This is the second article of our Guide to Buying Used Saddles, and in this section we will discuss the pricing structure of the different types of used saddles in the market. As we spoke about in the previous article, the buyer with the most knowledge wins.
In this article I will discuss:
- Trophy saddles being worth less because of over supply.
- Why manufactured name brands are a safer choice.
- Why custom saddles are worth the money even when used.
- Staying away from tack auctions and import saddles.
Trophy saddles and their over supply
Decades ago, the trophy saddle was a goal for many contestants and they took great pride in winning one of these awards. Today with the abundance of saddle manufacturers in this country, trophy saddles are almost a consolation prize and many times the contestant would just rather have the cash rather than another saddle he/she isn’t going to use.
The quality of the trophy saddle has greatly fallen over the last 30 years and their reputation isn’t what it once was. With the increase in small associations conducting saddle series events with limited budgets, we have seen many new saddle manufactures coming into the market to serve this need for budget trophy saddles to give away as prizes. With this demand for them, and the increased competition in the market, we have seen even quality saddle manufacturers push their low quality trophy saddle lines into the industry in an attempt to compete. Unfortunately, some of the processes used in manufacturing them at a low cost have crept into their normal non trophy saddles greatly clouding the difference between the two quality levels.
Trophy saddles are a big part of the used saddle market due to the amount of these saddles that are given away as awards at team ropings, cuttings, amature rodeos, and other equine events. Many times you can get a great deal on a decent saddle because the person selling the saddle didn’t have to actually pay money for it. Many times these folks have no intentions of using the saddle and just want whatever cash they can get for it.
If you are looking at purchasing a trophy saddle, I would recommend staying with a brand name that you recognize and enter the purchase knowing that the price of the saddle should not be very high. The thing to remember here is that the saddle was built for an association to give away and with that you can’t expect it to be of great quality. There are some good companies out there building a quality product for these events but I would recommend a saddle from a company that really isn’t known for building a lot of trophy saddles. A company that mainly builds a quality product and occasionally builds trophy saddles for a few select events is less likely to have a poor reputation that comes along with their award saddles.
Why manufactured name brands are a safer choice.
When it comes to non-trophy saddles, name brand manufactured saddles are safer than an unknown or unmarked saddle. There are so many saddles being made now from new manufacturers and this is not to say that they are low quality but unless you have done the research, then I suggest staying with a name you can trust and have seen perform.
Buying a used saddle with a well know name has the benefit of the buyer being able to contact the company and get more information on the saddle and possible warranty details. This also allows you to find out some history on the company and their customer service. Many of the oldest saddle manufacturers in this country have great customer service and can give you some great information on the saddle you are interested in.
With unknown or new to the game manufacturers, you don’t have much history on them and their customer service will be hard to gauge if the company is no longer in business next year… which happens a lot. Many manufacturers come and go so just be mindful of the brand and the company. Not to mention, there are a lot of “American” saddle manufacturers out there who assemble the saddles here but the bulk of the work is done out of the country… or worse, they are completely made out of the states and shipped in.
Stay with the names you know and recognize. If you see a name on a used saddle from 1985 and they are still building new saddles in 2016 then that means something. Their quality may have dropped off over the years, but they are still in business and at least you can talk to someone there who is knows the product and can guide you in your purchase.
Calling the company and finding out the cost of a comparable saddle will give you an idea to the value of the saddle you are looking at buying is. When determining this, I look at five things to determine value:
- Replacement cost in today’s dollars.
- Condition of the saddle.
- Age of the saddle.
- Cost of any repairs needed.
- Market popularity or value.
With this information you should be able to make a sound assessment of the saddles used value and then decide if the purchase is within your own budget.
Why custom saddles are worth the money even when used.
Now we get into custom saddles on the used market. This area can be a little hard to navigate, but with a little patience and research you can usually make a quality purchase. Many times these saddles will fetch a much higher price, but the quality and value of these saddles are much higher generally. This has to do with the supply in the market.
A custom saddle maker building 15-25 saddles a year, will not usually have many available on the used market. Most of the time these makers are building one to two saddles at a time for specific customers, and generally speaking the customers usually don’t ever sell them. Because of this, there are few saddles buy the maker available for purchase in the open market.
The biggest benefit to buying a used custom saddle is that they are well worth repairing. The saddle is usually very high in its quality of materials and the tree is, more times than not, great fitting and structurally sound and strong. I have seen 40 year old custom saddles that we did extensive repair on and when finished the saddle was good for another 20 years.
The hardest thing when it comes to purchasing used custom saddles is recognizing the maker. Many custom makers have a small following relative to the entire western saddle industry, so being familiar with the name may or may not have weight in deciding on its value. The best thing to do is to first find out if the maker is still alive… unfortunately we do not live forever. If he/she is alive, try and contact them and find out a few things about them:
- How long have they been in business.
- What is the primary saddle style they are most known for.
- What is their warranty on their saddles (some makers put a lifetime tree warranty on them).
- How many saddles they have built.
- If they know the saddle you are looking at and what they think it may be worth.
I have seen some really great custom saddles sell for far too cheap because the person selling it had no idea what the value was and to them it was just another saddle. On the contrary, I have also seen a saddle priced way to high from a maker who has only built ten saddles but since it was custom they valued it high. Do the research and after visiting with the maker ask for three customers that are riding their saddles that you can call to get their opinion of their work. Most will have no problem giving you this so that you can become one of their customers.
Staying away from tack auctions and import saddles.
We mentioned this in the previous article as well, but I can not emphasize enough how important this is. The biggest category of saddles to stay away from are the import saddles which are the hot item at the dreaded traveling tack auctions. These tack auctions come to your town about once or twice a year and peddle import saddles and tack that border on dangerous levels of low quality.
The import saddle market has cost my customers hundreds of dollars in repair due to the poor quality and lack of good horse fitting practices. Some of the worst opportunities for you to loose money on a purchase is on sites like ebay where these saddles are sold as well. The saddles are sold for a super cheap price and when you get them they don’t fit your horses and sometimes even lack vital pieces such as riggings (seriously… I have seen them with no rigging or way to attach to your horse).
Many times after the purchase is made and the saddle is delivered or you get home you try to call the company to complain or get your money back and the phone number is disconnected. Stay clear of any import saddles and all tack auctions. These saddles are built in countries that have no knowledge of the performance horse world and the proper fitting of your horses.
When the traveling tack auction comes to the town my shop is located in, it will be about 6 months later and my repair business increases greatly. Although I enjoy the extra repair dollars, I do not like seeing people put money into saddles that are not worth repairing. And many times these saddles are not worth repairing… in the industry they are considered “throw away” saddles.
My suggestion is to always, without a doubt, no matter what your level of riding or amount of riding, stay away from these types of saddles. Save your money and stay away… every time.
Buying used saddles can be hard to navigate, but after time and practice you can learn the essentials to allow you to make a quality purchase and stay within your budget. Remember that the first step in making any purchase is knowing exactly what you are buying and not getting saddle fever and buying the first thing you find.
For most folks, whether selling or buying, pricing of saddles is more of a wet finger in the air kind of math. Spend some time planning and researching and come to the table with the upper hand and you will find the perfect used saddle for your program.