Recently, Cob Jockey’s posts about saddle fitting have, in a lot of ways, justified my recent feelings about the whole thing. Most poignant, in my opinion, was her post about how her feelings about the industry have changed. If you haven’t read it yet, it is definitely worth a read here.
However, I wanted to talk about another section of the saddle buying/selling industry: The Used Saddle Merchant (“USM”). Now first, let me say that I get it, selling used saddles is hard, thankless, and not without risk. However, there are a few practices that will 100% keep me from buying the saddles you list for people (or listing with you).
Lack of Transparency
A lot of these sellers have beautiful, sophisticated websites. You know what isn’t had to put on your website? A page of information about the cost of consigning with them, what is expected when you consign, how to take a saddle on trial, the cost of a trial (more on that later), length of a trial, etc etc.
Again, it is a TON of work to sell a saddle. I also get that the industry average is 25%. Some places charge 30% and only accept high end saddles. This doesn’t seam like a big deal, but it means that your $2,500 used saddle only nets you $1,750… Ouch. This also doesn’t include some shops that outline a 30% commission on saddles, and then their contracts come back to you… and its 30% commission + cost of shipping out of saddles for trails…
So your $2,500 went on 2 trials? Here’s the breakdown
$2,500 – $750 (commission) – $120 (shipping out twice) – $75 (cost of shipping it to consignment shop) = $1,555.
I will even do you one better. Some of these places won’t give you an idea of what they are going to LIST your saddle for before you ship it to them. So you might think your saddle is likely going to list for $2,500, then it shows up there, and they say it is worth $2,000. Now it’s looking more like this:
$2,000 – $600 – $120 – $75 = $1,200…. OUCH
Oh and that image that you can’t really read to the left here? That is a shops trial policy. The yellow? Highlighted areas where some extra fees are incurred.
Some restocking fees are nominal fees, and I get them. I saw one place it is about $50, and I assume this is to cover some or all of the shipping. However, I have also seen restocking fees up to $200. And you know where you find these amounts? Buried under the text in the trial and refund policies. Or, even better, buried in a contract that is sent to you AFTER you take the saddle on trial.
So again… Buying a saddle, you are now looking at Shipping to, Shipping back, and a restocking fee: $55 + $55 + $100 = $210… So if you are buying a $2K saddle… there goes 10% of your budget on ONE saddle.
Oh and it gets better… One shop even charges you a $100 fee if you put in a purchase request for a saddle and then cancel the request BEFORE the saddle ships. Also… buried in their terms.
Hidden Purchase Now Options
Most of us saddle shopping expect shops to offer some kind of return/trial policy on used saddles. However, some sites have now moved to a trial-by-request method. Want a trial? You have to email their team.
Which would be fine, except nowhere on the product description page, the checkout page, or the home page does it alert you to this policy. As a result, it is shockingly easy to purchase a final sale on a saddle without even being aware of it.
I get it’s mostly a convenience fee for people that don’t have time to go through the process themselves. But personally, I would rather offer the commission to a local saddle fitter who can earn some extra cash with the sale. On that note, any wonderful online tack sellers that you 100% think are honest, upfront, and worth their fees?
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Two years ago a friend of mine and I ran into a huge issue with Horse Saddle Shop in Indiana. When I was shopping around for a western saddle I traveled to their shop to sit in saddles. Ultimately I decided to take one on trial. It didn’t work for me so I shlepped it 2 hours back to their shop. I was then charged a restocking fee! For a saddle that I drove four hour round trip twice to look at. They didn’t encure any expense beyond the saddle being out of their shop for a weekend. I was rather upset. Then a friend decided to take a high end western saddle down there to consign. She ran into a very similar situation where suddenly she was only going to make $1100 or so on her $2500 saddle. The shop wasn’t very forthcoming in saying that the “free shipping” they have proudly stamped all over their website was really the owner’s of the saddles picking up the tab. Her saddle went out on trial twice and was unsold. She ended up with a hefty tab from the shop when all was said and done.
Yuuuuuuuuuuup. It really is craziness. I asked a shop for an estimate/range of what they might list my dressage saddle for. Their response? “We won’t know until it gets here, but you can let us know what you want to sell it for.”
uhhhh nope. Not going to do that. I would rather just give someone else an AMAZING deal.
Ahh yeah, that’s a good point. There’s a saddle shop near me that does consignments, and I don’t think they have any trial fees. But they at least do trials, and tell us what percentage the shop will take on the consignment price, so then to figure out how much we want and then they’ll adjust the price for that. It helps that we’ve known the new owner for years, so they’re always upfront with us if we’re looking to consign a saddle. But yeah it’s just crazy about all those hidden fees. I really hate non-transparency as well.
