The best advice to clean a saddle
- Glycerin soap
- Soak a sponge in a bucket of warm water.
- Squeeze the sponge until it is just damp, and clean your saddle and harness. (This allows the pores of the leather of the saddle to open so you can clean and condition your saddle and harness when you apply soap to the saddle)
- Rub the bar of leather soap with the sponge to create lather.
- Apply the soap to the leather moving down from the top, back up in reverse, and all over. This will require some work and your hand may hurt when you are done, but the result is a clean and soft saddle ready for an exhibition.
- Clean ALL the lather off the saddle with a dry rag.
- Is there still some dirt stuck somewhere? A toothbrush is the solution. Make some lather with the bristles and go into the cracks and places difficult to reach. Yes, this may be an arduous method and take some time, but simply cleaning with soap and a sponge, even if only once a month, you’ll see the difference.
- Since you are already covered in lather, and you want your saddle to look like new, why not polish it a little? A brightener and conditioner will soften the leather, and make it look like the day you bought it.
- Usually you can clean all the surfaces of the saddle that aren’t leather with a damp cloth, or sometimes with carpet cleaner.
Read the label. Some kinds of soaps need to be allowed to work over some period of time, others need to be removed before they dry.
Saddle soaps may dry the leather, so try to use soap which includes a conditioner every so often. Use saddle soap when it is dirtier. You can also use a damp rag to clean off the dirt before applying soap and conditioner.
Some saddle surfaces cannot be cleaned with soap, you need to use alternative cleaning agents. Saddle soap may damage these elements.
You can clean your bridle and other leather parts of your harness the same way you clean your saddle, but make sure you DO NOT use leather soap on the bit. If some drops on it my mistake, clean it off immediately.
Periodically make sure your saddle is the right size for your horse.
Clean your saddle regularly, it won’t take long and it’ll make your saddle last longer.
There are several kinds of soaps and conditioners for saddles: damp towelettes, sprays and bars. Use whichever you prefer.
Advice on maintaining your saddle
Along with your horse, the saddle is probably the most important element for a good horseman, so keeping it well is key to lengthen its useful life being as functional and looking as good as the day it was purchased.
Although the most important thing is common sense and giving it a good use, some maintenance tips for saddles are never a bad idea:
It’s important to keep a saddle in a closed environment, not too cold or too hot. It is also essential there’s no water dripping on it or that it’s not somewhere very humid. If there’s a lot of humidity in winter, it is convenient to cover it with a thick cloth or place it every so often where there is heating; humidity is leather’s greatest enemy.
A saddle should be placed on a chair rest appropriate to its size. With this gesture, we will help it not to lose its shape.
After riding, always clean those parts in closest contact with the horse with a rag and some soap to remove dust and sweat. Sweat really dries out leather. Every so often (more or less once a month) the skin of the saddle must be nurtured. A balsam is ideal for this; it is rapidly absorbed by the leather, seeking to eliminate any excess amount.
If it is too dirty, you can clean it with a natural sponge and neutral soap, remembering to let it dry completely before applying the nutrient oil. If the saddle can be taken apart, carefully eliminate all dirt from nooks and crannies.
Once a month all the iron parts, buckles, stirrups and other metal parts must be cleaned to prevent rust. If there already is some rust, it’s best to take it to a saddler and have them eliminate it and oil it appropriately.
Both the fleece and the stirrup blanket need to be mothproofed; if there is a lot of humidity, it is common for these insects to appear and brutally attack the wool.
We need to make sure all parts, especially those in contact with the horse, are in perfect condition. Aside from lengthening the life of the saddle, we make sure the animal is comfortable and doesn’t suffer chafing or other damage and discomfort.
If we follow this advice we may guarantee the saddle for a long time, which will save us a lot of money and above all, we won’t need to look for a new saddle once we are pleased with the one we currently have.
If the saddle has real problems that make it impossible to use, it’s advisable to have a professional that can repair a saddle. Using it in bad condition, aside from losing functionality, may give us a backache and lead our horse to refuse to be saddled and ridden.
In Tandil, a father teaches his son how to braid rawhide for the handle of a knife which will be used by a businessman in Russia. In Belén, a grandmother shows her grandson a loom and together they make a poncho for a Lebanese businesswoman. In La Carlota a master artisan teaches an apprentice how to make an alpaca buckle for a polo player in India. E-commerce burst on the scene in all areas and there was no reason for the local handicraft market to be the exception.
Antonio Martínez Pagola is passionate about gaucho and native population handicrafts and wants the rest of the world to join him in this passion. In order to achieve this, he created Vakiano, an e-commerce platform that offers autochthonous products to international buyers, interested in what Argentine culture has to offer.
1 A curated model.
“Tandil is the city of knives, where there are masters, such as César García or Pablo Lozano, who have taught how to work with rawhide. In the countryside of the provinces of the Argentine Mesopotamia they use the horse more than the truck because of the water, so there is more development of saddles and lassoes. In Salta and Catamarca they work the loom a lot, they make ponchos and there are also a lot of alpaca metal products”, Martínez Pagola explains about the production of handicrafts in the country and he could continue mentioning regions and their specialties for quite a while.
