Whether you are looking to buy a used saddle from an individual or from a retail store that sells used saddles, it’s a good idea to do some research in some key areas of the used saddle market. This guide to buying used saddles will get you started on the road to buying a quality used saddle. The first thing to understand is what makes a “good used saddle.” For me the definition of a good used saddle has three key qualities that I’m looking for when purchasing:
- Making sure the saddle tree is not broken
- Knowing what brand the saddle is and whether it is worth repairing
- The price of the saddle compared to the market value
Making sure the saddle tree is not broken
The first thing I look at when looking at a used saddle is the saddle tree, or the frame that the saddle is built on. A saddle with a broken tree is worthless and very seldom worth repairing the tree. So with this being said, my decision can be made first step out of the box if the tree is broken. The saddle tree should be tight without any movement when pressure is applied during inspection.
If you don’t feel comfortable checking the tree yourself, I suggest taking it to a saddle maker you trust to have them check it for you. Most shops will gladly check it for you at no cost and give you their opinion. If you find that the tree is broken, then I would suggest not purchasing the saddle. Tree repair/replacement is a very expensive and labor intensive job and for most saddles it is not worth the cost of repair.
Knowing what brand the saddle is and whether they are worth repairing
If the saddle tree is good and tight, then next I look at the brand of the saddle for sale. This is where a good amount of information can be found on quality and what the saddle may be worth. If the saddle is an American made name brand that you recognize, then you will already have an idea of the quality of the saddle and may have some idea of what it is worth.
Usually if you do not recognize the brand name of the saddle then it is probably a cheap lower quality import saddle. These saddles often are not worth a lot of money and will probably lead to issues with fitting your horse as well as increased repair cost down the road.
Custom saddles may not have a recognizable name either, but these saddles are often of high quality and can fetch a higher used price if the seller knows what they are selling. Do some research here and be sure you know who built the saddle and what their new retail cost is so that you can make a better decision on the used market value of the saddle.
The price of the saddle compared to the market value
The final thing I use to decide on whether a saddle is a good used saddle or not is the price. Pricing of used saddles for most people is more of a spit ball type of mathematics than an actual equation.
The most popular price on used saddles is $500-$600 but this more often than not isn’t an accurate market value. Especially when it comes to the import saddles which can have a new retail price of $450… be sure you are not over paying for a low quality import saddle.
The flip side of that is that many people don’t know how to price saddles so you can sometimes find a high quality custom saddle of a lesser known american custom saddle maker for a price well below his true market value.
The thing to remember here is that buying a “good used saddle” is dependant on your knowledge of the product. It is really easy to make a mistake and buy a used saddle for too much money with a broken tree, leaving you with a saddle that is worthless and not worth repairing.
One thing I always tell my customers is that you will not get ripped off when buying a brand new saddle because you will get exactly what you pay for. As a general rule of thumb, with new saddles the more money you spend the better the saddle you will get.
In the market of used saddles the price you pay for a saddle and the quality of what you get is determined only by your knowledge of what you are buying and the person selling the saddle knowing what they are selling is worth.
Take some time to do the research and decide on a brand and style saddle that you want to purchase. When you have these details, then search the market for that saddle. Don’t hesitate to get advice from a trusted saddle maker when you do find a saddle that you are considering.
From a saddle maker that does a massive amount of repair, I can tell you that we can always tell you which brands are cutting corners and which ones build a quality product.
If you have any questions or have a saddle you would like our opinion on, please email us or give us a call. This article is the first in a series of articles that will become our full Guide to Buying Used Saddles. Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay up to date with us as we post future articles on this subject.