Riding a horse is one of life's pleasures, and it's always easy – whilst you're enjoying yourself – to neglect the unpleasant or monotonous side of things. A good, leather saddle does more than just look great, they make riding comfortable for both the rider and their horse; which is why they need to be cared for and looked after.
For many, cleaning a leather saddle is not considered a chore, but rather an extension of the enjoyment of riding. If you are not of the same opinion then that's ok. just bear in mind that they are by no means inexpensive, and that by taking a couple of minutes after riding to clean it, you wil be saving yourself a lot of time and money further down the road.
Alcohol eats through leather like nothing else, which is why anyone who has ever worked in a bar will go through shoes like they're going out of fashion. An-alcohol based cleaner, therefore, is definitely not what you need to be using. In fact you really do not need much at all; a bucket, warm water, a sponge, some saddle soap and a bit of Neatsfoot Oil or leather conditioner ought to suffice.Nettex provide some Tack Cleaning Wipes which some people like to use to give the saddle a quick wipe down after a ride. These wipes are ideal for using if you're in a bit of a rush and are extremely helpful, so long as they do not become your primary means of cleaning your leather saddle.
Water is not great for leather either, and it will leave marks if not properly dried, so make sure when you're sponging down your saddle, that the sponge is only damp; and not turgid with water.
Neatsfoot oil is a commonly used leather saddle protector, and it works by forming a protective varnish-like barrier over the surface of the saddle. Neatsfoot oil will give any leather surface it is applied to a slightly darker hue, and if you apply it over-zealously it will rot any stitching on the saddle, so do apply it sparingly.
It is possible that you may have no leather conditioner or neatsfoot oil around, but luckily there are alternatives. You should never use petroleum-based solutions – like Vaseline – on leather saddles, as this will dry out the leather and leach its natural fat deposits, but if you're an aspiring chef, or Popeye, you're in luck; as Olive Oil will definitely get the job done.