The right care for your saddle

People often ask us: "Should I rather use grease or oil on my saddle?”


That is an important question because the wrong care can cause great damage to the leather. To answer the question properly, we need to provide some extra information. Why? Simply because the secret is the tanning.

There are several types of leather that are tanned in various ways that need different care – this also applies to saddles. Before we talk about leather, let’s have closer look at the material “leather” itself. Cowhide is the main material used in the production of saddles. It consists of:

  • Epidermis
  • Papillary dermis
  • Dermis
  • Hypodermis

The final leather only consists of:

  • the papillary dermis (the fine top) and
  • the dermis (the fibrous bottom)

The rest is removed in the finishing of the leather. The top of the finished leather is called “grain side” (Napa), experts refer to the bottom as “flesh side” (or Velour). The raw material is a waste product; the leather only gets its value through the complex processing. But also the “waste products“ in the leather production don’t remain unused. The removed hypodermis is used to make gummy bears – no kidding.

Everybody knows that leather is tanned! But what is tanning?

In the tanning process the skin is made durable to prevent it from decaying and from breaking. The skin gets conserved by soaking it in vegetable or mineral tannins. On a riding saddle, you will find both, vegetable- and mineral-tanned leather. There is also leather tanned with mixed methods.

The care requirements result from the tanning, the oiling, the age and the usage of the leather. After tanning, the leather is oiled in the tannery. Some of them are treated with more “liquid“ fats (e.g. harness leather) and others with rather “solid” fats (e.g. bridle leather) – depending on the future use. Every oiling process features both components but in different proportions. However, more liquid fats deeply penetrate the leather and protect it more intensively, even in heavy use. Other leathers are “protected“ due to their tanning type.

Tip: Do not oil the girth straps and the girth.

As you can see, the question whether to oil or to grease the leather cannot be answered precisely. So much for our little insight into the leather production.

We don’t use any oil for leather care. This is due to the storage of our tack and to our climate. Oiled leather gets spongy and slippery in our humid climate – in contrast to the low humidity in Spain for instance. Especially when the oil is used excessively.

In summary, we can say that new, slightly used and correctly stored leather only needs little greasing. Old, try and heavily used leather, however, has no trouble with oiling.

Rather cleaning than greasing

The use of saddle soap is much more important than the decision between grease and oil. Concerning their ingredients, today’s soaps meet all the requirements for leather care and have a slightly greasing effect. Especially the regular care of the panel, the flaps and the girth is very important. These are the parts that are in direct contact with the horse. Make sure to clean those saddle parts carefully from horse sweat and dirt.

What is the best way to do that?

Proceed in the same way as if you washed yourself. Skin remains skin. First dampen the saddle and then soap it properly. Usually, light foam will occur. Leave it on for a little time. Afterwards, you need to remove the foam carefully with a clean and damp sponge. Then you can apply the leather grease or balm on the slightly wet leather.

Important: Do not clean and treat your tack in the scorching sun as the leather will dry out. Rough leather surfaces such as suede and nubuck leather would become smooth if you greased them. You might need to use special care products for them.

Insider tip: If you wish to gain more information about leather care or if you are trying to find a solution for a special leather problem, please visit the website You will find many more useful tips about leather.