Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: The land of Enchantment
I have a few very vintage western saddles, and one antique saddle that I do use them, I just look at. :) Anyway, my approach is somewhat unconventional, but my saddles (both those I use and those that are for display) are oiled, supple, and do not crack. If they have been neglected and are dirty, I first wash them w water and liquid saddle soap and a soft brush/rag, and I rinse them w water (yep, water), and the exact second they are dry I dowse them w neatsfoot oil (high grade real neatsfoot) with a paintbrush until the leather will not accept anymore oil. I wait a bit and wipe them down. Then I rub whatever saddle soap (solid, not liquid) stuff I have handy to lock in the moisture and "polish" them. After that, I keep them clean and oiled the "normal way" (saddle soap/oil).
If you do not first wash it well and it is dirty, dirt and salt will remain on the saddle that will either block the oil from soaking in, or continue to do damage to the leather.
For roughout, I only clean/oil the tanned side only. Two of my saddles have roughout seats, I leave it alone (no wash, no oil). But I have never seen roughout on an english saddle.
There is little you can do about crack short of professional mending. Keep it cleaned and oiled and it won't crack any further.
There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.