Show Your Saddles You Care

Horsemanship Level 2: Saddlery Care

In Dom Duarte’s 15th century treatise on riding, horsemanship and mounted combat, Bem Cavalgar, he states:

We must take good care of the saddle, the bridle and the stirrups, ensuring that they are strong, that they have the necessary resistance and are of good quality to avoid failure of any of them; othewise, we might die, meet with an accident, or be shamed.  And we will achieve this if we frequently check them and if we detect any problem, we fix it immediately ….

(The Royal Book of Horsemanship, Jousting and Knightly Combat, translation by Antonio Franco Preto & Luis Preto, Chivalry Bookshelf, 2005)

Caring for your tack is still important.  Leather that is properly cleaned and oiled lasts longer and is more supple and comfortable for you and your horse.  Not only are saddles and bridles expensive, tack that has dried out or been over-oiled becomes weak and prone to failure.  Routinely cleaning your tack not only protects your investment, it allows you to check for frayed stitching or cracks that could pose a safety hazard.

For Level 2 we ask that you know and practise

8. Basic care of tack

Every-day cleaning

After every ride you should at minimum wipe your tack down with a damp cloth to remove sweat, dirt and grease.

Follow up with a tiny bit of saddle soap if necessary, but avoid over-soaping.

‘Put up’ your bridle, hung by the crown piece, with the reins neatly looped through the throat latch, and the noseband wrapped around the whole bridle.  The saddle should sit on a stand or rack, covered by a saddle cover or the upside down saddle pad (the clean side goes against your saddle, the damp side to the air to dry).  The stirrups should be run up or removed, and the girth detached and hung separately.

Weekly cleaning

Once a week your saddle, bridle and other tack such as martigales or breastplates should be taken apart and given a thorough cleaning.  You will need:

  • sponges, towels and soft cloths
  • a tooth brush or nail brush for getting dirt from crevices
  • saddle soap
  • leather oil
  • metal polish
  • warm water

1. After dismantling your tack, wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove dirt.  A bit of mane hair is also useful for removing ‘jockeys’ (those dark collections of grime on the panels).  Take care not to get the leather too wet.

2. Dry with a soft cloth

3. Apply saddle soap with a dry sponge, avoiding lathering.  Work it in with a circular motion.

4. Oil only if necessary.  Leather needs oil if it is dry and stiff to the touch.  Too much oil will weaken the leather, and can rot stitches.  Apply a thin layer of oil with a light cloth.  If the leather is new it will take many repeated oilings to soften it — don’t try to do it all at once.

5. Clean buckles with metal polish.  The bit should be cleaned with soap and water only.

6. Clean nylon webbing and other synthetic materials with brushes and damp cloths.  Some synthetic saddles have proprietary brands of cleaners.  Never use oil or saddle soap on a synthetics.

Store your tack in a cool dry place — never put it near a heat source to dry, or leave it out in the weather.  Leather is an amazing, resilient substance, and if treated with care can last a lifetime.

Coming up in the Cavaliere Program

The current series of Cavaliere Classes wraps up with week 4 on Saturday June 22nd.  It’s assessement and review week, so if there’s a particular topic you’d like to practise or review, let your Horsemanship instructor know.  The next series begins July 13th and continues through to the end of August.  There is no Intro workshop in July, but our regular Mounted Combat workshop will be running July 7th.

Mounted Combat
Sunday July 7th, 1-4pm
Sunday August 4th, 1-4pm
cost: $60 per workshop

Cavaliere Classes
Saturdays, 4- 7:30pm, July 13, 27, Aug 10, 24
cost: $60 per class; $200 for 4 classes

Mounted Combat + Cavaliere classes: $120 per month (3 classes for the price of 2)

Intro to Mounted Combat
Sunday August 4th, 10am-12:30pm
cost: $99
Intro + regular Mounted Combat on the same day: $149

Knightly Games Tournament
Sunday September 29th 10am – 4pm
Mark your calendars!

We are also hoping to run another Mounted Archery workshop at the end of September.  Details to be confirmed, so stay tuned.

Jennifer Landels, Maestra di Scuderia
Academie Duello Cavaliere Program



Jennifer Landels Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.

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