Western Saddle Guide

Western Saddle Guide > Saddle Types > Manufactured Saddle

Production Saddle

A production saddle (also called a factory or manufactured saddle) is machine-made in an assembly-line process with each worker in the line responsible for a single, or several, steps in the assembly. The use of machines and semi-skilled labor can substantially reduce the cost of building a saddle. Since a single person doesn't build the entire saddle, however, the quality can vary from part to part.

You’ll find that production saddles vary dramatically in quality and price. Many are of very good quality, and some, such as the McCall saddles, can even approach the quality of a custom saddle. Others aren’t even worth the small price they cost. The two factors that determine the quality of the final product are the quality of materials and the quality of the construction methods.

McCall Saddle
Ranch Saddle by McCall

Saddles at the low end cut corners with poor materials – plastic trees with cheap covering, low-grade leather, cheap hardware – and in construction methods – staples in place of nails and screws, shoddy stitching. High quality factory saddles use quality materials and construction. The old saying “you get what you pay for” really applies when considering production saddles. Low price usually equates to low quality.

Factory saddles are much more limited than custom saddles in available customization options. Because of the use of standard machine-created parts, most available options fall into the cosmetic areas.

Check the selection of production saddles available in our eBay Tack Shop.

So, how do you know whether a production saddle is a good buy? Brand is a good place to start. Top factory brands include McCall, Crates, Martin, Circle Y, Billy Cook, and Courts. This chart on saddle brands and their price ranges will give you an overview of the brands. But with the volatility among saddle manufacturers, brand is not something you can completely rely on. A brand that was at the top of the industry a few years ago may have changed ownership and lowered their quality standards. Additionally, there can also be dramatic quality differences within a particular brand’s product line. You need to do your homework.

Some custom saddlemakers have their own line of “production saddles” which use machinery for some parts of the construction, but still incorporate high quality materials and skilled craftsman for assembly. These production saddles, priced lower than custom, but at the high end of the manufactured price range, can be a nice compromise.

When shopping for a manufactured saddle, your best bet is to visit saddle shops and talk to knowledgeable people about the different saddles. Evaluate the different brands and saddles closely. Inspect the materials and construction. You’ll find that, you’ll quickly be able to start seeing the differences in quality among the various brands and saddles. With some practice and some coaching, you'll be able to choose a top notch production saddle that will serve you well.


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