saw that the mold wasn’t growing back I saddlesoaped it and oiled it. All is good, and that was a year ago.

  11. Can someone please expand on cleaning a show saddle? I just purchased a new (used) show saddle that needs some help. It was originally light oil but is now more like a medium oil. What do you recommend for cleaning and conditioning. I dont want to darken it any more than it is. Thanks in advance!

  12. Kelly C – I have had great luck with a product called Black Rock. I have always use it on my english saddle I bought 24yrs ago and the leather is still light.

  13. I use nothing but Skidmore’s on my saddles. It’s a beeswax product. I don’t use any saddle soap/animal fat on my saddles because I’ve found if you don’t get it all off, the animal fat itself will start to mold in your tooling. Using Skidmore’s leather conditioner I don’t have to apply any neatsfoot oil either. Just apply and buff to shine. Just depends on how often you use the saddle I suppose, but my preference is Skidmore’s

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