Crosby Equilibrium Refab, Part 1

Crosby Tad Coffin Equilibrium
Mark this off my bucket list, I scored a vintage Crosby Tad Coffin Equilibrium. A battle-scarred, well-loved veteran, this little vixen needs some TLC.
In the late 80s [Tad Coffin] developed another best seller for Millers, the Equilibrium close contact saddle, also manufactured by Crosby. - https://www.tadcoffinsaddles.com/about/
Unlike so many old Crosbys, this invocation of the Equilibrium featured flatter, wider panels and shorter points on the tree, so while the channel isn't considered wide, even the medium tree fits a surprising range of horses. Indeed, it's one of those saddles that "fits just about anything you put it on."

There were several variations to the Equilibrium over the years. Some had no knee roll, some had padded flaps and a pencil roll, some had extended flaps. Mine has the standard flap, a small knee block and no knee roll, which is what I was looking for.

While the seat isn't particularly deep, it's very comfortable. It features the sickly, flesh-colored coating found on many old Crosbys.
While the seat isn't particularly deep, it's wider, slightly padded, with a narrow twist, making it infinitely more comfortable for fat bums like mine. Compared to the narrow, rock-hard, banana seats of many vintage close contact saddles, the Equilibrium (Eq) is a slice of heaven. While it might not satisfy a masochistic purist hailing from the Iron Butt Reitschule (Nein! Nein! Nein! We didn't need padded seats! We didn't have knee rolls!) that were berated mercilessly by their trainers whilst bleeding from their knees, I like it.

I'm old. I've already bled from the knees. I wear reading glasses and have arthritis. I'm over a lot of that purist shit where a minimal level of comfort is preferable.

I really don't know how old this Crosby is, but it is stamped on the underpanel: 3 5 3373. Anymore, I don't know where to find reliable information on the older Crosbys online. Maybe a crusty old saddler from Walsall would know.

While I wouldn't say this saddle was babied over the years, it wasn't neglected to the point it's unsalvageable and a bunch of expensive things need replacement. The leather quality is what you would expect from an old Crosby. There's a subtle grain on the flaps, the panels are smooth and uniform, but this critter did not suffer a lot of the cracking often seen on Crosby panels and seats. In fact, its panels are soft as butter.

cracked Crosby panels
You will find a lot of Crosbys have cracked panels (above). The panels on my Equilibrium are still soft and smooth. Photo: Google images
The seat, unfortunately, was the typical faux pigskin grain with some impregnated coating that turns a sickly pallor over the years. That coating protected the seat from wear, but forms a nearly impenetrable layer that thwarts efforts to re-dye or restore with the usual arsenal of leather treatments.

At some point, the seat either split or was damaged near the pommel, and was glued down to prevent further tearing. While it's unattractive and affects its resale value, it's a very secure repair that isn't going to deteriorate or affect its usefulness. It's also in a location it won't be felt while riding unless you're offloading, headfirst. Personally, I'm meh about the repair, though YMMV.

damaged pommel repair
Frankenpommel, I still love you.
What does my Crosby Equilibrium need to be fit and foxy again?
    1. Left panel re-attached to the underpanel
    2. Could use new billets in the near future, okay as is
    3. Deglazer to completely remove old finish
    4. Re-dye with stable, rub-proof, color

Number 4 is a kicker. With the weird coating on the seat, it's going to require another similar coating to completely cover, yet remain stable. Stable, as in: I don't want dye to rub off on my breeches/jeans/rear end for the next five years. I don't want the finish to peel and erode to show the original coating color underneath. I'll probably have to experiment a little bit to find something close to bulletproof.

I like to call that "guessing."

If you assume all the best leatherworkers share such information, think again. If you go to your local Tandy store, chances are nobody's going to know what you're even talking about, let alone have any problem solvers you can purchase. The hardtimers that could probably offer real advice guard their trade secrets like Colonel Sanders. Others will straight up tell you it can't be done before you even finish sharing the details of what you're attempting.

Saddle makers. Capriola Saddlery, Elko, Nevada
These guys? Probably not going to tell you how to fix coated Crosby seat leather.
These people want to kill your dreams. I like to call them Dreamkillers.

They're cranky and stubborn and apathetic and don't give a rat's ass about your old, unfashionable, near-worthless English saddle you want to dye [enter color name].

Piss on 'em.

Make your own path.

Follow your own star.

Dare to fail spectacularly.

I didn't learn what I know because I was deterred by people who told me I was unqualified to try it, much less do it. I learned by trying, doing, and sometimes failing. For any newbies that are easily discouraged, don't let those grumpy old farts scare you. (Besides, they ain't so tough when you rub Bengay in their eyes.//)

Der Sattler
This grumpy old German guy isn't going to spill his guts, either. Seriously, you're on your own.
The seat on that Crosby is going to be dyed.

As far as the flaps and panels go, those are not coated, but they are a very tight-grained leather. Typically, once the flaps have worn smooth, it's hard to get dye to penetrate uniformly because the grain is more like glass than leather. Because it's difficult to get the dye to penetrate, you can expect a lot of rub-off with most go-to leather dyes.

For the record, nobody likes rub-off. Rub-off: ick, bluck, nasty, undesirable.

What about just oiling it darker? To make for an even color, it'll take a bucket of oil, and then I'm left with a splotchy, greasy, limp saddle. No, my plans for this very traditional saddle are less conventional.

I'm dyeing this baby black.

Yes, a black hunter/jumper saddle. An old-as-dirt, not fashionable, not French, not expensive, H/J saddle.

But, but, but… judges won't like it! Nobody rides HUS in black saddles! Ummm... who cares? If I was a player showing at Devon or the Wellington winter circuit, maybe that would be a consideration. And even if I was, so what? (Maybe that would make me a trendsetter.) Hey, if heels up and heads down and posting to the canter doesn't bother anyone, I don't think a black H/J saddle is any kind of deal killer for my piddling around in old folks' ammy equitation classes.

Black it shall be.

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