Inspection Tips for Buying A Used Western Saddle
When you're looking for a quality western saddle, a used saddle can be a smart choice. The best saddles will last a lifetime with proper care. So, like luxury cars, a quality used saddle can be more aptly described as previously-owned. You can buy a lot more saddle for your money in the used category.
But buying used requires close inspection of the saddle prior to buying. A used saddle is bound to have some wear and some scuffs and scrapes. That's to be expected. What you're really looking for are structural problems. The following are the top 7 used saddle inspection tips.
1. Saddle Tree. The saddle tree is the foundation of a saddle, so if it's not solid nothing else matters. To test the tree, set the saddle on its fork, nose down. Press down hard on the cantle and twist, looking for bending which is an indication of a broken tree. A broken tree is a deal breaker. DO NOT purchase a saddle with a broken tree.
2. Leather Quality. High quality leather will be thick, soft, and supple. It has a much longer life, especially if well cared for. Low quality leather will be thin, often cracked, and will not keep its shape. Avoid buying used saddles with low quality leather. There's no bargain there.
3. Leather Condition. Check whether the jockeys and skirts lie flat or curl up. Curling is a sign of either poor quality leather or leather that is used-up. It's pretty much impossible to get curled leather to lie flat again. If the leather looks to be of good quality (thick, doesn't curl), but looks dried out, a good cleaning and conditioning can do wonders and bring back a lot of its luster.
4. Underside Fleece. Expect to find a good amount of wear and dirt here, but excessive wear may require having the fleece replaced which isn't cheap. Also, uneven wear can be a sign of a badly designed saddle that doesn't fit well and should be avoided.
5. Stitching. Check the stitching to make sure it's intact. Minor problems can be repaired, but a saddle with a lot of rotting and missing stitching should be avoided.
6. Surface. While a quality saddle can last a long time, the care it receives will impact its lifespan and its appearance. Saddles are made to be used and passing on a quality used saddle because of some scratches and scuff marks is a mistake. But, you'll have to determine what you can live with.
7. Parts Inventory. Do a check to see which parts might be missing. Most parts (stirrups, stirrup hobbles, billets, cinches) can be easily replaced (and many will prefer their own choices anyway), but missing parts should factor into the price.
Buying a used saddle can be a very smart choice, IF you carefully inspect the saddle prior to purchase.
Beth Stefani is the publisher of www.western-saddle-guide.com, a comprehensive online resource for understanding, choosing, and caring for the western saddle and accessories that are right for you. Visit Western Saddle Guide for more tips and information about western saddles and accessories.
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