pella

Myth Buster: Do freeze damage saddlery?

29 posts in this topic

Hello,

a friend as me that question, it look like is is a popular idea that leaving your saddle out in a barn non-heated could damage the leather, that it will crack leather.

I believe that is a myth and not true, but what is your opinon? here, it freeze -30degree celcius very cold.

I think the only thing that will crack (let say not too old) leather is negligence and folding a piece of dry leather (or new un-broken-in leather) or cheap leather.

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In my opinion it will reduce the life of the saddle. It is skin what would happen to your skin if you froze it and defrosted it a bunch of times? We have a climate controlled tack room. If you can't afford that then I reccomend to keep your tack in the house.

David Genadek

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In wich way it would reduce life? By drying it faster? It do not really froze and defroze, it just keep frozen all winter...and defroze in spring (well yes, in term of year, that mean froze and defroze) Anyway, when someone bring is saddle out to go trail riding, the leather froze by the time he ride. But i say freeze, but is leather really freezing? Unless it contain water, i dont see how it can be bad?

Do you really believe that's bad? We need to keep the saddlery in over freezing point piece?

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I can't imagine it would be good for it. But I don't have any actual information to prove that. Maybe you could do your own experiment. Cut a piece of leather in half and keep freezing and unfreezing half of it. Then compare them for suppleness, cracking, etc.

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No more opinion?

I still think thats not true. I think heat is worst than freeze (unless leather is water logged maybe)

I'll keep freeze and defreeze a little piece of leather in my frozer ;-)

I'll let you know if i notice a change on the leather

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Coming from a cold climate. I can tell you I have worked on saddles from some of the old time makers that never saw the inside of a heated tack room and with a little care they last for ever. Lack of care is what causes leather to break down or the fact that it wasn't anygood in the first place.

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Remember that saddles are used hard all winter long without benefit of a heated tack room. They have been for more than a hundred years, and what ones are not just plain worn out, or destroyed from lack of a little oil and cleaning once in awhile, are still in good shape. Granted, it would be wonderful to have a heated tack room where you didn't have to light matches under your bit to keep it from freezing to your horses mouth, and the seat of your saddle didn't freeze your butt for an hour, but that's the way it is more often than not. So no, leaving a saddle in an unheated tack room won't hurt it.

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I agree that it is lack of care that eventually dry rots the leather. However, when leather gets cold you can see the spew come out which tells you the cold is sucking the life out of the leather. I live in Minnesota and we have major temperature extremes and frankly I don't know of anything that that does not require more maintenance because of the cold. If it requires more maintenance then that is proof that the temperature is affecting the life of whatever it is. It is also true that heat will do the same. You will have less maintenance if you keep it in a climate controlled environment. True if you maintain it, it will still have a long life. How many average horse owners will properly maintain their equipment? My experience is very few.

David Genadek

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I never notice spew coming out from leather because of cold. I will look for that.

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There is a whole science devoted to how to best preserve ancient artifacts, including parchment. Museums not only store them in special cases with precisely controlled temperature and humidity, but also, I believe, with a specific gas composition within the case. So for absolute, maximal preservation, everything is maintained perfectly with no variations.

Now let's get practical. Horse gear will be used outside in below freezing temperatures, as it has been for hundreds of years. If the leather wouldn't stand up to it, it would be made with something else by now. And which is harder on the saddle – going from 70 F to 0 F then back to 70 F, or staying at a more constant temperature, even if it is below freezing? When you bring something inside from very cold temperatures the first thing that happens is that you get all kind of condensation on it from the temperature change. (Fogged up glasses for example.) You are better off leaving a cold saddle in the cold tack room. We have experienced 50 below with no ill effect to our saddles at all.

For people not used to living with cold temperatures for a long period of time, I can see this being a question to be answered. For those of us who do, it's almost a no-brainer. "Of course not!" On the other hand, that old thread on dealing with mold on saddles was an eye-opener for us. Not a problem when you live where there is basically no moisture in the air. Different experiences, different knowledge. That is why this place is so great. You get to learn a lot without having to learn it the hard way!

Edited by Rod and Denise Nikkel

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My favorite saddle is now officially 100 years old. Now, there have been times in the 35 years I have owned it that it stayed in the house. But usually, it stayed outside in the tack room and it gets pretty freaking cold out there. That saddle is still just as useable as it was the day it was made.

Now, of course once a year (at LEAST) I get it out, dismantle it, clean and oil it thoroughly. But I know for a fact that did not happen to it for some time before I got it, because I knew one of the former owners and they just threw it on the ground in the dirt and never took care of it. The first time I "met" that saddle it was to replace some sheepskin that was in such bad shape you could hardly tell it was sheepskin. I also did some other work on it, and finally offered to buy it. It worked out great... the seat is an 11 1/2" and he did not have an 11 1/2" butt so he was happy to sell it to me even though it was a cool saddle. (It's a McClellan.) I've had the same experience with other really old "worn-out" tack that I have revitalized by simply taking care of it. What a concept.