“We stress the good relationship with the provider”, the entrepreneur states, who knows the 200 artisans that work with Vakiano personally. He defines himself more as a curator than as an entrepreneur and says he has always had a leaning towards handicrafts.
Martínez Pagola has worked several years in different businesses linked to this area, first as an employee and later, with his own enterprise, Claraz, a shop located in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires that has specialized for several years in bringing local products closer to the tourists that stay in the different luxury hotels.
2 A digital refuge for tradition.
The techie quota was provided by his partners Gonzalo Lissarrague and Esteban Algorta. Lissarrague, who worked for Thomson Reuters for 25 years and specialized in digital transformation in the Insead School of Business (France), considers the digital world makes it possible to open new markets for high quality traditional products.
“We want to tell the world what work lies behind each handicraft, show the artisan, allow the cultural component to be seen and how the craft is passed on from generation to generation. There is extraordinary work there that is not only in the knife or in the poncho, but in everything that backs it up,” Lissarrague states. This is why there is a list of artisans on the Vakiano web site categorized according to their specialties.
The undertaking also aims to have social impact: “We want people to be able to grow from where they work, and be able to live with dignity with what they do. We want to link an artisan in Salta with a person in Dubai, who is interested in purchasing a poncho; someone who makes a saddle in Santiago del Estero with a person in Hong Kong who wants a unique product”.
Aside from serving as a showcase for the world, Vakiano seeks to be a secure place for the artisans, which is why they provide the materials and guarantee a certain volume of purchases to allow them to work without worries. One of the measures adopted to achieve this is to allow each provider to decide the price of the product according to what he thinks it is worth.
“Many artisans sell very little and make their products in their free time. We try to give them a hand so they can develop their talent further. We’re talking techniques that are handed down through the generations; there are no schools, just children who learn from their parents and improve gradually”, Martínez Pagola holds.
3 Classic luxury.
This business lays a bet on discovering new segments with the ability to pay in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East where interested consumers usually go for industrialized products because there is no traditional manufacture.
“It’s a premium product. Those who look for these kinds of objects also expect it to come via a channel and with a service quality that doesn’t let them down. We want the person in Hong Kong to receive the Vakiano box and have him understand what lies behind that work, to receive a unique experience that brings him closer to the artisan and to where the piece was made”, Lissarrague explains.
To generate this experience, the company has decided to rely on a door to door delivery system and has implemented a delivery follow up method in real time. In addition, it has created a concierge line which allows customers to customize the product.
4 Artisanal numbers.
The initial project investment was u$s 200,000 and they expect the breakeven point to be reached in the first year, although they understand positioning the brand may take time. The launch was sustained by a digital marketing campaign and it is still at the stage of market exploration.
Although Vakiano is still taking its first steps, the team is already thinking of establishing artisan schools to continue encouraging local talent. “The idea was to develop a platform to bring the artisans closer to the world and the world closer to the artisans. The possibility of having a market that values their art and is willing to pay for it is what will allow these marvelous trades to survive and that they may continue to be shared down the generations”, the company explained.
Martínez Pagola worked for several years in different businesses linked to the area, first as an employee and then with his own undertaking, Claraz, located in the Recoleta neighborhood.
Gonzalo Lissarrague is a lawyer of the UBA, with a master in Marketing from the Universidad de San Andrés; he has studied in Insead (France) and worked for 25 years in Thomson Reuters. Currently he is a founding partner of Latus View.
Esteban Algorta studied Business Economics in the Universidad Di Tella, took an MBA in Insead (France) and worked for such companies as Axion, Pepsico, Nestlé and The Boston Consulting Group. Since 2018 he works with Lissarrague in Latus View.
Charles Darwin, the evolutionist, wrote in an 1833 letter to his sister that he had become “a total gaucho”: “I drink my mate and smoke my cigar, and then I go to bed and sleep really well, with the sky for a canopy, as though in a featherbed. It’s such a healthy life, all day on horseback, eating only beef and sleeping with a fresh breeze, you wake up fresh as a lark”.
From the times when nomad gauchos unsheathed their knives by the open fire at mealtime watching the beef grill up to our days, the asado has turned into a ritual that runs through the geography and all of Argentine and Uruguayan society.
Nowadays, the ceremony of the asado doesn’t begin when you sit down at the table. As soon as the fire is lit and the participants start to gather, the ritual starts. A bottle of good red wine is opened, and there is some cheese, salami and very good conversation.
Many of the participants, loyal to the old tradition, will unsheathe their own knives. Each with his personal style, some have their initials on the sheath or the hilt. These pieces that were rustic a few centuries ago have today become exquisite pieces of artisanry, many of them collection pieces.
The grill warms up with the first smoldering charcoal and different cuts of beef, innards, sausages, and even some vegetables are placed on it. It is essential the diners wait for the asado before sitting at the table.
First some chorizos, blood sausages and then the innards, and finally wait for the delicious cuts of beef with well sharpened knives. A good asador is judged for supplying each diner with the beef at the exact degree of doneness he likes.
The asado can be shared with the family or with friends and in either case, it turns into a four or five hour affair to celebrate friendship, family ties and good gastronomy.