Question: Two years ago I bought a new dressage saddle, which has started to squeak when I ride. I cannot really pinpoint where the sound comes from. Should I be concerned? If this is a common problem, do you have any suggestions on how to get rid of the squeaking? I find it very distracting.
Answer: There are multiple reasons a saddle might squeak:
A broken tree: When the tree is broken, usually the head but sometimes the chassis itself, the movement in motion will cause the saddle to squeak. This is a serious problem and should be remedied immediately. Have your saddle checked by a saddle maker or a saddle fitter.
Misalignment of the steel in the tree: Sometimes at the point where two bars of steel are riveted together, the rivets may not be tight enough and will start squeaking. Have a saddle maker check the saddle.
Leather rubbing against leather: In new saddles the panel leather could be rubbing against the back of the flaps, causing the squeaking sound. This problem will correct itself over time. If you don’t have the patience to wait it out, consult a saddle fitter, as he can fix the annoying problem.
Loose webbing: In old saddles, the webbing—which runs from the front of the tree to the back, and from side to side—tends to loosen, which could cause a squeaking sound. There are no solutions for this problem other than replacing the tree.
Cleaned with wrong products: Leather is like your skin. All it needs is to be cleaned. Many of the oil products on the market will only clog up the pores and allow dirt to collect in the cuts and stitching. Then the dirt and dust will begin to act as sandpaper, rotting the stitching and taking the finish off the leather. Cleaning with a non-synthetic conditioner is good, but do not use oils and chemical products. We recommend using all-natural cleaners and conditioners.
In any case, it’s always a good idea to consult a well-known saddle fitter or saddle maker to identify the cause of a problem, as it might not be apparent from the outside of the saddle. It is also important to know the difference between a saddle maker and a saddle fitter: A saddle maker is able to open up your saddle, make the necessary repairs and sew it back up, while a saddle fitter can only make minor flocking adjustments.
Mehrdad Baghai has been the designer and saddler maker of the JRD Saddles (Saddlery Solutions) since 1985. He handcrafts and custom-fits each saddle out of his workshop in Sonoma County, California.