Nothing makes a horse and rider look smarter than a tidy, well-groomed turnout and a bright white fleece saddle pad under your saddle. Fleece saddle pads are popular, affordable, and in some competitive disciplines are considered the “correct” tack for showing.
The Problem: Clumped Fleece
The problem with fleece saddle pads is that they quickly pick up sweat, grime, horsehair, and all sorts of debris from the horse stable environment. Although easy to wash, fleece saddle pads tend to look different- clumpier- after washing. Shearling fleece (fleece that has been trimmed) quickly clumps even after just one washing. With continued use, these clumps of fleece begin to trap debris making your saddle pad, after just a few washes look old and dingy.
Solution: Groom your Saddle Pad
It turns out, an old trick for cleaning sheepskin rugs works great for bringing new life to fleece saddle pads. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to revitalize a tired and old looking fleece saddle pad. This method can be used on both synthetic fleece and real sheepskin pads.
To start, you just need one tool – carding brushes. Carding brushes are typically used on unprocessed fibers, in order to clean and align fibers before spinning into yarn. These same tools actually work great for smoothing, aligning, and separating fibers postproduction – such as a well washed and worn fleece saddle pad. Traditional carding brushes can be kind of expensive but if you know where to look you can find a suitable wire card-type brushes for only a few dollars, like the $6 wire brush pictured below.
Once you have the tool, make yourself comfortable with the saddle pad in your lap and the tool in your dominant hand. Grasping the saddle pad firmly, begin passing the carding brush over the fibers. The clumped fibers will tug and try to trap your brush, but the trick is to brush firmly, briskly, and not too deeply. For the first few strokes of the brush just barely press the wire teeth onto the fleece, as the clumps break up you can press the brush a little deeper into your fleece.
This process is not particularly quick but with a good distraction – such as good conversation or a binge-worthy Netflix show, you can make quick work of an entire saddle pad. Simply work your way around the surface breaking up the clumps of fleece fibers with your wire carding brush.
You’ll need to stop periodically to clean your brush. Loose fibers and – perhaps most satisfyingly – the debris that was caught in the clumps- will be trapped in your brush. Stop to clean loose fiber and debris from your brush regularly.
Using this technique you can bring new life to even the most pathetic looking fleece saddle pads. You can help your almost–show-worthy pads return to show condition, and bring your almost-trash–worthy fleece saddle pads back to a good schooling condition. In a busy barn with regular second-hand tack sales, you might even be able to make a profit by purchasing old fleece saddle pads and selling them for a higher price once reconditioned.
Did this method for cleaning and revitalizing synthetic fleece and sheepskin fleece saddle pad work for you? I’d love to hear about it – please comment below.