Care of a Western Saddle
Western saddles are mostly made of vegetable-tanned leather is incredibly durable, eco-friendly, and beautiful leather that improves with age be must be cared for. It is the oldest form of leather tanning in the world, recipes and skills have been handed down from generation to generation, the basic principles have not changed since 6000 BCE.
Using the natural tannins found in various barks and woods, raw leather is left in baths for upwards of a month or longer. Over this time it develops a rich natural tone as it tans. The process is incredibly environmentally friendly, and the result is a full-grain piece of leather that can last for a century or longer with proper care. Due to the extra time, veg-tanned leather is usually more expensive than chrome tanned leather. Thanks to the all-natural process of tanning this leather, it is very environmentally friendly and safe as well.
Over time, and with proper care this leather becomes stronger, softer and acquires a beautiful rich patina. With exposure to sunlight and normal use, the leather will darken in colour and deepen in tone into a beautiful patina that cannot be replicated any other way.
Our natural uncoloured vegetable-tanned leather. Left as it starts, 6-month sun exposure, and 6-month sun and oil.
We have become so used to heavily engineered and coated leather that a saddle made from raw, natural leather looks unfinished. Our vegetable tanned leather is not covered with synthetic coatings to hide the leather defects. The hide is effectively naked and so will age and darken with the sun just like your own skin. All colours will do this but it’ll be much more noticeable in lighter colours.
Our leather cowhide, it is sourced in North America in the cooler climates away from the flea and tick on hotter areas.
The first thing to know is that you can’t and shouldn’t try to prevent the ageing process of vegetable tanned leather, it’s the ability to age is a mark of quality.
Your saddle will be unique right from the start. As mentioned above our hides are completely natural so each one will be different. Just think of it like your own skin! There are scratches, stretch marks, blemishes and uneven colour patches in every veg-tanned piece. With regards to darkening that’s *sort of* up to you. The more you use the piece, the faster it’ll darken. The sun will quicken this up, as will rubbing in a leather conditioner or neatsfoot oil. High use areas will also tend to darken quickly because of the natural oils in your hands.
Here are some tips on how to care for your leather product:
Conditioning Leather – If you begin to notice that the shine that was once there is wearing off and looking dry, take some time to care for your product. If your product is not exposed to the outdoors very much, care for it once or twice a year, if your product is exposed to the sun most of the time it is used, we recommend that you care for it 3-4 times a year. There are many many leather conditioners available, you can use any commercially-available conditioner designed for vegetable-tanned leather. Simple oils such as mineral oil, neatsfoot oil (we like this) or olive oil also work well. Simply rub in a light coat evenly, then buff it with a clean dry rag. You can repeat these steps as many times as you like, but keep in mind that conditioning leather usually darkens it slightly (this is normal). We like to seal in the oil with a coat of Beeswax based leather conditioner, we like Canadian product from Beeseal but there are lots of other out there.
Saddle Soap cleans leather and lubricates the fibres to prevent brittleness, all the while maintaining suppleness and strength.