Courtesy of Saddle maker Cary Schwarz
1. Using saddle soap, water and nylon brush, clean the saddle with just enough pressure to work up lather on the leather. Remember to thoroughly clean areas that directly touch the horse (fenders, stirrup leathers, billets, latigo and back cinch).
2. With the sponge and water, flush clean the areas you've lathered. This process removes surface dirt and opens the leather's pores, which releases dirt that's penetrated the leather.
"Don't be afraid to use lots of water in this step," Schwarz offers. "It won't hurt the leather as long as it's allowed to dry immediately."
3. Allow the leather to dry completely.
4. Apply leather conditioner. Use a scrap of sheepskin if it's an oil-based product or your hands for a wax-based conditioner. Pay close attention to areas that contact the horse.
If the leather is particularly dry (evidenced by stiffness), use 100-percent Neatsfoot oil. Never use petroleum based Neatsfoot oil compound it will destroy the leather fibers. . Apply the oil sparingly, because over-oiling ads weight to the saddle and causes the product to bleed from the leather in hot weather and can break down the leather's fibers.
Wax-based products are suitable for all saddle surfaces (front and backsides). The wax helps seal the leather so dirt and salt don't readily penetrate the surface. Hand-rub wax-based products into the saddle's surface when the leather is warmed to room temperature or working outside on a warm day.
After applying conditioner, buff off any excess product with scrap sheepskin or a soft rag so the saddle's surface isn't sticky and doesn't attract dust.