Care of BALANCE Saddles & Pads

It is important to treat reversed hide leather in the same way as the rest of the saddle in terms of cleaning and conditioning, with the one difference that you stick to using glycerine saddle soap and a thicker conditioner occasionally (such as Effax or Aussie Leather Care), just wiping over lightly rather than using oil. The oil is likely to penetrate too much and could affect the foam inside.

Do not worry that the 'fluffy' texture of the reversed hide disappears once it has been conditioned; this is how it should be.

Yes you can (just avoid using it on any reversed hide panels - just use glycerine soap or a thick conditioner such as Effax or Aussie Leather Care on those).

However, please note that when leather is conditioned with oil, the oil gets drawn deep into leather. This is good for the inside of the leather, but as the oil leaves no residual layer on the outer leather, this part of the hide remains ‘vulnerable’. Therefore, after oiling, it is important to use a product (such as Glycerine soap, Effax Lederbalsam or Sedgewicks Leather Care) that will, in effect, ‘seal’ the leather and will condition and protect the outer layer of it.

BALANCE saddles are expertly hand-crafted and are of excellent quality. As such, if cared for well they should last 20 – 30 years at least, but if left neglected and unconditioned, its life will be drastically shortened.

When left unconditioned, leather gets dry and will lose its elasticity. It will also fade more quickly and lose its original colour. Dry leather can be prone to cracking and breaking, which may lead to a safety issue as well. So, conditioning and caring for your saddle well will protect your financial investment and will keep it safe to use as well. The manufacturers are clear that poor management and care of the leathers in their saddles can nullify their warranties.

The frequency of conditioning depends on how often the saddle is used and the climate it is stored and used in. Hot, dry climates tend to dehydrate leather quickly and make the need for conditioning more frequent, but remember that whenever an oil is used to condition the leather, it should always be followed by using a more waxy, thicker product to seal the surface.

It is also possible to use too much oil and conditioner on good quality leathers, making them lose their strength and become too soft. No more than once a week in climates with extreme temperatures and usually around once a month in more temperate climates, in between normal cleaning.

Many people have been taught that it is good practice to have saddles re-flocked now and again, but in actual fact it may not be necessary, nor even advisable. We have known many BALANCE Wool-flocked saddles to be 15 years old or older, with no adjustment needed to the original flocking. This is because the Padding System protects the panels from the horse as well as the horse from the panels.

If you turn your saddle upside down and feel the panels, do they feel uneven, lumpy or hard? Or are there areas where there are dents/'holes' in the panels where the flocking is missing/less dense? If so, then it would be good to address this, but if not, it is usually best to leave the original flocking alone. This is because, in our experience, it is almost impossible to adjust the flocking and get as good a result as the original flocking.

If your panels are lumpy or hard etc. the best thing to do is to get a good saddler to strip out all of the old flocking and completely re-flock softly with high quality, long-fibre white wool.

If you do not know a good saddler, you could send the saddle back to Frank Baines in the UK (www.frankbaines.com), but you would need to contact them directly to request prices and to arrange when they could do the work etc. Alternatively, you could ask Frank Baines if they can recommend someone to help you in your area.

(If the saddle is still in warranty please contact the BALANCE Office for advice).

Important Please Note: If you are experiencing problems with your panels, it may be necessary to assess whether there are any postural issues relating to your horse and/or the rider that needed to be addressed. If panels have become unevenly compressed for example, and any postural issues are not remedied, the problem with the panels is likely to return after re-flocking. It is very important to identify and address any such issues for the sake of your horse's comfort and well being, and it will very much help the rider too :-)

Some BALANCE Saddles (such as the Felix, Matrix and Horizon models) have foam panels. Although the leather encasing foam panels does stretch a bit with use, the panels are extremely reliable and unless they receive extreme pressures in order to compress them unevenly, they do not usually require any attention over time.

It is a good idea to wash all the fleece lined pads that will go next to the horse’s back before you first use them.  There are two reasons for this:

  • The wool on these pads has been shorn from the sheep and then knitted onto a cotton backing.  Because it has been through this manufacturing process it is a good idea to wash it as instructed to remove any chemical residue that may be there.
  • Because of this process, the individual fibres will not all be lying in the same direction as they would if they were still attached to a skin.  So, the cuticles on each hair shaft will not all be lying in the same direction.  This can make the fibres feel rather ‘rough’.  Washing as instructed, particularly using the cup of white vinegar in the final rinse, will soften the fibres so that they feel better for the horse.

BALANCE no longer sell Sheepskin Pads, but if you already have one, you can click here to view a video on our YouTube Channel which explains how best to take care of it.