Monday, June 21, 2010

Top 10 Questions to Ask When Purchasing a New or Used Saddle

Ready to buy a saddle but now sure what you should be looking for? Here are our top ten suggestions of what you should consider whether you're buying new or used.


1. Where is it made?

We recommend only American-made saddles. Our chronicles of the imported saddle and why it’s a bad idea can be found here. Imported saddles can cleverly disguise vinyl, pressed paper, and nickel as high quality. We’re not fooled, and neither are the people who fell for one.

2. What is it made of?

This often goes hand in hand with where it’s made. Leather and Cordura are reliable, quality materials. The hardware should be stainless steel or brass. Anything else is not worth your money. Trying to decide between a leather, Cordura, or combination saddle? Check out our help article here.

3. What size is it?

You want your new saddle to fit you and your horse correctly. Do you know what size seat you ride? What size tree your horse fits? We have lots of helpful articles on saddle fit so you can easily find out. Our downloadable gullet templates have helped hundreds of customers fit their horses quickly and efficiently.

4. What is it made for?

Take a look at the function of the saddle you’re interested in. You don’t want to buy a Cordura trail saddle to do roping. Every saddle is built for a purpose and some saddles are built for a specific type of horse. Make sure your saddle fits how you want to use it. Confused about the different types of saddles? Check out our article here.

5. How much does it cost?

Grandpa isn’t kidding when he says, “You get what you pay for.” Here at Horse Saddle Shop it’s true in one sense. All our products are high quality, but a Cordura saddle is not going to last as long as its leather counterpart. Short on cash, but still want a quality saddle? Get a used leather or new Cordura. Want to use your saddle and take it to the grave decades later? You need leather.

6. How much is shipping?

Anyone knows that when you make a large, heavy purchase online, you're likely to pay high shipping costs. Make sure you compare shipping costs as well as any other fees such as taxes or handling fees. We like to make cost comparison easy, so we offer free shipping on all saddles to all 50 states and we do not add handling fees.

7. Can you return it?

You got your saddle, but it doesn’t fit your horse. Can you return it? We wouldn’t recommend buying a new or used saddle without a return policy. It’s just too much of your money to risk. All our new and used saddles are returnable. If you come across a saddle shop that does not take returns, beware. High quality saddles generally do not get returned very often, so if the shop is selling good saddles, there’s no reason not to take them back.

8. Are you getting good customer service?

Does the person on the other end of the phone call or email know what they’re talking about? Do they treat you with courtesy and offer good service? If not, don’t buy. A saddle is a big purchase—-too big to make from a bad company. Especially beware of companies that have little to no customer service, or employees that cannot answer your questions in a timely fashion. Some online “saddle shops” are merely drop shippers who have never handled the product, sometime never even pet a horse. There’s a reason why we call our employees saddle experts. They’ve fit all shapes and sizes of horses and riders for years (some of them, for decades). They know the products, they know horses, and they know riders. We believe customer service should serve you, giving you the information you need to make a good choice.


9. Can you customize it?

So you’ve narrowed down your choices and you have a few you almost like. Many saddle manufacturers have customizable options for their saddles. These options can include seat material and color, concho choices, and tooling designs. Call our saddle experts to see what’s available.


10. How much has it been used?

Whoever is selling the used saddle should be able to tell you how much the saddle has been used. Leather saddles can stand up to years of use if taken care of properly; Cordura saddles cannot. A good indication of how much it has been used is how clean the fleece is. If the fleece is dirty, pass on the saddle. Clean fleece is a good indicator of a saddle that has been taken care of well or only lightly used.

This article is taken from our saddle help section. Be sure to check out our saddle fitting help articles.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our friend Dan Files

At, we have the privilege of working with some wonderful customers. Occasionally, we like to let you know the stories of some of the people we have the pleasure of assisting.

Dan Files loves his horse Dollar. In corresponding with Dan, he wrote, "My horse and I are so connected. … I will walk before I hurt him." You might not think that’s a big deal…until you know a little more about Dan. Dan is a totally disabled veteran of the Gulf War who lives is West Virginia. His legs are numb from the knee down and his arms are weakened. His face and chest are numb also, leaving him unable to speak. BUT he is able to ride his horse.

