Below Article and Photos: Tammie Conway
In December 2020 I noticed "spidering" on my doeskin seat when getting ready to do our annual Christmas Caroling ride at the barn when tacking up. To say that I was deeply concerned is an understatement. I feared it would not hold up for hard use but decided to hop up and take it easy this one time (walking) but would not ride again until I spoke to Amy Magee to get her opinion. On January 12, 2021 I finally had time so I took a picture of the doeskin seat (to the left) then reached out to Amy a few days later inquiring about ideas on how to prevent further cracking and what should I do??
I was delighted to get a PM a few days later from Amy to check out her post on her Black Diamond Design Facebook Page on how to deal with this! Below was her response and the photo she posted at the time is pictured to bottom left:
The doeskin seat-
A person recently reached out to me asking how to care for her doeskin seat that appears to be wanting to crack. She said it does feel dry but didn’t want to put anything on it.
I understand this concern!!!!! You don’t want to ruin it, but if it feels like paper, it does need conditioning. The following is what I do. It’s not perfect but it has worked for me on many occasions.
I recently acquired a beautiful Owen with a dry seat. The seller told me it was dry and I knew I could help it. It’s a slow process and the worst thing you can do is ride in a seat that is dry. It will crack and tear. Personally my favorite product for the doeskin is the CWD conditioner. Yes I know it’s $30 a jar and they charge a ridiculous amount for shipping, but I stock up on Black Friday when they typically have their things on sale. It is a creme gel that in my experience darkens the doeskin the least. I have trialed other products but this is my favorite for this purpose. I do several coats with my fingers rubbing it in circles on the seat and the heads. One perk of doing this in the winter is my hands can usually use the moisturizing as well!
I let it sit for several days between coats and then will ride in the saddle even with the conditioner on it. After I have ridden in it and I feel it is more supple then I will clean it with leather therapy and a credit card to scrape the yuck off if I feel it needs it. Not all saddles need it but if it has so much dirt and conditioner accumulated that it feels like a leather seat, it’s best to clean it.
I’ll do a post one day soon on how I clean my seats.
I was then on a mission to order some CWD Conditioner. It was probably early to mid-February when I started tracking down my local CWD rep. When I finally got a hold of a rep, she confirmed indeed the price and shipping were as Amy remembered. She said she did not have any product at that time so she suggested I could order directly from the CWD site but it would take a while to get to me. I explained I really wanted to get started on a project and surprisingly was told that the Belvoir Leather Balsam in the silver can with orange label was very close to their product so I could probably buy that instead to get started ASAP and save some money as well! I was ecstatic since I already had a can at the barn and didn't have to go to the store!
By this time we were getting close to the Annual ISSO Meeting and I new Amy was going to be speaking on a topic including this very subject so I decided to try to get one or two sessions in prior to her talk so that I could then be able to ask if I had any questions. She did a fabulous job explaining everything, suggesting products, showing saddles at different stages, and giving reasoning behind each step with pitfalls to avoid.
I continued the painstaking task of oiling then waiting, oiling then waiting. If you know me then you know patience is not my strong point so the whole taking a while for the saddle to be ready was REALLY hard but I understood how important it was to do exactly as Amy said. Even though I knew I should, I was still a little hesitant each time I applied the conditioner to the seat. I dont know why because she has done a ton but I think I was worried what if I mess it up?
Little by little the seat was feeling less like paper. I documented the progression each time before and after application. I waited patiently between sessions and took my time so I didn't start riding in it until early July, just before we went to camp. Amy consulted on it at camp and gave me options for the future. I have conditioned it several times since camp but didn't always remember to photograph it. I still have not cleaned the seat so it is much darker than before. When I get around to cleaning it I will try to document that but until then I am excited to be back in the saddle due to Amy's help!
Photo Above Left of the "spidering" after I rode prior to conditioning- Date February 22, 2021.
Photo Above and to the Left show the "spidering" before any conditioning-
Date March 1, 2021.
Photo Below and to the Left show the "spidering" after conditioning- Date March 1, 2021.
Photo Above was before conditioning on March 6
Photo Above was after conditioning on March 6
Photo to the Left was prior to conditioning on April 30
Photo Below after conditioning on April 30
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Photo to Right of the saddle after restoring and being ridden in!
Submitted by Jacquelynn Holly
Video Below of cleaning and restoring of a side saddle by Jacquelynn Holly