Saddle Storage and Handling
Proper saddle care starts with how you care for your saddle when its not in use. This part of the saddle care equation is often given a lot less attention than the cleaning and conditioning part. This is a mistake. Mishandling your saddle will cause a lot more damage than simply missing a conditioning session or two.
Store your saddle in a dry place that's out of the sun. Excessive moisture can cause the leather to stretch. Too much heat and sun dry out the leather which can cause brittleness and cracking.
Store your saddle on a saddle stand. A variety of commercial stands are available in wood or aluminum, and handy people can build their own. The stand should be tall enough so that the stirrups don't touch the ground which can cause the fenders to bend out of shape. In addition, the top should be wide enough to give the saddle the support it needs. If the saddle is stored on a saddle rack that is too thin or on a narrow fence post, the saddle may begin to curl and lose its shape. Make sure the skirts aren't twisted and that all of the saddle strings and straps are hanging down.
While it's best never to lay your saddle on the ground, there are times when it’s necessary. In these situations, the best options are to either lay your saddle on its side with the fenders and stirrups lying smoothly, or fork down on its nose. You would not want to leave your saddle for very long in either of these positions as they can cause the leather to bend out of position.
You saddle should always be covered when storing it to keep off dust, critters, water, and other undesirables. There are many commercial saddle covers available, but a sheet, blanket or even newspapers are good solutions for a tight budget. Don't use plastic (including the commercial plastic covers) to cover your saddle as plastic holds in moisture and can cause mildew.
If you travel with your saddle, consider investing in a saddle carrier and a saddle pad carrier. Travel can really beat up your gear. Padded carriers can go a long way toward keeping your tack protected from the crud the road and from bumps and scuffs.
Most custom saddles are crafted with “pre-twisted” stirrups already in the proper position for riding. Most manufactured saddles require some additional attention. A good time to “train” your stirrups is while the saddle is stored on its stand. Twist both fenders to the outside and slide a broomstick or 2x4 through both stirrups. Over time, this will turn your stirrups in the proper position and make your hours in the saddle much more enjoyable. Visit our How To section to learn how to turn your stirrups.
Saddles are designed to handle a lot of rugged use. Abusing your saddle or improper care will shorten its life. You'll be rewarded for proper saddle care and handling. You'll also be rewarded for practicing a regular program of saddle cleaning and conditioning.