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Guide for Buying a Custom Western Saddle

A handmade custom saddle is the dream of many a western rider. Having a saddle designed specifically for you with all of the features and decoration of your choosing is a thrill. It's also a big investment. A good custom saddle starts around $2,500 and can ring in at over $4,000, when itís all said and done. So you'll want to make sure you do your homework before you start shopping.
Hereís a checklist to get you started:

Variety is the spice of life. What will you be using the saddle for? Will it be used for competition or trail riding, work or pleasure? You test drive a new car before buying, so why should saddle shopping be any different? Try out a few different types of western saddles and ride as many as you can. Ask everyone you know for a five minute spin in their saddle. See what you like and what you donít like about each one. You'll them be able to tell your saddle maker, exactly which features you prefer. Sometimes knowing what you donít like can go a long way to determining what you do.

The Hands of a Craftsman. Word of mouth is everything in most businesses and saddle making is no exception. People are going to talk about an exceptional product and show their saddle off to their friends. Look for those people and talk to them to learn who made their saddle. How pleased are they with it? Was the service good? Do they have any regrets? A good question to ask would be whether the person would buy from the same saddle maker again. Tack shops, stable owners, and horse trainers are good people to ask for advice, too.

While you might think that the best quality will only come from top-of-the-line saddle makers, the best of the best might not be the best for you. Along with a big reputation usually comes a very long waiting list and a very big price. If you do some asking around, you'll find that there are many talented saddle makers working in small shops throughout the country. These saddle makers wonít have as long a waiting list and even better, their prices might not be as expensive.

Take a Tour. Visit a few saddle making shops. Nothing is better for learning than seeing a work in progress. If you are doing your research over the Internet and the shop is too far away, ask for photos. Talk to the saddle maker as well. Whether you visit or call, ask them what their workload is like, what they specialize in, and if they have any references that you can contact to talk with.

A Perfect Fit. The next step is being fitted for your custom saddle. You're saddle maker can measure you or you can take the measurements yourself following his instructions. The measurements will provide the information needed to customize parts such as the fenders, seat, and stirrup leathers to your needs.

The saddle maker will also want to know about the physical types of horses you ride. It's important to remember that you donít want to fit the saddle to one specific horse. You want to provide the saddle maker with the physical type of horse you like to ride, because most likely, the saddle will be around a lot longer than the horse will be.

Written In Stone. As with any business transaction, get as much as you can in writing. You wouldnít buy a house without a contract outlining what each party expects of the deal and the same goes for buying a custom western saddle. The contract should include a description of the saddle with all the details, the agreed price, payment terms, and a delivery date. Most saddle makers require a deposit, usually 50% of the price. The deposit will cover the up front costs of the supplies required. The balance will be due on completion. Keep in mind that custom saddles are not returnable.

Spread The Good Word. Are you satisfied with your new custom saddle? Let the world know. There might be someone else just like you looking for the perfect custom saddle and a good saddle maker for themselves. Donít forget to send your saddle maker a thank-you note. Itís good manners and everyone likes to hear theyíve done a good job and have a happy client.

This article is copyrighted by Western-Saddle-Guide.com and reprinted by permission. Whether you're just starting out with horses or a seasoned horseman, the Western Saddle Guide and Western Saddle Blog provide all the information you need to understand, choose, and care for the western saddle that's right for you.


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