Leather Dressing for Old Saddles
This procedure describes the restoration of an American saddle,
but the same process can be applied to any leather saddle. Since
it's usually necessary to dismantle a saddle before restoration,
follow these guidelines:
If you want to save the strings, first wet, or lubricate, them
- this makes the strings easier to undo and allows easier removal
of the jockeys and skirts. A quicker method is to cut them beneath
the rosettes and replace the strings.
The dismantling of a saddle to clean, lubricate and restore is
a simple process. Sometimes it is difficult to remove the cantle
and pommel covers, but often it is not necessary. Don't use too
much force when removing brads, nails, or screws which hold the
leather to the tree. Rough handling can result in rips or tears.
After the jockeys are off, remove the skirts, stirrup leathers and
An important part of restoring is cleaning. Use warm water and
soap (we recommend a pH balanced cleaner such as Lexol's pH Cleaner
in the orange bottle). Use a soft nylon bristled brush to soften
the leather, loosen grime, grease, grit; it will also rinse traces
of sweat, urine and manure. Always keep the leather wet; this prevents
sloughing off the top grain of old, dry leather. Rinse the leather
Once the leather is clean, dry it until it's slightly moist. Then
press, straighten, form and condition. Use Antique Leather
Dressing for all the surface and flat items - coat leather at least three
times. Leave each coat to stand a few days, allowing nature to take
its course. Rub off any excess.
While the saddle is dismantled, wash the tree and give the rawhide
covering a light coat of Leather dressing. If the sheep lining is fine, don't
remove it. Otherwise, remove it and apply a light coat of Dressing to the flesh side.
In dry climates saddles should be conditioned approximately
every four to six months. For more humid climates, a six to eight
month schedule is adequate.