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Barn Basics: Save Your Budget with Used Tack

In today’s economy, everyone’s looking for a way to save a few dollars. Horse lovers aren’t any different, and one of the ways to bolster a budget is to consider buying pre-owned tack found in consignment stores. Just to prove the point, we did some comparison shopping by pricing five brand new and gently used items of similar designs.  The five pieces of tack used for comparison were a heavy-duty nylon halter, a leather western headstall suitable for schooling or trail riding, a pair of harness leather split reins, a decorative western saddle pad with a fleece underside, and a fleece-lined nylon western cinch.

By tabulating price tags in an online catalog and at two local tack stores, the total price for the brand new items averaged $233. When comparable used items were discovered at a consignment store, the total for the five items was $121. That translated into savings of $112. The biggest disparity in price was between the new versus the used headstall. Though each headstall was crafted of sturdy leather and included a browband, the brand new headstalls averaged $45 while the used headstalls averaged $16. Sure, they’d seen some hard use, but all stitching was intact and the leather was free of cracks and the buckles on the cheek pieces worked fine.

It should be noted that any used tack should be inspected carefully for frayed edges, loose threads, malfunctioning snaps and signs of mildew (a real problem in abused leather tack, especially in warm, humid climates). Poorly maintained used tack is never a bargain because it’s prone to break and then you’re right back at the tack store, replacing it once again. However, if you’re not averse to buying someone else’s cast-off stuff, you can really save some bucks. In fact, we unearthed several super-duper bargains at the used tack store. There was a trio of trophy saddles on consignment. These nearly new western saddles sported stirrup fenders and silver plates proclaiming specific championship titles. While some riders might find these details a little too personalized, these saddles were, nonetheless, high-end brand name saddles with nifty options like padded seats and engraved conchos. They were on consignment simply because they either didn’t happen to fit the contours of their owner’s current horse’s back or the owner just didn’t need yet another saddle. And since they hadn’t actually purchased the saddle—it was awarded at a horse show—they didn’t feel the need to sell it for oodles of dollars. The potential for being a conversation piece aside, a slightly used trophy saddle can be a real deal.

If you can’t troll the aisles of a local tack consignment store, another option is to shop at online auction sites such as eBay. While bargains abound, you need to be an educated bidder. There are great variations, for example, between leather headstalls. What looks good in a small photo on your computer monitor might not be so lovely in person. Poor quality leather and chintzy nickel-plated conchos can add up to a waste of your money rather than an actual savings. Before you place a bid online, confirm the brand name. Email the seller and ask for specifics. Then familiarize yourself with the craftsmanship of that manufacturer so you aren’t disappointed when their product arrives in the mail. In these tough times, saving money should be a pleasant surprise, not a shocking disappointment.

Cindy Hale

Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.

View Comments

  • I couldn't find hardly any good tack on Craigslist or I doing something wrong? Is there a certain season I should look for tack or something? Please help!

  • I love going to consignment tack stores, and I recently bought a barely used saddle on craigslist. Craigslist has so many tack items, its a great place to look.

  • i have been doing that for years. Also check with friends, I got most of my daughters stuff from my friends daughters who outgrew them or they sold a horse ect.

  • I prefer to buy my saddles used. Cheaper price and there already broken in! If your looking for a nice western saddle look on the online classifieds for trophy saddles. a lot of people sell theirs to make a quick buck.

  • Great info - and so true! BTW, lightly used riding wear can also go a long way to save $$ - most equestrian stores that carry tack also have some cute outfits on consignment!

  • This article helped a lot! Now I don't have to worry so much about spending a lot of money when I can get the same things cheaper.

  • I think it's a great idea to buy used tack! As long as you can see it for yourself or try it out. You might be taking a risk buying just from a little picture on the computer though!

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