Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ugly Photo of the Month

OK, so we're a little behind of Ugly Photo of the Month. We didn't want to gross you out with the sheer volume of grainy, sub-par photos that are out there. This month's nominee goes to a Billy Cook. Now Billy Cook saddles pretty much set the bar for saddle making. They're as top quality as you can get, drooled over by horse owners round the world, imitated by saddlemakers everywhere. Billy Cook makes saddles and they sell themselves, simple as that. But when you're shopping online, you want the best photographs possible, right? Unfortunately, Billy Cook's catalogs usually have a pretty low resolution; his product pictures don't do his products justice. But, as you can guess, many saddle shops don't go the extra mile. They just cut and paste pictures from the catalog. Here's the picture from the catalog of the 10-1777 Trail Saddle, which many shops online are using: Hmmm....Here's our photo: Which saddle would you rather buy? Which shop would you buy it from: the cut-and-pasters, or the get-professional-photo-shoots-so-the-products-look-real---ers? When you order a saddle from us, you're actually getting what you see online. How comforting. Lest we pat ourselves on the backs too much, we'll note that sometimes we too are guilty of cutting and pasting in our giddy excitement to get new products up. But then those products are first in line to get a photo shoot.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Big Horn Saddles are still being made!

I can’t tell you how many times customers have called us and said that they heard Big Horn saddles are no longer being made (it happened twice while I was writing this blog!). Well I’m here to tell you that this just is not true. We have known all along that they were being made, but recently we were privileged to visit Big Horn and see the production happening with our own eyes, hear the sound of the cutters cutting leather, smell the hides in air, and feel some of those saddles that so many people are looking for.

Some of the rumors about Big Horn come from the fact that in November of 2008, Big Horn was purchased by American Saddlery, another saddle manufacturer just down the street from Big Horn. American brought over some of Big Horn’s best people to ensure that the quality continued in the Big Horn products. During the transition of moving operations into the American Saddlery facility, there was of course some slowing of production. There are still sometimes delays in getting saddles, but during our visit, we saw enough saddles in production and inventory to make any saddle-seeker smile.

The people at Big Horn were very welcoming and several of them took Chuck and I (Charlie) on a very thorough plant tour. In addition to the many Big Horn saddles that have been around for years, Jack Hughes (president/owner) & Mike Stocker (previous owner of Big Horn) were excited to show us the relatively new Sil-Cush line of saddles. These saddles are built on a Steele Equi-Fit Flex tree. We got a hands-on demonstration of the raw tree showing just how it flexes. Big Horn lines the tree bars with Sil-Cush breathable silicon foam which molds to the horse’s shape as the back and shoulder muscles move. And the Memory Foam Extra Soft Seat just makes you want to stay in the saddle.

The Big Horn team with Chuck

Jack, George, Mike, Bonnie, Andy and Chuck

Chuck checks out a Big Horn Endurance saddle

Thanks to everyone at Big Horn for making our visit informative and enjoyable!

Here’s a true story...
A customer recently called us and said she is still trying to get her money back from a particular online store that will remain nameless (I just wonder why someone would purchase from someone that has to put "Honest" in their name). She had bought and paid for a Big Horn saddle over 6 weeks ago via Paypal, but still didn’t have her saddle. She wanted to cancel her order and get the saddle from us since we had it in stock, but she was told that once you get past 6 weeks, you can't get your money back. She went ahead and purchased the saddle from us. We only hope she was able to get her money back.

So what’s the bottom line with Big Horn?
1. Big Horn is still making quality saddles.
2. Deliveries dates aren't always what Big Horn plans but you WILL get your quality saddle.
3. Buy from HorseSaddleShop.com where we keep LOTS of Big Horn saddles in stock so we can ship when you order.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