Yeah I think it is one thing to physically bring your saddle into a shop and have a discussion about it. I think it is another to send a remote consignment shop a dozen+ photos and them still not be able to give you any idea. Sounds like you found a good one to work with!
My local tack shop charges 25% commission which is pretty standard. I’ve never put a saddle on consignment there but I have trialed a saddle at both my local shop and through Farm House Tack. Neither charged me a trial fee or a restocking fee, both let me keep the saddle for a decent amount of time and both were awesome to work with.
I sold my Wise Equestrian high end saddle through the Maryland Tack Exchange and had a good experience with them. They were upfront with everything and on their website they specifically list two different prices for the same saddle: a lower price without a trial and a higher price with one. As a seller, they kept me informed of what was going on, took wonderful pictures of my saddle and had it sold quickly. I lost 25% but it saved me the hassle of listing it myself and figuring out shipping arrangements. If I was selling another high end saddle, I’d use them again in a heart beat.
I think that is the best method. Clear communication for all parties. I don’t mind paying a bit more for a trial. I just don’t want to be surprised by a credit card fee that I wasn’t aware of.
Saddle selling and shopping is just a pain. I have worked with redwood tack several times and Leah is great. She does consignment but she also buys saddles outright if they fit into her inventory. Obviously you get less than what you would to a 3rd party directly but you get the saddle sold immediately. A few years ago I actually did a trade (plus funds since saddle I was getting was newer). Obviously we traded money both ways to do the transaction but it worked out well.
Interesting. I had the opposite experience with Leah and ended up not working with her, but obviously, she has a thriving business! A trade would be AMAZING at this point haha.
Weird. I’ve recommended her to many people over the years. I’ve bought 2 saddles from her and sold 1, but it was a few years ago at this point. The trade was awesome when it worked out!
Oh gosh. This experience was pre-May so… 6 years ago?? Maybe more like 7… Hahaha so your experience is probably more up to date than mine!
I bought a saddle from Leah that was a very smooth transaction. But I also ask all of those questions before making any deals.
Maybe I need to give Leah another chance!
I have a feeling I’m about to go through saddle fitting hell… My saddle does NOT fit Nay — it tips up in the back. I’m hoping something I have in my basement will work for the time being, but… I’m hoping he’ll go in something easy like a pessoa that I can find used easily. NOT looking forward to this. Horses! I have never consigned a saddle, but I have bought used (in person). One tack shop (Rick’s Heritage), you pay in full, refundable after return (no restocking fee). Maryland Saddlery, no balance is paid for up to 3 saddle when picking up in store (no restocking fee for in person pickup as well).
Both of those policies sound great!
Saddle shopping is almost as bad, if not worse, than horse shopping. With my old horse, he was a fairly standard medium tree, so shopping was EASY. With May? Well…. it’s been nearly 5 years, and I still don’t own anything that ticks all the boxes.
I have an old super balanced millers AP saddle (made by millers but not). It fits me super well and it very balanced, but it’s AP. I’m actually hoping that it’ll fit Nay for now so I can not worry about anything for a few months. I mean, while I used to jump 3ft in it regularly, I doubt I could anymore. But, if it fits, I could probably ride in it while I try and find something better. But, I can’t be that lucky… This saddle I currently am using has fit everything… it’s scary. Subi with padding, Batty, Ranger, Bob. Nope, not Nay. Lol. Pops up in the back. Add a shim or riser or pad? Just looks weird. HORSES.
ugh saddle shopping is the worst! Just go rob a bank and order your custom saddle. thanks 🙂 I am stressing for you!
I actually have Holly’s saddle right now! Because she is awesome hahaha.
just saying the words “saddle shopping” is enough to get me making the sign of the cross with my fingers.
Hahahaha It is… the adventure no one wants to go on.
Maryland Consignment Saddlery was very patient with my two-year search for a used dressage saddle. I can’t say enough good things about them, at least as a buyer. Over that period I took home well over a dozen saddles, two or three at a time, each set for up to a week, leaving my credit card number but with no upfront fees. They helped me negotiate with one owner — no dice, even though her saddle had been at the shop for more than a year she wouldn’t come down below her overly-high price, because she wanted to clear a certain amount. But when I found another saddle of the same make and model at their NJ store (thanks to the Internet) they retrieved it for me with no extra fee — this one I bought, and I am very happy with.
Wow! now that is GREAT service. I will add them to my list of places to chat with about my search.