How to Break In a New English Saddle

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Make sure your girth fits.,
It is best to break in a saddle with an older set of well maintained stirrup leathers.,
Do not ride in your saddle the day you bring it home.,
Tack up your horse being very careful to have your girth adjusted and the buckle of your stirrup leathers pulled up to the stirrup bar.,
Ride as usual for at least an hour.,
CHECK YOUR GIRTH FREQUENTLY!,
When you have completed the ride.,
Lightly treat the underside of the saddle as above.,
You can work the billets with a glycerin wash. Knead the glycerin in until they become more pliable.,
Buff the top leather with a soft flannel cloth.,
Allow the saddle to sit for 2 to 3 days before putting into use.

A well fitting girth on a new saddle will be slightly longer than when the saddle is broken in as the billets stretch. You need to use a girth that fastens with the girth buckles just below the appropriate position during the break in period (one or two holes below the middle billet hole on both near and far side).;
, New leathers are rough on saddle flaps that are not yet broken in to accommodate them.

, Wait for a day of steady rain. Not a downpour, and light mist won’t do the trick. It’s best to buy your saddle in the summer when the temperatures are such that you will be able to completely break in the saddle with one ride.

, Do not wear a raincoat that covers any portion of the saddle.

, During this ride, pay very close attention to your equitation, in particular your leg position and seat. It is helpful to have a friend who watches you and corrects ANY deviation. Start with your stirrups adjusted into the position you most commonly ride in. Shorten or lengthen your stirrups into the other lengths you use once your saddle is thoroughly saturated. Ride equal time in all positions after the saddle is softened by the rain.

, The billets stretch most during the first ride.

, Seal the exposed leather with a coat of glycerin. Dip a bar of glycerin into water and use a dry cloth to pick up a patch of it. There should be NO bubbles! Coat the top of the saddle fairly thickly and turn over. BE SURE THAT YOU ARE USING PURE GLYCERIN. Many soaps contain basic (high pH) additives that will damage the leather; leather is naturally slightly acidic due to the tanning process.

, Use warm neatsfoot oil on the lower flaps (those in contact with the horse), taking care not to oil the side in contact with the horse. Do not oil any stitching. Oil in extremely thin coats, using a soft cloth or sponge. Repeat until the oil does not soak into the leather, then wipe off any excess and allow to set for at least 24 hours. Oil will soak into the leather over time, and may accept more oil after setting. DO NOT OVER OIL THE LEATHER. If it is over-oiled, it will become too soft and delicate, which will decrease the life of the leather. It is not recommended to oil soft leather at any point, including, in some cases, the knee rolls, blocks, and often the seat of the saddle. It is possible, if desired, to lightly oil the smooth side of hard leather on the skirt and upper flaps. Oiling the smooth side takes far longer, but it makes it easier to control the evenness and amount of oil used.

, Alternatively, it is possible to lightly oil the billets, following the same instructions as those for the saddle flaps and skirt.

, The leather should be darker, softer and shinier than when new.

, Continue to closely monitor your leg placement during the first few weeks of service. Check your girth very frequently and use a shorter one when billets stretch and the buckles get too high on them.

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