Finding a saddle that fits both you and your horse well can be challenging. Every horse and person has different measurements, and there are many saddle options to consider. Buying a horse saddle online may seem an impossible task. But if you know what to look for, you can make an excellent purchase. Here’s how to buy a saddle online, including what to consider and whether to choose a used or new saddle.
What to Look for in a Saddle
There are three things to consider when you’re purchasing a saddle: your style of riding, the saddle materials, and the fit. Of course, the cost will always be a consideration, but if you want a saddle that will last, know that you’ll need to invest.
Style of Riding
Your style of riding will dictate the type of saddle you need. English-style equestrians need a saddle specifically made for English riding (rather than Western). Saddles are available for each discipline if you want to tailor your saddle choice more specifically.
Saddles are made of many different materials, including beech wood, laminated wood, fiberglass, plastic, aluminum, steel, iron, wool, canvas, leather, and synthetics. The quality of these materials will impact the saddle’s performance and appearance over time.
Identifying a good fit is the more challenging part of choosing a saddle. A saddle that doesn’t fit properly can cause you pain every time you ride and lead to health and training problems for your horse. Additionally, your top performance requires a well-fit saddle. To determine the size you need, take measurements of your horse for the gullet size and your leg for the saddle size. If the gullet is too narrow, the saddle will pinch your horse, and if it’s too wide, it will press down on the withers. If the saddle is too small, you will bump against the pommel when riding, and if it’s too large, you won’t be able to maintain your position adequately.
Both need to fit well for the saddle to enhance your performance and not harm the horse. Knowing how to measure for an English saddle is as easy as following instructions for the measurements and comparing them to a size chart.
16.5” to 18.5”
18.5” to 20”
20” to 21.5”
21.5” to 23”
What to Spend on a Saddle
Saddles can range widely in cost from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. The price depends on many factors, including the brand name, the materials, and whether it’s custom-made or not. Saddles are available in leather as well as synthetic. While it’s easy to assume that leather is a good choice, there’s a lot of variance in leather quality, so not all leather is equal.
You can find saddles for less than $500. However, the saddles at this price point are typically lower quality and not made to last, particularly the material and the fittings. They can be a starting point for beginners, but you’ll want to make a further investment if you want to ride competitively. If you go up even to the $500 - $1000 range, you can buy a better quality off-the-rack saddle.
If you’re planning to compete seriously, you should prepare to spend around $1,500 and up for a good quality English saddle that’s made to last. Custom made-saddles go up from there and sell for several thousand dollars depending on the details and design.
Types of Saddles
If you’re riding an English discipline, be sure to choose an English riding saddle, not a Western-style. You can get a saddle made specifically for your discipline, with a variety of options for dressage, jumping, and hunting saddles. It’s also fine to purchase an all-purpose saddle that will work effectively for an English riding discipline. If you participate in eventing, you will likely want an all-purpose saddle that will work for all disciplines.
Leather Saddle vs. Synthetic Saddle
Leather is usually the material of choice for saddles. You’ll want to get good-quality leather that’s going to last. Be sure to consider the stitching and fittings for quality as well. Though identifying quality level can be a little more challenging when purchasing online, you can do this by looking at close-up photos or go with a brand that has a reputation for high quality.
Synthetic materials are also used for saddles. Though synthetic leather and suede saddles aren’t quite as popular as leather, they do offer some advantages. Synthetics are usually less expensive, and they’re very lightweight and easy to keep clean. Additionally, material technology has evolved so that synthetic saddles are much better than they used to be — it can be difficult to distinguish them from a leather saddle.
Things to Consider When Buying a Saddle Online
When you begin your saddle buying journey, you may want to begin with recommendations. Check reviews, articles, online forums, and even Facebook groups to see what saddles people are talking about. You don’t have to start from scratch when you’re looking for a saddle.
And just because you’re looking to buy a saddle online doesn’t mean you can’t try a few out in person. Ask your friends, your trainer, or anyone else you know who rides if you can test out their saddle. This will help you get a general feel for different types of saddles.
Of course, you’ll want to take careful measurements and check out the return policy with the shop you choose. Most shops will allow returns for non-custom products in new condition to ensure you are satisfied with your purchase. You’ll also want to try the saddle on your horse when you receive it to make sure it’s the right fit.
Should You Buy a New Or Used Saddle?
Given the cost of a saddle, especially when you’re first starting, it’s wise to consider a used saddle to maximize your budget. In addition, a used saddle offers the added benefit of already being broken in, provided that it has been well maintained. You can find used saddles at shops like The Farm House or an equestrian center that sells refurbished used saddles.
Whether to buy new or used is largely a function of your budget. You can buy an excellent used saddle to save money. But you need to be careful to buy from a reputable shop that understands the importance of saddle quality and condition. You’ll want to know how old the saddle is, how it has been cared for, the type of tree it has, and when it was last flocked. Request pictures with a measuring tape in them to confirm the size when purchasing online. It’s also important to note that vintage is not a good idea when it comes to used saddles. Even the best saddle will break down with time.
Buying a Saddle Online with Confidence
As important as your saddle is, you can still purchase one online safely if you know what you’re looking for and the right questions to ask. Buy a quality saddle from a reputable source. If you choose to purchase a used saddle, it’s even more critical to be careful with where you buy to ensure you’re getting what you expect.
It’s no secret that we love Ariat here at The Farm House. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about the Ariat Ascent line, along with some great options to consider for your own riding wardrobe.