Most of my friends take pretty good care of their tack. Not one of them has a climate-controlled tack room although there is no denying that would be SO cool... or if you had the room, to keep it in the house. That said, if I am going to be driving, I bring my harness in the house for at least overnight. What a difference in harnessing! It goes much easier. Keeping it in the house would be ideal, but I for one just don't have the room (or else I have too much tack, guess what Mr. HorsehairBraider thinks is the case? :D) So all I can say is, clean and oil your tack regularly!

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Rod and denise: you reply make so much sense for me. After reading, i finaly believe it is best to keep gear at same temperature than were you ride, for me thats the best, and i never notice damage from cold till now. About mold problem, here it is terrible, i use to place a big pure wool blanket on my saddle, it keep humidity away from leather, also important not to place anything to close from ground.

thanks everybody

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In Minnesota we feed our horses lots of hay in the winter so they can stay warm. If you have ridden a horse in the winter you realize they put off a lot heat. Following the logic that you should keep things an even temperature, would go to the side of keeping the tack inside and warm. How many of you would like an ice cube stuck on your back? Or a ice cube stuck on your face?

How many of you warm your car up before you drive it? Does the cold oil make it easier to start or harder? I now have a heated garage too and I will tell you I am haveing a lot less vehicle trouble. Isn't there oil in the leather? If the oil doesn't perform a function why do we oil it? How can it perform that function in freezing temperatures? Granted the horse will warm everything up and even get it wet. If your saddle blanket gets all sweaty do you just let it freeze until next time you use it?

David Genadek

currently at a wind chill of 35 below

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If cold weather ruined saddles all mine would have seen their last about a month ago. I've learned though that cold frozen rig David talks about serves a purpose , you can find out how broke your horse really is. If he don't hump up with that he's goin' pretty good. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the cold would destroy one it sure would be good for business.

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I'm not saying it will ruin them I'm saying they will require more care to get them to last as long. So if you have a choice keep them in a better enviroment. If you don't have the choice then make sure you do the proper care. We all choose the standards in which we live our lives.

Around here we don't break horses we fix them.

David Genadek

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Just some comments, for whatever they may or may not be worth.

If you have ridden a horse in the winter you realize they put off a lot heat. Following the logic that you should keep things an even temperature, would go to the side of keeping the tack inside and warm.

1.) Freeze/thaw cycles. If you take a saddle from a warm house to freezing temperatures outside and back in, any of it not in direct contact with horse or rider will freeze and thaw. If you take a saddle from a frozen tack room and ride it, parts of it (the seat and sheepskin under the bars) may thaw depending on temperature, and then refreeze when taken off. Same diff. You'd get more freeze/thaw cycles overall per year in unheated storage during spring and fall as the days are warm and the nights freeze. The question is: does this actually damage the leather? Admittedly, it is not as good for the leather as being kept at a constant temperature, but does it cause enough harm to the leather to be a concern? Experience and history say no. The leather will be damaged by many other things long before freezing will injure it.

How many of you would like an ice cube stuck on your back? Or a ice cube stuck on your face?

2.) A possible perceived animal welfare issue. Is putting a cold saddle on a horse's back the same as putting an ice cube on your own? I would argue no. I have attached a picture taken of one of our horses at 5pm today. It snowed a little overnight, and the temperature got about 0 F today. When it gets really cold, snow stays for days on their backs. A full winter coat has amazing insulating ability. They are not going to notice an ice cube on their back. Agreed that when you put a blanket and saddle on top of it, the insulation is dramatically reduced, but it would be the same as putting one over top my winter jacket is to me – noticeable, but not freezing my skin.

Warming a bit, however, is a different story. Frozen metal in contact with moist mucous membranes of the mouth causes "discomfort" until it warms up, and it needs to be warmed. (The Canadian question is not "Did you freeze your tongue to something when you were a kid?" but "What did you freeze your tongue to when you were a kid?")

If your saddle blanket gets all sweaty do you just let it freeze until next time you use it?

3.) Humidity. Our different environments will give different answers to your question. The answer here is yes, because they are dry by then, unless they were soaked, which you work to prevent in weather that cold unless absolutely necessary. Water evaporates, even when frozen (check the old ice cubes in your fridge) and the low humidity we have out here means this is almost never a problem. I would think that areas of higher humidity, or wide changes in humidity (outside to inside causing condensation) would cause more problems with leather than the temperature changes.