Dan told us about a fellow disabled veteran and paraplegic, Mike McGowan, who is a horse trainer and travels all over the US giving horse shows and clinics. He is an expert with folks that are disabled. He picked out Dollar for Dan 20 months ago. Speaking about Dollar, Dan says, “it is like riding a horse with power steering and a very slight touch with my legs or hands and he does what I ask, I cannot talk or make a sound. He responds to signs from my hands and touch and legs. He is so quiet I take him to nursing homes and the school for Deaf and Blind here in West Virginia.”

Dan riding Dollar

Dan has a lot of support from friends who help him pursue his love for riding. “My wife has to get me ready to go - she has never left my side in all these years. I have to be helped or use a ramp to mount my horse. Our good friends at our bank help us out and keep track of our funds each month. We know all of the UPS drivers that come to our home. They are like friends, they usually just bring the orders in and put them where we keep the items.” Just recently, McGowan helped Dan pick out a new saddle for Dollar. (In case you’re curious, it’s Fabtron’s new Easy Trail Homesteader Saddle – the dropped rigging was one of the deciding factors). Dan is also selling his used Textan saddle on consignment at You can see it here:

Dan with wife Joan and Dollar

Due to a recent fall which injured his shoulder, Dan won’t be able to ride for a while. But that didn’t stop him from getting a new saddle. “Folks ask me why I keep going to the farm. I refuse to sit around and do nothing. My horse is the best and I will go until my body won't move.”
We’re proud of you Dan! You are an inspiration to us all.

Click here to see a recent article on Dan Files: or check out the May 2009 issue of the APHA Magazine

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tying-Up: How to Identify, Manage, and Prevent this Condition in your Horse

By: Darlene M. Cox

Now that warm weather has returned, we are all chomping at the bit to get our horses back into shape and ready to take on the many trail rides of the season. In our eagerness to return to the trails, we may skip a step or two in the conditioning process for our horses or perhaps speed up the process, working them a little longer and harder than what may be prudent.

Overworked horses may experience a condition called "tying up", which is also known by a host of other names, such as: azoturia, rhabdomyolysis, exertional myopathy, and Monday morning sickness. While the science of this condition is not fully understood, it basically boils down to the horse having an all-over-the-body muscle cramp caused by toxins that build up in the muscles.

Exercise is the predisposing factor to the onset of tying-up and muscle degeneration resultant from high levels of lactic acid and low oxygen in the muscle tissues. Feeding a high-carbohydrate diet during training down times (i.e., feeding the same amount to your horse at leisure as when working) will put your horse at risk of tying up. There are other mitigating factors that may figure into susceptibility, and these include: electrolyte balance, vitamins, and stress levels.

Most occurrences of tying up are fairly mild, but sometimes the condition can lead to severe kidney problems or death. It is important that veterinary intervention be obtained immediately to avoid resultant muscle/kidney damage. It is important that you be able to recognize the signs of tying-up, which may present similar to those of colic with the exception that tying-up will always occur after a horse has been worked.

The most common signs of your horse tying-up are:

  • Notable discomfort - flared nostrils, anxiousness, pawing ground, sweating, pale gums
  • Short-strides/muscle stiffness, particularly in the hind quarters
  • Bunching up/cramping up of muscles across the croup and hindquarters
  • Elevated pulse/respiration
  • Dark colored urine, or straining to urinate several times

What you should do if you believe your horse is tying-up:
  • Call your veterinarian immediately and provide him with a synopsis of vital signs: pulse, respiration, etc. Describe to him what your horse is experiencing.
  • Blanket your horse to prevent chills, which will exacerbate the muscle cramping
  • Offer your horse water and encourage him to drink. Water will flush his kidneys of the toxins built up in his muscles.
What you should not do if you suspect your horse of tying-up:
  • Do not move your horse, as any movement will further damage his muscles
  • Do not allow your horse to lie down
  • Do not administer any pain or other meds to your horse without veterinarian approval
What to do to prevent your horse from tying-up:
  • Feed a low carbohydrate/high fat diet
  • When not working your horse adjust the amount of grain fed.
  • Warm-up your horse before exercise, and then cool him down afterwards. 10-15 minutes of walking before and after should adequately warm-up/cool down your horse.
  • Do not over-exercise your horse.
Responsible horse ownership dictates that we are ever vigilant and knowledgeable about what conditions may afflict our horses. Recognizing the signs above and knowing how to react will potentially save the life of your horse.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Have You Seen My Horse?

