While buying a used saddle is often an excellent way to save money, you need to know what you're doing so that you can avoid potential problems.
Saddles are essential equipment when you own a horse or ride frequently, but they're also one of the most expensive purchases that you will make in the equestrian world. Many riders opt to buy used saddles to save money over buying a brand new saddle.
But before you go out and buy a used saddle, make sure that you familiarize yourself with the tips below.
Research the Brand
When you're buying a saddle, you need to do some research to understand what you're looking at. Familiarize yourself with quality saddle brands so that you can recognize when you're looking at a good deal.
No-name saddles are often far less durable and feature a poorer fit than a reputable branded saddle. If you can, look up the brand and model of the saddle that you're considering and see what prices used models have sold for.
Learn to Check a Saddle Tree
Checking the saddle tree is essential to making sure that you're buying a sound, usable saddle. A saddle with a broken or twisted tree is not safe to put on your horse, and replacing the tree can be an expensive investment.
If you're not familiar with how to check a saddle tree, then ask a trainer or a saddle fitter to do this for you before agreeing to purchase the saddle.
Look for Damage
Carefully assess any used saddle for damage. Check to make sure that any flocking or padding is still soft and flexible. Inspect the billets and make sure that there are no cracks or tears which could compromise their strength.
Take a look at the saddle's overall condition, too - is the leather soft and pliable? If you spot cracked or stiff leather, the saddle may not be usable.
Know What Will Fit You and Your Horse
One major disadvantage of buying a used saddle, particularly online, is that you'll rarely have the opportunity to test ride your horse in the saddle. Some consignment shops do offer trial periods, but if you're buying from a private seller, they probably won't offer the option to return the saddle if it doesn't work.
Because of this, it's important to know exactly what will fit both you and your horse. Sit in as many different saddles as you can. Ideally, borrow a saddle from a friend or trainer to get a sense of what works, and then try to find that exact brand and model saddle used.
If you do take a chance and buy a saddle sight-unseen, be prepared for the fact that you may need to resell it if it doesn't work for you and your horse.
Beware of Stolen Saddles
Finally, keep an eye out for signs that a saddle may have been stolen. Most saddles come with a serial number, which is stamped into the flap of an English saddle and which is engraved on a metal plate on a Western saddle.
If you see that the serial number has been scratched out or otherwise damaged so that it can't be read, this can indicate that a saddle has been stolen and someone is trying to make it untraceable. Avoid purchasing these saddles.
Finding a good used saddle can take some time, but the right saddle is out there. Good luck with your search for a new or used saddle!