Dark oil or light oil?
Traveling all over the country, participating in small weekend horse shows and large high caliber events, I have seen many different trends. In the AQHA circuit light oil saddles are always popular but black saddles are an important trend that makes a big statement. These darker oiled black saddles are trendier and unless you can afford more than one show saddle, lighter or chestnut oil is usually the way to go.
The oil colors of saddles can be broken down into 4 major categories. These include light, chestnut, regular and dark oil. All of these colors can be found in most price ranges. For example, a Circle Y show saddle similar to this (see right) can run between $2,000 and $3,000. A similar style made by Harris Leather Silverworks can cost around $10,000 or more. When looking for a saddle, it is important not only to look at the color but consider the fit for you and your horse as well. When doing my research looking for darker colored saddles, it seemed that a lot of them were made for breeds like Arabians and Saddlebreds. From this I can assume that darker oils and black are even more popular in these breeds than they are in stock types breeds like quarter horses and paints. Dale Chavez makes a few variations of the dark oil saddle made for stock type horses including this one that goes for about $7,000.00. If you may not want to fully commit to an entirely dark saddle. Many saddle makers have unique designs that include black accents, which can be seen in the image below.
A good option for those of you who may be interested in a black saddle but cannot afford a brand new saddle or simply enjoy riding your already broken in, comfortable seat, can take a stab at custom leather dying. You can either try it DIY or have it done professionally. I would recommend if you have a beloved or expensive show saddle that you leave it to the professionals but if you are feeling brave, trying it yourself could be pretty fun. Although I have never dyed a saddle myself, a fellow blogger has some great tips. You can read her blog at http://braymere.blogspot.com/2009/12/tack-tips-dyeing-leather.html. She says that before anything it is important to protect your workspace because leather dye is meant to penetrate and it will discolor most surfaces. You will need leather dye, leather conditioner, paintbrushes, paper towels and latex gloves (remember, it will penetrate most surfaces and this includes your skin). A good option is Fiebings brand leather dyes. Brush the dye on in a back and forth motion and keep doing it until the leather is evenly covered. Once this step is finished spread some leather conditioner on with the paper towel. Then let it dry for a few hours! When working on a saddle with silver, use caution to protect these areas.
Another important thing to consider when deciding what color saddle to have is what color your horse is. All colors of horses can be seen sporting the black saddle trend but an important aspect is the saddle pad as well as the outfit you are wearing. An exclusively brown outfit including brown chaps may not be the best fit next to an all black saddle for example. For neutrals, dark greys and blacks look sharp as well as most colors. If you are having a top custom made, it looks good to add black accents that tie in really well to the saddle.
In conclusion, light oil is always a good investment when showing a stock type horse because it is less likely to go out of trend as fast. If you show Arabs, Morgans, or Saddlebreds etc., dark oil is still popular. Black Saddles definitely make a statement in the show pen, so if you are able, this is a good option. It works well with most horses but make sure that the pad suits the color combination and that your clothes fit in as well. If you want the look for less, try dying you a saddle you already have and finding a saddle with black accents can be a way to get your feet wet without fully committing to something you may not be comfortable with.
Please comment with any suggestions for our readers and we love to see pictures as well!