HorseSaddleShop.com Visits Dakota

HorseSaddleShop.com Visits Dakota

Jamie, Ben and Chuck

We (Chuck Klockow, owner and Charlie Hueni, customer service) recently had the privilege of visiting several of the manufacturers who make the great saddles we sell. After a full day of driving south, our first stop bright and early was Dakota Saddlery in Ider, AL. Upon entering the building, one thing stands out – low inventory. There were only a few finished saddles waiting to be shipped! But don’t worry, nothing’s broken at Dakota. In fact, it’s all going as planned by owner Ben Inman and Jamie Millard who work along with their wives Diane and Denise (sisters). You see, Dakota doesn’t build a saddle until they have an order for it, which allows them to save on inventory costs and sell their saddles at extremely reasonable prices. Ben told us that another saddle manufacturer recommended that he increase his prices, but Ben assured him that he is very content with the way things are going.
There are lots of reasons we like Dakota. Two of them are quality and service. Ben and Jamie showed us around the shop where we had the opportunity to see saddles in all stages of production. It was a thrill to see the hand craftsmanship that was going on by the skilled work force at Dakota. We also looked over their raw materials which include US hides and high quality synthetic fleece. Because of their quality, we stock a large number of Dakota saddles. We want to have them available so that when we get an order, we can ship it the same day. Our customers love that! Dakota also has great service. If there’s something you want customized about your saddle, they are happy to do it. And while some manufacturers charge a “penalty” for making a change, Dakota’s prices for customization are very low. In fact, they don’t charge anything for some changes including choosing the color of your saddle and seat. So you have a great opportunity to get a customized saddle at a very affordable price.
We have enjoyed a great relationship with Dakota which includes working together on custom saddle designs sold only by HorseSaddleShop.com – like the very popular Flex Trail Saddle model 2212. Spending time with the people at Dakota made me realize why they have such great quality and service. It’s because that’s the kind of people they are, and it just comes through in the product. Unfortunately, due to our tight schedule, we were forced to decline Ben’s generous invitations to take us out for some southern cooking. We'll be sure to save time for that in schedure for our next visit!
Diane and Denise take a quick break for a picture
Ron Gore cutting a piece for a cantle
Denise gives us a demonstration of hand tooling.
We're still amazed at her speed. (RIP Mr. Chunn)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Crates visits Horse Saddle Shop

Horse Saddle Shop was privileged recently to welcome Dan and Elise Crates from the Crates Leather Company in Chattanooga, TN. We enjoyed several hours of good ole shootin the breeze and covered topics from family to the history of saddles. It’s great to listen to Dan talk about his to commitment to quality because we consistently see it backed up in the products he puts out. Mr. Crates knows there are a lot of ways you can cut cost on a saddle, but he repeatedly emphasized that a few bucks of savings isn’t worth the price of lower quality. We were also privileged to see a prototype of a new Crates saddle soon to be unveiled and honored to give our input. That’s all we can say for now, but stay tuned because we’re excited about this upcoming event. Above are a couple pictures of Dan (left) and Dale (right) looking over the extensive inventory at Horse Saddle Shop and reviewing a Crates saddle. What a wealth of knowledge is represented in these pictures!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cincinatti chooses Tucker Equitation Endurance saddles

While taking an overnight trip to Cincinatti with my family, we were able to catch a Cincinatti Reds baseball game. We’re actually Cubs fans but we always enjoy going to a major league game and seeing a park we haven’t seen before - the Great American Ballpark certainly lives up to its name. After the game while walking the streets to get to our van, it was my pleasure to meet three of Cincinatti’s mounted police. The department recently purchased sixteen Tucker Equitation Endurance saddles, and they are were very pleased with them. It was their first saddle purchase in eighteen years and based on the quality of Tucker saddles, I’m sure they will be enjoying these saddles for many years to come. Congratulations to Cincinatti for choosing a great saddle. If you know any mounted police, please put in a good word for HorseSaddleShop.com!

We also visited the Creation Museum just southwest of Cincinatti. What a great monument to our all-wise and all-powerful God who has so generously created this beautiful world for us to enjoy Him in. It was very impressive, and so refreshing to see the truth of creation on display in a museum. I would recommend it anyone.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Introducing...HorseSaddleShop VIDEOS!

We're pleased to be able to bring you in depth saddle reviews by our experts down at the shop. Hopefully our video library will rapidly expand in the coming months. For our first series, we chose to review our top ten bestselling saddles---the models that hardly stay in the shop. Check out our first video here, where Charlie reviews the Billy Cook Arbuckle Wade Ranch saddle:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Make Your Own Fly Trap: Death to the Pests!

I, Stephanie, have a personal vendetta against flies. I can't stand the way they sound. I can't stand the way they look---all hairy and buggish. I can't stand the way they relentlessly bother our equine friends. Which is why I'm delighted to bring you a cheap, quick death trap for these abominable pests. Hang a few in your barn and your fly population will swiftly decrease. Now if you have a tender heart toward insects, there are fly traps you can make where the flies are humanely trapped, not killed. Then I suppose you'd drive them to the nearest state park and set them free to frollick among the lilies. Me, I'm all for disposing of as many as possible.

