Help! How to care for my 1st calfskin saddle?

I am a newbie to the world of fine french saddles :smiley:

I recently (<1 week ago) purchased my first Butet (used) from a local saddle dealer.

I have never owned a calfskin saddle before, and would love some advice on the best cleaning/conditioning products to use.

Just as an aside, I was horrified at how delicate it is and how easily it scratches. How do you manage that?

#1- it’s going to get scratched and wear under the leathers. Most real horsemen consider that sort of a mark of honor-means you actually ride in it.

#2- Do. Not. Ride. In. Jeans. You can get away with the lighter, thinner ones once in awhile but the thick seams will scuff the saddle, can mean replacing the seat and knee rolls (if you wear jeans and half chaps) sooner then you expect.

#3- keep it clean and conditioned but don’t glop it up with products that leave a residue. Clean, damp sponge with nothing is best followed by light condition, make sure that absorbs. It is going to change color, that’s what they do,

Any suggestions on specific conditioners? Any products that will protect against scratches?

I already put a pretty decent scratch on it, with just my fingernail!

There’s no conditioner you can put on that will prevent scratching. You know this…. you have skin and all kinds of moisturizers! None of 'em is armor.

Perhaps the best, non-obvious advice I can add is to be careful about over-doing it with one kind of conditioner or fatty/oily/glycerine-y stuff. Too much on fine-grained leather will make it look nice “just sitting there”-- you’ll be tempted to create that nice soft glow every time with some kind of product put on with a damp sponge. But be sure you aren’t creating those “grease jockeys”-- little pills or slivers of dirt mixed with your conditioning product. Look especially at where your stirrup leathers hand or just above where your calf makes the most contact with the flap.

That’s a sign of too much conditioning for this fragile, fine-grained leather. And taking grease jockeys off requires friction or a chemical like diluted ammonia or soap wet enough to act as a detergent. All leather hates this (just like your skin does), but fine grained leather doesn’t withstand it well.

You are better off doing a little less with this leather, day-to-day. That’s especially true if you are compulsive about cleaning tack and you have a “symptom” of that addiction like sticky bridles. To me, cleaning really well and oiling and then conditioning as needed is the only way to go for fine-grained calf-covered tack.

If it’s grippy and you like that, do not use saddle soap on it! It is designed to seal moisture into leather, and this is what makes them slick. I wipe dust off with a damp cloth and just use conditioner (name brand CWD/Antares for those saddles, and either effax cream or plain Neatsfoot painted on others.) It also helps darken scuffs.

Securing your stirrups by looping the leathers around the bar when you have them run up will keep them from slipping/flopping (my horse shakes after almost every ride and that is how i earned a big nick in the flap), and a fleece lined cover will protect it whem you’re carrying/setting it places. Don’t ride in jeans- the seam will scuff up the seat/pommel.

I use the Butet Akene (sp?) cleanser on my new butet premium. I’m not as sold on the conditioner. I was told by my rep to never ever use glycerine products on it so I’m avoiding those.

I’m obsessed with TLC Saddle soap & conditioner combo but only a handful of stores carry it. It’s made with goats milk and that’s only if its dirty or needs a condition (we probably need it more in LA with the dry weather than other places)…otherwise I just wipe it down. And calfskin only needs to be oiled MAYBE once a year.

I have a full calfskin CWD and only use Higher Standards saddle soap and the CWD conditioner. The CWD conditioner will darken the leather (helps hide the scratches).