Old faded saddle. Should I try to make it black?

I bought a really old faded saddle by Chs saddlery. I couldn’t find any website for the maker to get much info on it but it’s a Arthur kottas saddle. I’ve only seen pictures of this brand in black so I think that was the original color.

Assuming the tree checks out when I get it should I dye the leather black to make it look better ( it also would look better on my black horse if it fits) or just try to darken it to a dark brown if that is possible? For a black saddle to be this brown does it mean it’s been left in the rain?

I doubt that saddle was ever black. It looks like the same type of leather as a Stubben Parzival. The leather reverts to that colour when it gets dried out. Condition it well right before you ride in it for a week or 2 straight (or longer if you don’t ride every day) and it will go back to a rich dark brown. The conditioning right before you ride in it is helpful as your body heat will drive the conditioner in for a longer-lasting, deeper conditioning. If you just slather on the conditioner and put the saddle away, it will probably not darken up, or at least not darken as quickly.

With care it should get a fairly uniform dark brown which is about the current shade of the darker areas on the skirts and on the flaps underneath the stirrup leathers.


Yes, I have a very old Stubben Tristan and while it definitely has faded a lot, it’s various shades of gray not brown. I agree with just cleaning it and conditioning really well.


at one point they actually made brown dressage saddles. Once upon a time, I bought one ( as ‘agent’ or rather gofer…)

Consider though what breeches you will be wearing. If you stain the saddle, you might do the same to your trousers.


Unless you have it professionally dyed, you risk having black come off on you & your horse.
I had a Stubben Parzival, bought new in 1985, sat unused in my barn from 2009-2021, when I donated to a theraputic riding program.
It hadn’t faded as badly as your pic, but it was very dry.
I conditioned the heck out if it (Stubben hamanol) before donating & the color came back along with flexibility.


The really old dressage saddles were brown. The trend to black is more recent, I want to say 1990s.

A well conditioned older brown saddle can have a lovely patina.


I have died saddles myself, including County, Stubben and Trilogy saddles. There is a process, and you have to follow it. Usually to buy everything outright (usually 5 different items) that can all be purchased off Amazon, you can get a saddle full dyed for about 90-$110. I keep all the items and normally with my purchase I can fix/re-dye bridles, I have also re-dyed leather halters.

Does a professional NEED to be the one to re-dye a saddle? No. but you have to have the correct products, cannot skip steps. I have photos of before and after 20 year old dressage saddles. they look BRAND new, And i have gotten more years out of them looking better and have been brave enough to wear white pants :slight_smile:


I had a newer (and new to me) stubben that had faded to a similar grey-brown. Deglazed, 3 coats of dye, days of buffing, and sealer. It’s been fine so far, but definitely have stuck with fullseats for the time being since it’s a little slick

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I dont love the texture of redyed saddles.

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because of the aesthetic of them or because they ride differently?

If they’re dyed properly and you don’t overdo the resolene they shouldn’t feel any different than a factory finish.

Super easy to do. Stripping the finish/deglazing quality older saddles is a little bit of elbow grease and I now buy bigger containers of Fiebings Deglazer but does eventually work. I have dyed several saddles and 1) it’s easy 2) no, the dye doesn’t rub off on your clothes if you do it right, and 3) the saddles do really look better after. Resolene is a sealer that can get slick but I switched to Bee Naturals beeswax sealant and it’s not so slippery. You can also just use tons of lederbalsam. @MsRidiculous has wonderful instructions on her blog.


OH! how wonderful! Now i want to find an old saddle so i can dye it gray (instead of painting with leather paint gray).

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I think you can only go darker with dye. Give it a shot but I’m pretty sure that’s the case and that if you want to go lighter you need to use paint.

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makes sense. tks

I just got it in and I will say I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not that bad other than the fading , tree is sound and it’s not cracked. It’s also the Imperial model which I think is the higher end one. I paid just over $200 and it feels nicer to sit in than my new wintec pro dressage. Just hope it fits my horse. The stirrup leathers while older feel solid also .

It was at one time black.


Cleaned it up and conditioned it with stubben hamanol. Now waiting for it to dry to see how bad it looks.


The saddle fitter I used repairs and restores tack and has a gallery of before/after pics:


Quite a few of the saddles look as if they were dyed; the color looks more intense or much different. I think your saddle will eventually turn much darker, maybe not a deep black, but a richer color than it is now.


Do you have your process somewhere I could see it, please? I have always died my leather, but it doesn’t “fix” entirely and I would like to know more.