New or second hand is often a difficult question to answer. And I don’t think the answer will be the same for every person. There are many thing s to consider when purchasing a saddle whether it be new or second hand.
People often say to me they want second hand because they are already worn in. I think gone are the days of saddles taking 3 months to wear in. The leather tends to be of higher quality and softer. Saddle companies have refined their leather search to leather that is fit for purpose and ready to be used immediately. The leather is often treated during the making of the saddle in order for it to be ready to use when it gets sent out. Calf skin is often used now for saddles and that gives a softer finish and has the added property of having increased grip for the rider. The down side of calf skin is that its not so durable as hide. However some saddle companies like Prestige have developed the best of both worlds as a thin layer of calf skin is added onto the hide leather to give softness but also durability.
The next consideration is size. If your horse has an unusual shaped back, it is likely to need a certain type/size of saddle which may be difficult to find in a second hand saddle. If the horse has extremely high withers, a curved tree is needed that is narrow. If the horse slopes away heavily from the withers, a built up panel is needed behind. If the rider has very long legs and rides short, they may need more forward flap projection to make room. If the horse has a short back, it may only be able to take a small saddle. On the contrary, your horse might be a very conventional size, a conventional width and the rider might be an average height and size and there might be an abundance of saddles in those dimensions to choose from. It can be difficult to find exact requirements of unusual fitting horses and riders.
The next thing to consider and is normally quite high on the list of priorities, is cost. Second hand saddles are normally cheaper than new saddles. The one thing I would always take time to think about is cost Vs fit. A Second hand saddle that doesn’t quite fit is more expensive than a new saddle that does. If you think about the horses comfort, a saddle that doesn’t quite fit might be causing pain to the horse and reduced performance. The main reason a saddle is purchased is to enjoy the horse and for the horse to be able to perform to it’s best. The second most important (and expensive) purchase after the horse is the saddle. You cannot (easily) ride without a saddle, you can’t compete without a saddle and if the saddle doesn’t fit, causes pain and reduced performance, the whole purpose of the horse is null and void.
Prestige is a good company to use as they have high line saddles but also entry level saddles or more economical saddles. The Prestige Roma saddle new for example starts at £1800, and the Versailles for £1900. These are saddles that might have one part of them in a slightly cheaper version. For example the Versailles tree doesn’t have the X technology in it however it’s a great example of an affordable saddle that can be made to your specific requirements.
People say to me, would my second hand saddle fit better with a pad? Do you think this saddle would be ok if I put a pad underneath? Saddles can be used with pads and saddles with pads are encouraged to be used if the saddle has latex panels. The best use for a pad underneath a saddle is if the saddle is slightly too wide. The pad will reduced the amount of space in the width of the saddle. Using a pad is not a great idea if the tree is the wrong shape for the horse. It’s also not a good idea if the saddle is too tight as adding a pad will make the saddle fit tighter and likewise if the saddle is too low on the horse‘s withers. A pad can also, in some cases make the saddle feel like it’s rolling and not as secure as a saddle without a pad. The take home message is having expert advice from a saddle fitter may help you with your second hand saddle or help you find a compromise with buying a second hand saddle.
The age of the horse, growth and changing shape. This is quite a difficult dilemma. ’My horse is young and might change shape so I want to buy a second hand saddle in case of this’. This is correct, your horse will change shape and will change shape more when they are younger compared to when they are older. All horses change shape throughout the year due to the weather conditions, cold, amount of exercise, injury, spring grass, competition, stress, work, food etc. My advice for this consideration is to get a saddle that fits the horse now. It’s very hard to predict how they are going to change over the coming months and you can only work with what you have stood in front of you. Depending on your budget, it might be more financially viable to get a second hand saddle that fits the best it can for now and when the horse stabilises with growth and change, to get a new saddle made to measure. A service we offer and a lot of people have taken advantage of is, we take second hand saddles in part exchange for a new saddle. This way you don’t have the hassel of selling your saddle and you get a saddle that fits.
Many people are put off buying a new saddle due to the time waiting for the saddle to be made. For most saddle companies it takes months for a saddle to be made. We are lucky enough to be endorsed by Prestige who are one of the quickest in the industry to make new saddles. Their wait time is just 4 weeks. If you can’t wait that long, maybe a second hand saddle is the best for you. Alternatively sophysio saddles will lend you a saddle that fits while you wait for your new saddle to be made. That way, it is just choice, whether you want a new saddle or a second hand saddle.
In conclusion there is no right or wrong answer and the decision must come from the customer. Here we have both new and second hand saddles so what ever your choice we are happy to help and also happy to talk through and reason with the difficult decision that needs to be made. If you have any questions please get in contact with me and I’ll be happy to talk with you.