Cheap and saddle honestly do not belong together in the same sentence.
Why? Because quite literally, you DO get what you pay for if you buy a cheap saddle. And it’s not just that you will be uncomfortable, but it will not make your horse all that happy either, and may actually harm him.
Ok you’ve tried cheap and figured out that isn’t the way to go. You’ve tried expensive and, well, that worked, but holy smokes are the prices ever high. So here are some tips on how to shop for your next saddle.
Saddles can be priced from several hundred dollars to more than $8,500, and specialty or antique saddles can easily range into the tens of thousands. You’re not going to be spending that kind of money, but you DO want to spend enough to get something decent and something that properly fits your horse. You will want to look for value, fit, fit and fit. Yes that’s right, THE most important thing about your saddle is that it fits right. Look at it this way, if you had a too tight or too big pair of underwear on you’d be downright squirmy. Why would you want to saddle you horse with something that doesn’t fit?
Before you go hunting, know the kind of saddle you want. Don’t just have a vague idea of what might work, have in mind a picture of precisely what you want. Then hit the road and start looking – for the right fit.
The saddle must fit you. English or western, jumping or cutting, pleasure or gaming, you must be comfortable in the saddle all the time. You don’t want to be thinking about your saddle when you are riding. The right fit makes your saddle seem like a natural extension of your butt.
If the saddle doesn’t fit your horse, no matter how great the price, it was too much to pay. If you’re looking at ready-made saddles, then make sure you have the try it before you buy it option. If they won’t let you try it, don’t bother – after all you don’t need to ride the horse more than a few minutes to determine fit. And if you put a pad under it and handle it carefully, you won’t damage it.
If the saddle is custom built, the saddle maker will want measurements of your horse in order to determine the proper tree, skirt lengths, gullet, etc. This is where you will be paying out good money. Emphasis on the good, because what you get will be precisely what you need and what your horse needs. Having said that, the price must fit your budget. And just because your budget is low does not mean you can’t find a saddle that has a proper fit. It just means spending the time to find it.
Try this: if you are ordering a custom built saddle, tell the saddle maker the highest amount you’ll pay, and then let him design to fit the budget. Saddle makers can be very creative and stay within the budget. Or try buying a used saddle that FITS, and is eye-appealing. That is often a better value than a new saddle. Into silver? Then only go with sterling because the silver-plated doodads and other imitations fade like crazy and are a waste of money. Just remember the saddle you want needs to FIT. Period!