I have an English saddle that I purchased used and on one side there is a spot on the flap where I suspect the stirrup and leathers have rubbed the leather quite a lot. The spot is rough and if I clean the spot my sponge/cloth comes away brown. This is NOT a dirty spot, the saddle came almost impeccably clean for being used and I thoroughly clean it at least once or twice a month (it is kept in a zippered saddle bag when not on a horse). I feel that maybe the seal on the leather has been rubbed away. What can I do to fix it and/or prevent further damage?
There’s no seal on leather that I’m aware of. What do you clean it with? It’s possible that it just needs a good leather conditioner to get some more oil to soak in. Alternatively some old leathers have no more soak left in them and what’s rubbing off might just be the dye/oil that can’t soak in.
Leather is smooth on one side because that is the outer skin side (as opposed to the muscle side) of the hide. When you get a rough patch that means the surface of the leather has been rubbed/worn away. A paste conditioner will help to stick the fibres down and reduce friction. If you burnish the area with a hard, smooth object after using the paste it will help even more. Keeping the leather conditioned will help to prevent further wear.
If that doesn’t work, you could try some TanKote, a Fiebing product. It’s water based, so if you don’t like what it does, you wipe or wash it off. There are some real oily India stirrup leathers, like the Gatsby brand, that are oiled half to death and the oil also has dye in it. If someone put any oily stirrup leathers on there, it will leave a oil/grease mark under the leathers. I would get a little bottle of TanKote, and put some on my fingertip and rub it well into the worn area that you’re talking about. Might have to do that a couple of times. See if that improves anything. It can hardly hurt anything.
Another thought is that much of today’s leather has a “pigmented” layer (like a paint) applied to it, to hide blemishes and also to supposedly help prevent wear. That coating would normally wear off in the wear areas, like under stirrup leathers. I’d also try the TanKote in that case. It should help with the abrasion. Of course, being water-based, it will eventually wear or rinse off. But there are acrylic topcotes like clear or tinted Resolene that you could try if the TanKote trial seems to be effective, if not permanent.
Without seeing the saddle, I’m just speculating on most likely causes, based on what you described.