Darkening orange saddle

Hello everyone! Just took a new jump saddle out on trial. Not sure if it’s a fit yet (fingers crossed) but it checks out on paper. Except for the fact that it is that lovely reddish brown leather! How could I potentially darken it if I keep it? Pony is chestnut and definitely needs the dark brown tack to match everything else he has. It’s a new saddle, full grain with calf/covered seat and knee rolls, if that changes anything. I’ve heard neatsfoot oil may work, but I also don’t want to destroy the saddle in the process. Thanks!

Yes, oil it. I’ve used a paint brush to brush it on in smooth even strokes and thin layer until it gets to the color I want. Have done this multiple times with success!

If it’s new and reddish but not notably light, it’ll probably darken up naturally as you clean and condition it over time. Oil will help speed this up, especially Hydrophane. Be careful not to over-oil your calfskin parts, though - too much can make the layers start to separate.

If it’s truly orange, it might take more than just oil. I had one that came to me new in a light “tobacco” color. I oiled it to no avail. Eventually I stripped and dyed it with pretty good results. Nobody is going to mistake it for a fancy saddle anyway, but it passes as a normal color now.

I had success with HOT hot oil. ETA it did not have any calfskin.

Hot hot oil? What kind of oil? Neatsfoot or vegetable or olive? Or something else?
Thanks everyone for the confirmation I’m most likely not going to ruin it haha can be nerve wracking!

Usually new saddles come with a container of conditioning oil from the manufacturer. Maybe you can contact the maker for some or ask what they recommend?

I’m a fan of the Hydrophane leather dressing. They make a darkening oil too. Putting the saddle out in the warm sun helps the oil absorption.

I think I used vegetable oil

I’m not sure I’d oil a calf covered saddle… depending on how it was made that could dissolve the glue that holds the calf on - there’s a thread about the resultant bubbling on here.

ETA here it is: https://forum.chronofhorse.com/t/fixing-bubbling-saddle-leather/750552/2

It didn’t come with anything but I’ll look on their website for any info. It’s full grain except for the flaps and seat and I would be very sparing on those for sure. Good to know about hydrophane too. Thanks!

For darkening I always use Walsh’s Blue Ribbon Oil, it has a bit of stain in it so you use far less oil to get a darker color. But I wouldn’t be in a hurry to darken it, it will most likely darken with use (dirt, sweat) and frequent cleanings. Too much oil will weaken the leather so go slowly and be patient.

hmm, are you sure the seat and knees are calf? It would surprise me if a saddle with grain flaps had calf seat and knees - it might be buffalo. (My Stackhouse had that - it’s smooth and not slippery and wears really well.) If so, I’d oil with cheap olive oil, rubbed in with your hands so it warms just a little. Many light coats til you like the color. It will take time but if it’s good leather it will darken nicely.

Please! Do not use vegetable oils on your saddle! Many can become rancid and rot the stitching, we do not use food grade oil to preserve leather!
Hydrophane is the best , use it often to darken the leather gradually. Some of the ideas being brought forth here will ruin your tack and stain your britches!

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This was true when leather stitching was the norm. Now nylon stitching is the norm, and oil does not rot it.

I wouldn’t use oil on calfskin but it’s fine on everything else sparingly.

FYI many conditioners are animal-fat/rendering based. Lanolin being a key ingredient. This might horrify some but for those tough leathers, I remember using bacon grease to break in and condition.

OP, think you are trying to get blood from a stone here. An orange saddle will not darken to that rich dark brown. A brown saddle darkens to dark brown. An orange saddle darkens to a dark newmarket/australian nut color.


But some saddles are very old, so the stitching will be waxed cotton. I used to stitch at a very fancy bridle maker. They used a proprietary blend of peanut oil, lanolin and bees wax , in a warm vat, for darkening and sealing the leather for shipping/ storage. I’m well aware that neatsfoot and other oils are from animals, but it’s processing makes it shelf stable.

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Tack care is a subject near and dear to my heart, so have to ask. Peanut oil is better than olive oil ? I know it’s a legume and not a vegetable (actually I think olives are fruits), but peanut oil goes rancid too. I used olive oil on my Stackhouse because it’s what David told me to use, and I’ve used it on lots of other tack since - though not calf. It’s all lasted super well - like decades - though I do buy quality stuff. Oil, lanolin and bees wax sounds lovely.

With respect to Beowulf’s comment about whether or not it will darken, I think it really depends on the leather. My Stackhouse was pretty orange when I got it but darkened perfectly to close to havana; I know of a Prestige and an Antares (lower end) that stayed orange forever no matter what treatment they got.

OP’s talking about a brand new saddle.

Yes Hydrophane is good stuff.

Calfskin seat and knee rolls with grain leather flap saddles are pretty much the standard grade on the French saddles; for the past couple of decades. All calfskin leather is an upgrade. All ‘Buffalo’ leather is an upgrade beyond the all calfskin.

The orange toned French saddles were sort of a thing around 2005. I had an all calfskin one. Eventually, it turned a lovely sort of light burgundy tone rather than orange.

I remember back when the really good British saddles had pigskin seats… a long time ago. Were they really made from pigs?

The seats can be. Pigskin is quite sturdy – and long lasting. The one drawback is it tends to get slippery as it ages. I have a couple older saddles with pigskin seats. You’ll almost never see the seat wear through in them like you do in regular (cow) leather or calfskin.

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That is exactly how I ordered my CWD, grain flaps with calf seat and knees and it is not unusual at all, I know many people with that combination.

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I think my 1969 Stubben Siegfried had a pigskin seat, it was like sitting on a slab of ice it was so slippery! :slight_smile:

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