This is the last article in our Guide to Buying Used Saddle series, and if you have already gone through the last two articles I hope you found them useful. In this article, I will go over some key areas to look for when assessing any possible repairs that may need to be performed on a used saddle that you are considering to purchase. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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
It’s March and we are still dealing with cold weather and many of us across the country are experiencing a fair amount of “winter mix” weather, but the fact is that winter is almost over and sunny days are soon to come. With that, now is a great time to take a sunday afternoon and go through your tack room. The majority of folks are fair weather horsemen and haven’t paid much attention to your saddle since before the holidays.
This is the time of year that our repair shop gets pretty busy and, depending on the repair, your normal wait on getting something fixed could be a couple weeks or better. Now is a great time to go through your saddles and check key areas that may need attention before your right in the middle of the season and your saddle is in the shop. Continue reading
If you live in the south where humidity is high, you will run across mold on leather or some of your gear from time to time. This usually happens when you take a break from the horse world for a bit and keep your gear stored in a dark saddle house or in the tack compartment of your trailer when temperature and humidity are at their worst.
In my opinion, mold on leather is a good sign that your leather goods are healthy enough to support the life that is mold. By this I mean that you have done a great job of keeping your tack and saddles oiled up. Mold will not grow on saddles or leather that is dry rot and dead… nothing available for the mold spores to live on. Continue reading
Having trouble getting to the tight areas when oiling that saddle in your tack room? Here’s a trick I have learned!
Pam makes a spray olive oil that, although maybe a little pricey, works great for those spots a big fat hand won’t fit! Since we oil all our leather products with good clean olive oil, this oil in a spray can is a great complement in our shop and takes a lot of pressure and worry from the hard to reach!
Try this out and let us know what you think!
I get this question a lot both at the shop and when we are out at events and trade shows. The most common time this question is asked is when a customer brings in a saddle for repair and the repair needed is so extensive due to the amount of dry rot. Here the customer will usually say, “I would of oiled it but I didn’t know what kind of oil to use.” To this I always answer, “Even the wrong oil would have helped more than what you did… which was nothing.”
I know, oiling your saddle and gear is not the most exciting thing to do on your weekends off, but neither is writing large checks for saddle repairs or worse yet visiting the ground suddenly when something finally breaks.
There are hundreds of saddle conditioners, cleaners, lubricators, creams, savs, liquids, and the like that make choosing the best product for your gear a tuff choice. Again, ALL of these will, in some way, help your leather retain its life better than nothing at all. And if you still don’t feel comfortable making a decision then there is always a shop like ours that would be happy to handle this for you.
For oil, we use Olive Oil. We buy it from a local grocery supply company by the case and use it on both new and used leather items. I have heard of many people using canola, peanut, vegetable, and other food oils and they seem to work fine. My only issue with the other oils is that it seems to me that they would attract rats worse than the olive oil. Neatsfoot oil is the old standby and is still widely used. There is nothing wrong with this but it seems to me that olive oil seems to oil more evenly than neatsfoot and the main reason that we use it in the shop.
When it comes to conditioners, I recommend Skidmore’s Leather Cream above all else. This cream is great for lubricating the fibers in the leather and restoring life to dry stiff leather. This product is made of all natural ingredients including vegetable oils and beeswax and will also water proof the leather. A little bit of this cream goes a long way so don’t over do it, multiple light coats is always better than one heavy coat. This product is also amazing on boots and hunting gear.
The one thing to remember with conditioning your saddles and tack is that putting oil and conditioners on top of dirty leather can damage the leather. In doing this over time, you create multiple layers of dirt and oil which becomes a thick film that is almost impossible to remove. I always recomend washing leather with a mild dish soap like Dawn, Ivory, or even Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsing thoroughly. Scrub the saddle with a medium bristle brush to lift the dirt and grime out of the leather. I don’t recommend saddle soap because it is suppose to be left on the saddle to dry and then the dirt stays on the leather. If you want to lather the saddle up with saddle soap after its cleaned, then that’s okay.
Always let your saddle dry completely (could take a day or two) before oiling and conditioning. If you oil too soon, you could get a real bad case of mold. I will talk more about mold and controlling it in a later post.
I know its hard to remember to oil your saddle and tack, but here is my suggestion on a system that may not make it such a big deal. Every time you worm your horses give all your tack and saddles a good look over and wipe them down with a light coat of oil. And when it comes to doing a complete washing and oiling, I recommend this once a year. This could be every time your coggins is due or at the end of your show season. And if you don’t want to go through the trouble of doing it yourself you can always drop it off at the saddle shop and we will do it for you.