To make your own fly trap, all you'll need is the following:

Empty 2 liter bottle, heavy scissors or knife, duct tape, 24inch long piece of twine or rope
For the bait: Dish soap, water (I used freshly filtered. See? I'm providing the best for their last moments upon the earth. Now excuse me while I pat myself on the back.) You'll also need vinegar, sugar, and a banana. Mine came out of the freezer. What? Doesn't everyone have half a dozen black bananas in their freezer? You can also just use a chunk of raw meat, but....ew.
To begin, take the label off your bottle and using scissors or a knife, cut the top of the bottle right were the top of the lable was.

Now stir in 1/2--1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup vinegar, a couple drops of dish soap, one banana peel (you can throw the fruit in if you're feeling generous. Me? I'm making banana bread.) Add two cups of warm water and give it a good stir.

Take the top of the bottle that you cut off, place it spout down over the bait, line up the edges, and duct tape the layers together. Use your scissors to poke two holes on opposite sides of the bottle, then take your twine and tie knots to secure. Your finished trap should look like this:

Hang your traps in the barn and dispose of them when you deem them full. Your horses will thank you. And until flies are on the endangered species list and I develop a conscience about killing them, I will too.
Anyone have more tips on fly control?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ugly Photo of the Month

Well it's that time again, folks, where we reveal the difference between what the saddle looks like in the catalog and what it looks like in reality. This month's prize goes to a Tex Tan saddle that we recently began to stock called the Gresham Pleasure. Take a look at what photograph you'll find just scanned from the catalog wherever this saddle is sold online. Now this picture isn't terrible, but it definitely isn't high quality. You can go ahead and zoom in, but don't expect the picture to get any better. If you want to get up close and personal with the saddle, you'll have to visit HorseSaddleShop.com. Once our saddles have been professional photographed, you'll not only have a high quality shot to stare at, but several different angles of the saddle. The picture at right is from Tex Tan's website. Most online saddle shops simply copied and pasted this picture to their shop. The color looks fine, and you can get a general idea of the saddle, but it's just generally low quality. We think that if you're going to make a purchase of hundreds of dollars, you deserve to see better. Take a look:

Now although our word is reliable, you don't have to take our word on anything--you can check out each detail of the saddle yourself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Meet our Staff

This isn’t a full blown introduction to our staff members, just a quick how-do-you-do mainly to clear up a misunderstanding. Here at HorseSaddleShop.com we have four people on staff that interact with our customers and several others that pitch in elsewhere. So it’s kind of surprising that two of us have the same name. That’s right, there are two of us named Charles - of course, Charles is just the name we were called when we got in trouble. Fortunately, we grew up with different nicknames. So Charles Klockow, our owner, goes by Chuck. Emails directed to info@horsesaddleshop.com go to Chuck. The other Charles is Charlie Hueni, our main customer service contact. Emails to the Help Desk at support@horsesaddleshop.com go to Charlie. You may have also talked to Dale if you have called us. Dale is the senior member of our team and has run The Saddle Shop for 24 years. And does the name Stephanie ring a bell? It does if you read our blogs because she is a regular contributor. And if you haven’t seen her blogs, you’ve definitely seen her work as she diligently maintains our website information.
So there you have it. Of course, any of us are willing and able to help you when you have a question, but we thought it might be nice for you to know who you are communicating with.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Children's Book for Horse Lovers

We all know how important books are in the lives of our children (and grandchildren if you have them). We probably all have pages of our favorite picture books embedded forever in our minds. (Who among us doesn't have a picture of the man in the yellow hat buried deep in our grey matter!) Sticker books were the greatest books I could imagine as a kid. I can still taste the sticky stuff and see those dotted lines.
This week horsesaddleshop.com heard from Picthall & Gunzi,a UK based children's book publisher. They produce photographic educational books worldwide, for children between 0-10 years. Their books are designed to be educational, to encourage learning, and to be entertaining to children. They are currently designing a horse and pony book called My Horse and PonySticker Activity Book. The person in charge of research for images for this book saw our quality photographs of saddles and tack and asked us to work with them on this project by supplying images. Of course we will! What a great opportunity to use the talent at horsesaddleshop.com to reach into another sphere. The book is currently scheduled to be published in April 2010. We're excited about this opportunity and we're hopeful that the book will be released in the US for many of us who would enjoy giving it to a child we love.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paddock Paradise

Is your horse constantly struggling with laminitis or navicular? Does your horse's boredom lead to behavioral problems, including weaving, cribbing, chewing, or aggression? Would you like to make a better, more natural use of your property for your horse? If so, you might want to try out the theories suggested in Jaime Jackson's Paddock Paradise: A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding.

