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.
You may have found a used saddle at a great price and it’s just the saddle you have been looking for. But a little stay at the repair shop could take that well priced saddle and add quite a bit to your overall investment and maybe blow your budget.
Here, we will go through the four key areas I take into consideration when looking at what repairs a saddle might need when it comes into my shop. You can take these and use them when purchasing a used saddle and this will give you some idea of the amount of money it will take to get the saddle ready to use.
- Key safety areas
- Big repairs
- Minor repairs
- Broken tree or not
Key Safety Areas
The very first areas to look at on a used saddle for repair needs are the parts of the saddle that, if broken or damaged, could cause serious injury to you or your horse. Here we are not so concerned about cosmetics as we are about the structural integrity of the part of the saddle.
Here are the areas that I focus on and what to look for:
Look at the stirrup leathers on the saddle. Are the holes, where the blevins buckles adjust, worn out or cracked? Look for excessive stretching in this area. Sometimes the holes will look like they are more oblong than round and this is usually due to a substandard piece of leather was used for the leathers and they have stretched out quite a bit and they are more likely to tear.
Be sure and slide the blevins sleeve up to expose the blevin buckle pins so you can inspect them and the holes they are in. If you see that the pins are heavily corroded, then they will need to be replaced. I have had saddles brought in and the pin was cracked or missing the post that go into the holes of the stirrup leathers. Inspect the buckles and buckle area well.
Also be sure to look at any rivets in the fenders and stirrup leathers. What we are looking for here is corrosion and dry rot around the rivets. On really old or neglected saddles, you will sometimes see a great deal of dry rot around the rivets which could allow the rivets to pull through very easily.
Lastly, take the stirrup leather above the blevins buckle in the area where the holes are and fold the leather in half. This is a good way to see how dry and brittle the leathers are. When you fold the stirrup leather, you should not see any cracking along the fold spot. If you do then the leathers have not been oiled regularly and are dry and brittle. This could mean a repair in the near future. Here is an article on stirrup leathers.
New Stirrup Leathers and new blevins buckles average cost is $125 – $200
No matter what rigging style a saddle has, this is still a very important area to keep in mind. The saddle rigging is the only thing keeping the saddle on your horse. So with that we want to inspect this area very well for signs of dry rot, corrosion, or tearing.
If the saddle has an inskirt rig then we want to check for corrosion of the rivets holding the metal plate in the skirs and check for any potential cracks of the plate itself. We also want to look at the integrity of the leather surrounding the rivets and make sure that it is not dry and cracked as this could lead to the rigging being pulled away from the skirt during riding.
*Repair of inskirt riggings is usually very expensive depending on the damage
If the saddle has a full double dee rigging then you want to look at the dees to make sure that they are not cracked or worn thin. Also inspect the leather that folds around the top of the dee and attaches to the dee to make sure there is not any dry rot or cracking in this area. On this type of rigging there should be four dees on the saddle and you want to check all four. The nice thing with this is that you can, depending on the problem, repair each dee individually as needed which keeps repair cost down.
New rigging on inskirts I do by the hour at $50/hour repair labor and could run 4-6 hours.
New rigging for a full double dee could run $75 – $125 per dee.
Billets and Tie Straps
Although the billets and tie straps are a cheaper fix when it comes to repairing a saddle, they are still very important when we are talking about safety and so we will visit them here.
Inspecting these items is very simple and as before, we are looking for signs of dry rot, cracking and excessive stretching. The simple thing here is, when in doubt replace them. Don’t take any chances with these items, they are too cheep and easy to replace.
New billets and tie straps can cost $30 – $75 each respectively.
When it comes to big repairs, I consider this in the price I am purchasing the saddle for and make sure that the overall saddle investment including repairs isn’t going to be more that the saddle is worth. Big repair costs can quickly rise to $500 – $1000 if you’re not careful, and that doesn’t include the cost of the saddle.
Some of these big repairs are not necessarily a safety issue nor affect the way a saddle may function, but are more cosmetic in nature. They may just be things you want to do to the saddle to improve the overall look of the saddle or to improve the comfort of the rider or horse.
Sheepskin is a very common replacement and this can be an expensive repair. Replacing the sheepskin is heavy in labor to remove and replace if done correctly. Here is an article on some of the cost in replacing sheepskin.
Another popular big repair that is done for cosmetic reasons is replacing the padded seat. This is usually done to improve the look of an older saddle with a fresh new seat color or to add better padding to the seat to improve the comfort for the rider. Either way, this is a pretty extensive repair.
A few more bigger repairs that are more of a choice than a necessity when comparing to safety are:
- recovering of the saddle horn
- replacing cantle binder to remove, or add someone’s name
- replacing fenders because the lettering on them says “Woman’s Goat Roping Champion”
- Reworking ground seat to change the way it sits
Big repairs can stack up once you get the saddle home and start thinking of all the ways you can make the saddle better, and before you know it you could have bought a brand new production saddle the way you wanted it.
Big repair costs individually average $300 – $500
Minor repairs are just that… Minor. But with that being said, it is still the little things that lead to bigger breakdowns. This is where we consider the integrity of all the little aspects of the saddle that usually go unnoticed until something breaks.
Inspect any lace or latigo ties about the saddle. These areas are usually where the billets and tie straps are laced onto the saddle, any lacing on the riggings, lacing at the top of the saddle fenders, etc. This thin lace dries out faster than the rest of the saddle because of how thin it is. In general, these laces are very easy and cheap to replace and if you are semi handy, you can usually do this yourself.
Saddle strings are similar to lacing in that they get dry easily and are also cheap to replace. Although the majority of strings these days are not really used for their purpose but they sure do look cool!
Other cheap repairs/replace parts include treads on stirrups, hobble straps, conchos, rig catchers, blevins buckles, etc. Take the time to just give these items a once over and take them into consideration with your offer.
Individually these items could cost $8 – $30
Broken Tree or Not
I know we have touched on this subject in previous articles, but I can not stress enough the importance of this point. The majority of the time, if a saddle has a broken tree, it is not worth the cost of repairing it. This is the most important part of your used saddle assessment to insure that you are not purchasing something that you can not use.
Some people are under the impression that if the tree is broke it is still okay to ride as long as you don’t rope anything. This is a absolutely false so do not fall into that trap. A broken tree can cause soreness and other issues on your horse even if you are just riding it around.
Take the time to read our article on broken trees and how to detect one. Any saddle you are looking at should have a tree inspection because many times the owner or seller has no idea that it is broken.
Now you have a little more knowledge in your tool kit to make a more wise decision on your next used saddle purchase. Remember, the one with the most knowledge wins and if you do your research you should be able to sort through the many saddles that are available in the market and make a great choice at a great price.
I hope this series of articles have added value to your used saddle buying knowledge and if so send us an email and let us know. Very soon we will have all this information available in an ebook. We will dive a little deeper into quality, repair issues, pricing of used saddles as well as a more indepth tree inspection and what to look for. Thanks so much for the support and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when the ebook Guide to Buying Used Saddles is available.
Are you interested in learning the leathercrafting trade?
If you are and want to receive information about tutorials, videos, classes and products, then please subscribe to my newsletter.