These days many items are made overseas, bringing with that lower cost and bigger selections for American consumers. No matter your opinion of this issue, continued import of overseas manufactured items is here to stay and for the most part accepted by consumers. Even the saddle industry is experiencing this and when it comes to some items the quality is reasonable for the cost. When it comes to saddles, consumers should really be cautious.
For years Americans have purchased saddles that have been imported from Mexico for an inexpensive alternative to the American made counterparts. With a few exceptions, these saddles have been marked with the stigma of low quality and at times structurally unsafe. No matter the stigma, many people trying to save a buck purchase these saddles anyway and deal with frequent repairs and saddle fitting issues. With any luck they aren’t injured due to the saddles less than adequate structural integrity.
The newest addition to this “value based” saddle market is saddles imported from countries like India. In the saddle shop we have run across these on a semi frequent basis and the quality is worse than usual. Many folks are buying these saddles on the internet and eBay and although they may look decent in the photos, when they arrive it is immediately seen that they are less than functional. I have seen these saddles with no rigging dees at all, making them impossible to actually use on a horse. We have seen them with synthetic leather and trees, plastic rigging dees and a number of other issues that make these saddles dangerous to use.
The most recent experience that we have had the pleasure to work on in the repair shop was a true gem of the import saddle industry. The saddle came in for an offside front rigging dee replacement. This is a job that is very common and not very expensive to fix. When the saddle was broken down in the repair room, the repair man confronted me with an issue. He told me that the rigging couldn’t be fixed and that I should look at the tree with him. Looking at the tree bar at first I didn’t understand what the problem was. It was a fiberglass tree bar with holes in it where the original rigging screws use to be, this was nothing out of the ordinary. The saddle really didn’t appear to be a bad built saddle. It was a training saddle with rawhide mounted dees on the corners of the skirts for driving lines, rawhide trimmed horn, padded seat and good color. I asked my repair man what the issue was and he proceeded to show me the problem.
He took a screw and stuck it in one of the existing screw holes and then moved it at different angles from side to side. Yes, that’s right! The entire tree bar was a hollow fiberglass shell. It looked like a wooden bar covered with fiberglass, but in reality it was an empty fiberglass bar… no wood at all. Think of it as an empty egg! The entire saddle was like this, both bars and swells even the cantle. This was unbelievable! I have never seen anything like this before and couldn’t believe that someone had been riding this saddle and they weren’t hurt.
With further inspection we also discovered that all the rawhide holding the accessory dees on and the binding around the horn wasn’t rawhide at all. The dees were mounted with nylon webbing and masking tape was stuck over the top. The horn binding was just masking tape. Unbelievable!
At that point we called the customer and told them that we would not fix the saddle and warned them of the danger involved in using the saddle. All I can say is that I hope everyone keeps their eyes open for these types of saddles. It’s one thing to by a cheap pair of “Oakeys” or “Raye Bans”, but putting your life on the line with this inferior garbage being imported into the states from countries that have no knowledge of what these saddles go through in our country is extremely dangerous. Remember that a custom saddle has at least $1000.00 in material in it, so when you’re looking online and you find a new saddle on eBay for $300, beware.
Driving to work this saturday morning, thinking to myself about the list of “have toos” and “if i cans” for the day, it struck me with a bit of excitement and fear. Fear, because i only have two weeks left to finish the gifts that have been ordered, and excitement because we are completing our seventh year in business. Unbelievable!
Seven years ago i was a 24 year old rookie saddle maker putting Vet school on hold to pursue an oppurtunity. My entire life up until this point had been focused on vet school and all of a sudden I had made the decision to give this oppurtunity a whirl. Thinking about it now, I should have been a bit more worried. But as with most of the things that i do, i made the decision and figured all the details would work themselves out.
I have absolutely no regrets in my decision to start DGSaddlery and have enjoyed every minute… Even the scary ones! As a group, we have been truely blessed and so grateful for the friendships that we have made. As we enter the christmas season again here in 2011 and prepare to begin our 8th year in business, we would like to thank all those customers who have supported us and who enjoy our work. Getting better every year is our main focus and we hope that this coming year will be no different. The thing that makes our products stand out is our customers’ imaginations and thanks to them, and our talented artists and craftsmen, we have had the oppurtunity to create some great products.
We hope that everyone has a wonderful christmas and we look forward to 2012 and putting your dreams in leather!