Jackson is an expert in researching the environment and behavior of feral horses, and quickly realized that the hoof problems domesticated horses battle are absent for feral horses. In 1992 he published a book entitled The Natural Horse: Lessons From the Wild. In the book he describes his wild horse studies and his own suggestions of how we can more naturally meet the needs of our horses. He later described his hoof care methods in Horse Owner's Guide to Natural Hoof Care; based on his studies, he discouraged the use of shoes and promoted the wild horse trim.

Jackson's goal behind Paddock Paradise is to teach horse owners how to "provide safe, humane living conditions which use the horse's natural instincts to stimulate and facilitate movement and other behaviors that are essential to a byodynamically sound horse." In the book he explains a better method of organizing and diversifying your property for the sake of your horse. Instead of having a square pasture , where the horses nearly stand in the same place all day, he recommends creating a "track" by roping off a circular area inside the square, encouraging the horses to move and even run.

Not only should the track promote forward movement, but it should also contain a variety of surfaces and environments to stimulate your horse. Most horse owners think that if they have a bit of shade and a big enough pasture, their horse will be happy. Jackson instructs horse owners to provide a wide variety of stimuli including various water holes and small strategically placed feeding spots, which both appeal to a horse's natural foraging mentality. Ground surfaces such as a creek, rocks, mud, and gravel are all beneficial for hoof health.

Paddock Paradise and Jackson's suggestions introduce a new strain of thought for many horse owners. Instead of asking, "How can my property accommodate and feed a horse in the easiest and most convenient way?" Jackson helps us to realize that our horses come with certain behaviors and impulses that if ignored, can and will affect their mental and physical health. If you want to understand your horse's inner wiring, pick up a copy.

To discuss this topic with other horse owners, click here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ugly Photo of the Month

One of the nagging doubts that often plague us while shopping online is, "What does it really look like?" We've all been interested in a purchase, yet turned off because of a photo that was poorly taken. The ebay seller didn't bother to pick up the junk-ridden barn in the background. And zooming in just makes you want to groan. We wonder if what the UPS man brings us will actually look better or worse than what's represented on screen.

One of the reasons we get so many return customers around the country is our high standards for our product photos: what you see is what you get. Through many years of improvement, we know how to accurately represent a product on your screen. Our photos are taken by a professional with accurate lighting and a high quality camera.

Often, however, we get new products in before we're able to get a high quality photo shoot for it. So in the meantime, we'll use the manufacturer's picture for the saddle. We love our manufacturers, but most of the time their photographs don't cut it. Hardly ever does the photo do the saddle justice. It's grainy (don't bother zooming in). It's ugly. And the color of the leather is usually terribly wrong.

Recently we got a few beautiful new models from
Saddlesmith. Here's Saddlesmith's shot:

There's nothing too terrible about the photo. Most online saddle shops use this photo to sell the product---they don't have the time or resources to improve upon it. And until you order the saddle, you'll be none the wiser. But when I went to replace the photo with our high-quality version, I was shocked. Take a look:It looks like the saddle got a makeover, doesn't it? The top photo looks like some generic, cheap, blah model you could buy off the rack anywhere. But our photo shows off the true quality of Saddlesmith's work---the leather has a beautiful honey hue, unlike the ugly photo, which makes it look like the saddle needs a tan. The stitching is even, the tooling pattern is intricate. And *gasp* you can even zoom in, not to mention the fact that we have three other angles to choose from.

So there you go. You know exactly what you're ordering. No unpleasant surprises. Just the sheer joy of being able to feel the leather and sit your bum in its comfortable seat.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cash discounts on select saddles

We've been giving away free Reinsman Tacky Too or Gel Impact pads for our Circle Y saddles for a few years now.    I've decided that we ought to expand your options of FREE GIFTS when buying saddles.  So, with select Circle Y saddles have added free matching headstall and reins or a $53.50 cash discount.  We have also added the $53.50 cash discount option to all of our Tucker saddles except the 138 Trooper which has a $25.50 cash discount.

