There is near-universal agreement: Tack must be cleaned -- ideally after every ride. Not many people do it, but everyone agrees they should. Question is, what's the right way? How do we make our tack last as long as possible?
FOR NEW SADDLES:
Ahh, that brand-new saddle smell and feel! You've saved-up for weeks, maybe even months or years, to get that saddle you've been eying-up. Now it's yours. Now the penny-pinching is done...Now what? A saddle is no cheap toy! You need to care for it, and protect the leather, so you can have it for years to come. The less often you have to spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars, the better, right? Before you take it out for a spin, be sure to give it the proper care, right from the start! "What care might that be?" you ask? Well, we've out-lined it for you here, plain and simple.
1) Brush leather-oil onto underskirts and sweat-flaps. We'd recommend a soft paint-brush. Apply regularly over first month, until bottle is gone.
2) Apply Leather conditioner, to the softer leathers, regularly for 1st month: This would be the seat, inserts, and girth points. Leather conditioner will soften the leather, which is necessary for it to be broken in, and mold to fit your horse.
These treatments are critical in the first month, of your new saddle, to prevent dryness, which leads to cracking and potentially irreversible damage. After your first treatment of oil and conditioners, it's ready for it's first ride. But, after the first month, apply the leather conditioner to all leathers of the saddle, as part of your routine maintenance.
Note that after the first few rides, your new saddle will have built up a layer of dirt/dust. It is important that you clean the saddle and accessories with saddle soap (you'll need a tack sponge). Typically, your saddle and tack should be cleaned after ever ride...
1) Create a lather of saddle soap over sweat flaps, panel, girth points. Use a clean, dry, cloth, to wipe off the access residue.
2) Next, apply the leather conditioner, to the entire saddle, including the girth straps, panel, and sweat flaps underneath. It is recommended that you clean and condition your saddle at least once a week.
FOR OLD SADDLES:
Maybe you've purchased a used saddle, or just haven't used a particular one in a while. Perhaps it's dry, cracked, and even moldy, from sitting around. Don't frown and try to get rid of it! With just a little work, it can be looking next-to-new!
1) use saddle soap to clean off all dirt. This may have to be repeated several times, to get it all off.
2) Once it has been thoroughly cleaned, apply oil all over the entire saddle, every day for a week. A dry saddle can absorb up to half a liter of oil in just ONE application! After the first week, of daily application, it's important to continue the routine of saddle soap and conditioner.
TIPS: Save old tooth brushes, to get in the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. Paint-brushes work well for getting in the grooves of stamped-leather.