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If you take reasonable care of your gear cold storage will not hurt it. I was taught as a kid to not store your tack or harness in the barn but use a seperate building. With the barn being full of livestock a huge amount of humidity rises out of the stock which will damage your gear. We quite often had 20 head of horses tied in at night and if it was calving season we would generaly have a few head of cattle in as well for one reason or another, the leather would act like a sponge with this humidity and that is not good. Greg

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Here it rarely gets below 15-20 in the winter, but its real humid. The saddles we ride all the time are in an open barn and don't seem any worse for wear since there is real good circulation. We keep the others in a heated tack room. If we didn't they'd look like they were made out of green velvet instead of leather. If it's real cold out I take my blanket into the house to warm up. I guess I just like to keep that mule happy.

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Well now, I don't see the extremes of temps as big an issue as the humidity. Still keeping oil in the leather is no doubt like anti-freeze in your engine as well as to some degree a repellant to mildew.

As for the PNW, Mulefoot, that's where I am and it is -3* as I speek.Just funnin ya (it is -3* though)

My question is, how long an extended life are we talking about?

They tell us to drink more water, don't eat red meat(yeh right) and egg yokes, do this and don't do that and we'll live longer. What are we talking about here? A couple days a couple months a couple years?

If I feel when I'm 90 like I do now now and it's only gonna get worse, why the heck do I want to live longer? "Shoot me honey, I've had enough!!"

As for saddles I know we've all seen saddles that should have been put out of their misery and others that are going strong after 30, 50, 70 yrs or so.

Take care of our stuff and it will out last us. If we could last as long as our saddles and still be in as good a shape, I wouldn't mind living longer.

I can relate to climbing in that cold saddle seat in the moring and after an hour your core temp has lowered a couple degrees cause arss is still froze. Makes you want to build a little fire in it before you ride, course that might shorten the saddle's longevity a bit, I spoze.

Putting all seriousness aside I would suggest for those sub freezing morning to gently work your latago before you cinch it up. Use some friction to soften it up to avoid cracking when making the turns though those cold rings. Happy trails y'all. GH

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I called Hemann Oak and posed the question to them and it turns out we are all right. The cold in itself should not pose a problem. The moisture will, so if it gets wet it should be dried out before you stick it back in the cold barn. For those of us who live in a cold damp climate a heated tack room makes some sense. With that said I will say in our tack room we have articles that are over 50 years old and still in good shape, for most of thier life they have been stored in a a cold barn. They used to need to get oiled twice a year now we are down to once a year. It takes about a week to get through the whole pile. Keeping it in a nice climate controled tack room gives us an extra week every year.

David Genadek

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It has been my experience that freezing in itself does not do damage to leather. However, every year someone brings in a saddle that they over-oiled prior to storing in a freezing tack room. Oil, like other liquids, expands when frozen. Some oils much more than others. When over- saturated with oil, when the oil freezes and expands, it "tears" the fibers of the leather apart from the inside out. This leaves the leather soft and spongy and usually oozing and gooey on the outside. There is no way to repair this kind of damage. Keith

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That is one of the things that I impress on people that I have given saddle clinics for is too much oil is as detrimental as no oil. Moderation I was taught growing up and it seems to hold true for so many things.GH

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Hello,

a friend as me that question, it look like is is a popular idea that leaving your saddle out in a barn non-heated could damage the leather, that it will crack leather.

I believe that is a myth and not true, but what is your opinon? here, it freeze -30degree celcius very cold.

I think the only thing that will crack (let say not too old) leather is negligence and folding a piece of dry leather (or new un-broken-in leather) or cheap leather.

I believe heat is worse on leather than cold. Living in a country where temp can drop to 40 centigrades below I have never had any damage on my tack and saddles. So my experience is that cold is no problem on leather.

I think it is a myth !

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It has been my experience that freezing in itself does not do damage to leather. However, every year someone brings in a saddle that they over-oiled prior to storing in a freezing tack room. Oil, like other liquids, expands when frozen. Some oils much more than others. When over- saturated with oil, when the oil freezes and expands, it "tears" the fibers of the leather apart from the inside out. This leaves the leather soft and spongy and usually oozing and gooey on the outside. There is no way to repair this kind of damage. Keith

Oils do not expand when frozen, only water does, ( at least so they told me in school once in a while) so I don´t think oil will cause any damage to leather when frozen.

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Oldtimer, I don't expect you to believe me by faith, this is not the gospel and I am not Jesus Christ. Conduct your own experiments. I have conducted my own and found that oil does freeze, and dois indeed expand when frozen. I froze many different kinds of oils we use on leather and found some to expand much more than others, and at different temperatures. I did not freeze any motor oil. Keith

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