By Darlene M. Cox

Recreational trail riding and camping has increased exponentially over the last few years, with many avid horse lovers making the necessary purchases to enjoy the welcoming pleasures that exist for them in the numerous state and federal forests.

Those who delve into this wonderful past time spend a fair amount of money on the required wares; namely, horse(s), truck, trailer, tack, and other supportive accoutrements. As with any item of value there is always the risk of theft.

If you are unfortunately victimized, report the theft immediately. If your horses are missing from their pasture or barn, presume they are stolen and report it to the appropriate authorities. After you have placed the call, then go look for them. If you find them in your neighbor’s hayfield enjoying an afternoon snack, no harm, no foul. You had initiated the wheels of action in the event they had been stolen.

If you arrive home to find your horses and tack missing, phone in your theft report and do not disturb anything while you wait for the authorities to arrive. Fingerprints can be taken from stall doors, gates, etc. to help the authorities apprehend the thieves. Responding law personnel are trained to interpret crime scenes and any disruption of involved items may skew their interpretation.

The tried and true saying of “the best defense is a good offense” is a good strategy to employ in keeping your property safe, or in the event of thievery, being able to identify your belongings. After the theft has occurred, your horse(s) and tack can be difficult to find unless you can positively identify them.

Photographs can greatly simplify any identification process. Photos coupled with a written detailed description enhance the ability to prove ownership. Engraving and/or marking your name, address, driver’s license number, and/or social security number on saddles, bridles, blankets, etc. will further assist the identification process. I would recommend making such engravings in an inconspicuous place; one not easily noticeable and therefore subject to erasure or scratching out.

Color photographs of your horse are most important. Take the photos from every angle and every side, including a photo of their head. Make sure you get photos of all markings and significant details (scarring, eye color, etc.)

Branding and/or tattooing your horse(s) is an excellent identification tool to prove ownership.

Housing your tack behind a sturdy, padlocked door will deter would-be thieves, especially if you use the type of padlock that cannot be cut. They are a little pricey, but well worth the investment.

Sturdy locks will also protect any belongings you may have in your horse trailer while you are on the trails. If you have an entrance to the living quarters part of your trailer from the horse box, padlock the exterior stock door to prevent outside access. Placing a hitch lock on your trailer will prevent someone from driving away with it.

Motion sensor lights in and around your barn will thwart some thieves who prefer to do their dirty work under the cloak of darkness. Security cameras can provide evidentiary video tape to aid in identifying suspects and vehicles. I have also seen strategically placed baby monitors as effective theft deterrent tools.

Driveway access gates are a deterrent to thieves who prefer to have their vehicle within easy access. While a padlocked gate may be a small headache for you to navigate on a daily basis, an electric gate may be a nice pain reliever, as well as an effective tool preventing uninvited access to your property.

Always be aware of any ‘strangers’ or strange vehicles in and around your barn. Someone innocuously petting your horse through the fence may actually be ‘casing’ your barn. Some unknown, friendly person striking up a conversation and asking you questions about your horse may be filing away the information for later use. Write down license plate numbers from any vehicles such unknown persons may drive off in. Advise your neighbors that you have seen suspicious people in the area, making them aware to promote their watchful eyes, too.

If you board your horse at a communal barn, know which horses belong to whom. Unrecognized visitors should be questioned about their being on site and association with any horse they may have on the end of a lead shank. How easy can it be for someone to confidently walk up to a horse and load it into a trailer and drive off? Just like some housing districts have neighborhood watches, barn watches can equally deter would be thefts.

Nothing protects a barn better than a barking dog. Many thefts have been thwarted by yappy canines. Remember, thieves prefer to quietly come and go. A barking dog greatly heightens the probability of them being caught in the act.

Pasture bound horses are an easy target for thieves. Driving up to a roadside gate or simply cutting a fence will allow access. Don’t make it easy for the thieves. Place heavy chains and padlocks on all gates. Routinely check the chains and locks to ensure their stability. Do not put watering troughs or feed buckets on or near exterior roadside fences. Horses will congregate where they are fed or watered. How much easier could it be for would-be thieves to take the horses from where they stand? Instead, feed and water the horses along an interior fence or at the barn. A would-be horse thief is less likely to walk across a 60-acre field to steal a horse.

Taking appropriate measures to protect your prized investments will allow you to sleep better at night.

Happy trails!