Making sure your saddle and bridle is looked after properly will, in the long run, save you money. Here John Hartley of Black Country Saddles provides advice on caring for your saddle and bridle.
When maintaining a used bridle clean your bridle regularly according to how often it is used. It is much better to give it a quick clean every time it is used but, if you don’t have time, a thorough clean once a week for a bridle in daily use should be sufficient.
A good way to keep your bridle in good condition is to wipe it off after use using a cloth such as an old flannel or dishcloth dipped in a small bucket of warm water and thoroughly squeezed out.
After cleaning the dirt and grease from the bridle, apply a coat of saddle soap. Black Country Balsam is a very popular choice and will help to feed the leather, keeping it soft and supple. The balsam should be applied with a dry sponge.
If the bridle is very greasy, or otherwise heavily soiled, you will find that a small handful of washing soda crystals added to the water will help enormously and will not affect the suppleness of the leather.
Should you be caught out in the rain whilst riding, immediate action is required! Dismantle the bridle as soon as possible and clean it in the usual way – then allow it to dry out slowly. Do not be tempted to place it near a heater or a sunny window to speed up the drying process as this will make the leather go very hard – and you may not be able to revive it. After drying, apply a coat of leather-dressing or oil followed by the balsam.
Do not oil your bridle too often: restrict oiling to when the bridle is new, when it gets very wet, or if it has been unused for a while and has dried out.
If you have just bought a new bridle, always check that it fits your horse before treating it with any kind of oil or leather dressing, as the saddler will not give a refund or exchange an oiled bridle.
Once this is done, apply a liberal coat of good quality leather dressing to both sides. Leather dressings are available in oil and paste forms – ask your saddler for his recommendation.
Before applying the dressing, dismantle the bridle and place it on some newspaper. If you are using a liquid dressing, the best way to do it is to pour a little into an old saucer and paint it onto the bridle with a clean, dry paint brush.
Allow the dressing to soak in and then, if the leather still seems to be quite dry, apply another coat. When the dressing is finally absorbed, apply a coat of saddle soap or balsam using an almost dry sponge. You can then reassemble the bridle and it is now ready for use.
For saddles use the same method as for bridles. Use only soaps or balsam on your saddle which are recommended by your saddler as some have been known to cause colour fade to certain saddles.
Another important tip is to store your saddle and bridle on a purpose-made rack where a fairly even temperature is maintained. This will help avoid any damage to either item and if possible keep them under a fabric saddle cover.