September 20, 2012

10 Essential Steps to Buying a Used Saddle Online

Carla posted a link in the comments to an absolutely awesome article titled “10 Essential Steps to Buying a Used Saddle Online.”  While we all want to have a saddle fitter out and/or get a custom saddle, some of us can't afford it and/or live in the middle of nowhere, so buying used online is our best option.  As I was reading it, I realized that I was already doing much of what was mentioned in the article because that’s what makes sense to me, and that it really isn’t an accident that I’ve done so well with the two saddles I’ve bought sight unseen.  Definitely give the article a read even if you’re not currently looking!

My process starts with knowing what I am looking for, and being reasonably well-educated in saddle fit gave me confidence here.  This time, it was a 16-16.5” close contact saddle, $300-$700 range, < 10 years old, from a good quality brand with good leather.  I have a horse that’s slightly wider than a medium with a flat back, withers that are neither high nor low, a well-sprung ribcage, and a tiny female rider.  After I established that, I tried on some saddles I had access to in order to see how different brands fit him, even if they were not CC saddles.  This is how I ruled out brands like County and Albion, which were far too upswept for his flat back.
Duett that I seriously considered.

Next, I set up saved searches on my eBay app that notified me when new listings that met my criteria were listed.  Anything that could possibly have worked and was close to my price range was added to my Watch List, and that’s where the research on the individual models began.  I always started with a Google search for “[saddle model] reviews” which 9/10 times took me to the Chronicle forums, where inevitably someone asked something like “What do you think about this saddle?” 

After doing research, some saddles were removed from my first-draft watch list based on the new information.  For example, after reading a CoTH thread I removed a Duett because clearly they are very polarizing saddles – you either really love them or you really hate them, plus they tend to have wider twists, which would not have worked for me, though I hear they are great for round ponies.

Finally, I whittled down the contenders and got picky.  I prefer to buy from actual owners selling their saddle for a specific reason (usually it doesn’t fit their horse), and knocked out a couple from big resellers for that reason.  Saddles with dimensions listed and lots of pictures are my favorites also.  Finally, after watching a particular saddle for a week, I placed a bid just before the auction closed (saddles in my size range don’t tend to generate a lot of bidders, which I know from previously watching similar items sell on eBay, so bidding late is usually a good plan), and won.

It worked out really well both times.  My research gave me a spot-on idea of how it would fit, what I was getting, and an idea of the difficulty of reselling it if it really did not fit.  Sure, it's a time-consuming process to gather that information, but saddle fitting is expensive one way or another: you're either paying for it in dollars to a fitter, or you're paying it yourself with your time.  Since I'm a poor post-college young adult with more time than money, I chose the latter.

How have your sight-unseen purchases gone, and what do you do to ensure the fit is good?


  1. I sold my Kieffer dressage saddle on-line that Diva outgrew. I was surprised at how smoothly it went - I just had to set up a Pay-Pal and quickly sold it to a lady in Wisconsin. She offered what I was asking if I would pay the shipping - easy!

    We bought 2 used saddle for Alexis when she had Hennessy - one was a Bates jump saddle that we found in a consignment shop - has the changeable gullets and she has used it on many horses. The other is a Wintec dressage saddle -it worked for Henny but it is seriously uncomfortable to ride in.

  2. I have never bought a saddle sight unseen... though I think if I did I would make sure to dig deep into all the details like you did to ensure it was the best fit I could get without being able to ride/try it.

  3. Wow! Awesome response, glad you liked it. I am just quietly accumulating all of these kinds of articles as I put away $100 from every paycheck toward my Horse Fund. :)

  4. Yep, that's about my process. You're a bit more technical on the ebay side of things than I was, but I'm a little leery of big ticket items through there. Definitely good deals to be had on ebay, but I don't like the pressure of an auction style site when I need to obsess properly.

    Just a personal thing, and it certainly worked out for you.

    You're spot on though: the only way this can work is if you DO YOUR RESEARCH.

  5. One of my secret tips is to purchse saddles from non horse people who don't know the brand, type, or how to take good pictures. It's a risk but you can flip them for a profit if you know what you're doing. I purchased a dressage saddle for $56 and then sold it with a better add for almost $300 when it didn't fit.

  6. Aimee, I am quite leery of big ticket items from eBay as well. It took me several glasses of wine to work up the courage to click 'bid' on the Stackhouse. :)