Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: South Wales, UK
• Horses: 0
The idea of not using real leathers on a synthetic saddle came about for two reasons - they'll sometimes leave a grease mark on the flaps, and some leather dressings (mostly old fashioned natural neatsfoot, which was quite acidic) can damage plastic. My only experience of the latter was with a Thorowgood Griffin temporarily stacked beneath an older leather saddle and the leather sweat flap edges caused the Thorowgood flap plastic to bubble where they touched. Griffins had a composite flap using a thin decorative outer layer, which was probably the reason as I've never come across the problem since.
Personally I prefer leather leathers. The synthetic versions are usually plenty robust enough - plastic over a webbing core - but they can crack, much like synthetic girth straps, and can be hard to adjust in winter cold because they get stiffer. They don't stretch, though, unlike leather, even the 'non-stretch' leather-covered web types which stretch at the holes. Nowadays there are a lot of cheap 'English' drum-dyed leathers around which are more prone to stretching, especially since most riders don't rotate them or check the lengths regularly. Traditionally, leathers should have the skin (smooth) side innermost, same as girth billets (but rarely long dressage or monoflap billets because the flesh side tends to look not as nice in full view) but most cheaper ones don't.
Buffalo hide leathers are strongest. They stretch a lot, so are not to everyone's taste, but they rarely break.