You may wonder why we don't just reduce the price of the saddle.  Well, Tucker and Circle Y have a MAP agreement which restricts us to advertise their products at a price they dictate.  Our only legal remedy to give you the best deal, is to give stuff away when you make the purchase.

Be sure to read Stephanie's article on good vs bad quality saddles.  

Friday, June 5, 2009

Signs of a Low Quality Saddle

You usually get what you pay for when it comes to buying a saddle. Dale, our senior saddle expert, manages the shop and often has customers come in bragging about their latest $200 find. Inside, he’s wincing. Dale has twenty years of experience repairing and rebuilding saddles from the tree up. He’s seen all of our manufacturer’s products from the inside; in fact, we’ve rejected selling many different brands because they didn’t earn Dale’s seal of approval. “The only way to lower the price on a saddle is to skimp,” Dale says. “Some companies skimp on the leather, some on the tree, some on the fleece.”

The saddle market is flooded with cheap Mexican and Indian imports that look good and are priced even better; unfortunately their flaws not only make for a short-lived saddle, but can often lead to a dangerous ride. After rebuilding so many of these cheap saddles for disappointed customers who fell for them in other shops, Dale can spot an imported saddle from ten feet away. Here are the trademarks for the rest of us:

1. Cheap or Imitation Leather:

Many imported or cheaply-made saddles have imitation leather that is usually a vinyl. There is no breaking in imitation leather. You can oil it all night and day; the saddle is going to remain stiff. But what is most shocking to most people who fall for the imported saddle is that many times the bottom layer of “leather” is made out of paper. Yes, you read that right. On a well-made saddle, two layers of leather are used to make the skirt. Many sketchy manufacturers, especially in Mexico, are now using pressed paper in between the top layer of leather and the fleece. This is unidentifiable from the side of the saddle. This material is actually 50-100 sheets of thin paper compressed together, then sewed to the top leather. How safe would you feel if your D ring was resting between leather and paper? How long does the saddle last when what your horse is sweating into is slowly disintegrating? Dale has had customers lose their D ring the first time they cinched up their new saddle.

2. Cheap Trees:

Many of these inexpensive imports have trees that are made with sketchy materials. Dale has seen two combinations more than others. The first is a Styrofoam tree that has been dipped in fiberglass. He discovered this while doing repair work and a nail simply would not stay in the tree and was sliding right out. Upon investigation, he found that the tree was made of Styrofoam. This is scary for a variety of reasons, but most importantly, styrofoam can easily warp under pressure. The second combination is a low grade wood covered in plaster of paris, then wrapped in cheesecloth. This doesn’t sound too terrible, until you find that the plaster of paris succumbs to pressure and becomes powder. The more you ride the saddle, the more the tree is slowly disintegrating into a powdery mess.

Because these companies are creating such generic trees, 50 to 60% of horses can’t even fit into them. The measurements are so generic that you’re lucky if it fits when it arrives. These saddles usually fit a large pony or small horse. Why? Because the trees are so cheaply made, the bigger the tree gets, the more likely it is to just fall apart.

3. Bad Hardware:

The hardware is made of steel or low grade nickel, which will quickly rust.

4. Thin Fleece:

The fleece is so thin you can blow on it to see the cheesecloth underneath.

Our biggest concern over these cheap imports is not that you’re getting ripped off and will probably have to buy another saddle sooner than you planned. It’s that these saddles are usually unsafe. Pressed paper? Styrofoam? Buyer, beware.

Your safest bet in buying a saddle is to know the manufacturer. Where are the saddles made? Ask questions about the materials. Most cheap imports do not have a return policy or a warranty.

A question that usually comes to us after this explanation is What about Dakota? Dakota Saddelry is our lowest priced manufacturer here at the saddle shop and because their prices are so low, some customers jump to the conclusion that Dakota saddles are low quality. Not so! Dakota saddles are just as well-made as our Circle Y and Tuckers, using premium materials and great craftsmanship. The reason why Dakota’s prices are significantly lower is because Dakota does not have a working inventory. All Dakota saddles are custom made to order, which means you’re not paying any overhead. Fortunately, we have a large inventory that Dakota keeps filled for us so that most of the saddles online are ready to order.

Here at HorseSaddleShop.com we pride ourselves on not being the Wal-Mart of saddle shopping. You’re simply not going to be ripped off. All our products pass our standards for high quality, and we keep our prices competitively low. You can buy with confidence knowing that you’re getting saddles and tack that are American made and will pass the test of time.