Western Saddle Guide

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Saddle Buying Guide

Buying a western saddle is a major decision and a major investment. Before heading for the store, you really need to do your homework. The 7 Most Common Saddle Buying Mistakes is a good place to start.

Your first step will be to decide exactly which saddle you're shopping for. Review the Saddle Choice section to understand how intended use, horse and rider fit, budget, and personal preferences will determine your choice. And, if you're considering a custom saddle, make sure to check out Buying a Custom Saddle and My Custom Saddle Experience.

Once you know what you're looking for, the following tips will help you make the best purchase:

Which Brand and How Much?
There's too much variation in quality among saddles within each brand to choose soley by brand. A saddle company can have several different lines within their brand with very different quality. There can also be significant differences in a brand's quality through the years. In general, the price will tell you a lot. This chart on saddle brands and their price ranges will give you an overview.

You cannot buy a decent new western saddle for less than $500. Some would argue that the threshold is closer to $1000. While it may be painful to pay the price of a higher quality saddle, it really is necessary if you want to have a safe and happy horse and rider. It just doesn't make sense to us that some folks will spend big bucks on there horse, their trailer, their truck, and then buy a $300 saddle. Trust us when we say that your horse would rather you spend the money on a good saddle than on a fancy rig.

If you're a weekend rider, you can probably get away with a saddle at the $500 level. If you ride more often, you should invest in a higher quality saddle. Cheaper saddles will cause problems for your horse and just won't last. So, rather than shopping for a brand, we encourage you to shop for quality.

New or Used?
If the sky was the limit, we'd buy a brand new custom-made saddle from one of the top saddle makers. But for most of us, the sky's definitely not the limit, and we have to live within a budget. Our next choice then, would be to buy the very best saddle we could for the budget we had. You'll often find that this will be a used saddle. This is especially true if you're budget is at the lower end. We believe strongly that it's better to buy a top quality used saddle than a medium quality new saddle, even if the price for the used saddle is HIGHER. The used high quality saddle is simply a better value. It will be a safer saddle and a better ride, and it will hold its value better for resale.

Check out the wide selection of used saddles available right now in our ebay Tack Shop. And HorseSaddleShop also has a nice selection of used saddles for sale.

Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of new and used saddles:

  • Advantages of Buying Used
    • You'll get a lot more for your money. We know many a rider who has snagged a great deal on a used high-end factory or custom saddle that they never would have been able to afford new. Wouldn't you love to be able to ride in a McCall or a Mecum or a Capriola?
    • It's a great way to try out different saddles. Many folks buy and sell used saddles regularly, keeping the ones that work out, selling the ones that don't or that they no longer use.
    • If the saddle's a winner, it can last a long time. Quality saddles can easily last 50 years and the market for older saddles proves it. Older models from brands such as Simco, Tex Tan, Circle Y, and Billy Cook are valued more highly today than their new models.

  • Disadvantages of Buying Used
    • The saddle will have some wear and scuffs and nicks.
    • You'll need to be more careful when inspecting the saddle's condition prior to purchasing, especially the tree.
    • The saddle probably won't be exactly as you would have ordered it.
  • Advantages of Buying New
    • You'll be able to get exactly the saddle you want, (although it will probably require a special order.)
    • Your new saddle will probably come with a warranty.
    • It will never have been shaped to fit another person or horse.

  • Disadvantages of Buying New
    • The cost. New quality saddles are consistently increasing in price. As a result, there has been an explosion on the market of new, cheaper, lower quality saddles. Many people make the mistake of buying these low-end saddles because those are the new saddles that are within their price range.

Online Store or Physical Store?
Some people will tell you that they'd never buy a saddle on the Internet. While we can understand their reluctance, we think that the savvy shopper will do just fine on the Internet. Few people have access to one of the truly great saddle shops - Flat Creek Saddle Shop, Brighton Saddlery, Teskeys Saddle Shop, Miles City Saddlery, to name a few. When you're making a major purchase like a saddle, you want to make sure you have access to a significant selection and knowledgeable sales people. For many, the Internet is the only option that provides both.

Whether you're buying from a physical store or an Internet store, make sure you establish a relationship with a knowledgeable salesperson who will take the time to understand what you're looking for, answer all of your questions, and help your through the sales process. With an Internet purchase, the Try-Out/Return policy will be especially important.

The best source we've found on the Internet for new saddles is the HorseSaddle Shop. They have a great selection and the best customer service we've ever come across. For used saddles, it's hard to beat the selection on ebay. Check out our ebay page where we've filtered through all of the ebay listings and present the used western saddles for sale right now.

Try-Outs and Returns?
Most reputable tack shops will allow you to return a saddle that doesn't work, but there will be specific rules. The return policy will vary by shop, so make sure you understand the policy completely BEFORE you purchase the saddle. The following are typical return policy guidelines:
  • Returns are NOT usually offered for custom saddles or special orders. Some saddles on sale may also be excluded.

  • To take the saddle home, you'll be required to pay for the saddle in full. Many shops will allow you to trailer your horse to the store and try the saddle on the horse BEFORE buying.

  • You'll have a period of time to "try out" the saddle once you get it home. This period will vary, but is typically around 3 days.

  • To return a saddle it must be in "new" condition. This means no scuffs, scratches, dirt, etc. The saddle shop must be able to resell the saddle as new. We recommend that you place a clean sheet between the saddle and the horse to protect the saddle.

    The reality is that having to return a saddle in new condition will significantly reduce the amount of testing you can do with the saddle. You certainly don't want to saddle up and go for a trail ride. But you'll want to watch your horse move in the saddle from the ground and from the saddle, and you'll want to test your own comfort.

  • Some shops will charge a restocking fee on returns which can be 5%-15% of the cost of the saddle. This compensates them for their time.

  • If shipping is involved, you will be responsible for all shipping costs – both shipping the saddle to you and shipping the saddle back to the shop.

Like with any major purchase, when you shop for a saddle you want to be an informed buyer and work with knowledgeable and helpful sellers.



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