hands exchanging dollars

Do fitters “Just want to sell saddles”?

Occasionally when I tell someone that their saddle doesn’t fit I get accused of “just saying that so I can sell them a saddle.” The truth is that I really don’t like telling people that their saddles don’t fit. I’d much rather make your saddle work for you and your horse and save you the time, money, and hassle of replacing it.

It would also generally be a lot better deal for me financially if I pretend your saddle fits, even if it doesn’t.

Here’s why:

hands exchanging dollars
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If your saddle is an irredeemably bad fit then I can generally spot it as soon as it’s placed on your horse, or even before. We don’t even make it as far as the ridden evaluation before I tell you it’s hopeless. Since the usual fee for a saddle fit evaluation includes a ridden evaluation, I don’t even get to charge you for the full saddle evaluation. My fee is $50.

If your saddle fits acceptably well, I can at least finish the evaluation, but most saddles are not a perfect fit when I first see them. There is generally some improvement that I can make by adjusting the flocking, though sometimes a tree adjustment is needed, or billets need to be replaced, or some other modification will make it work even better for either you or your horse or both. That boosts your bill to about $200, or more.

If I was just in it for the money, I would definitely say, “your saddle almost fits but I can make it better!”

“But,” you say, “wouldn’t you make even more money if I buy a new saddle?” Not necessarily. While the amount of your invoice would bee much higher, my profit may not be. Keep in mind that I have to pay for that saddle too! And I deduct my consultation fee from your price so I don’t get paid for

  • the hours I spend advising you on the purchase
  • the time spent working with the saddle makers on your behalf
  • the time spent calling and emailing the customs agent when your saddle gets flagged by the US Department of Agriculture because they thought the saddle tree was an actual live tree and so they are holding it at the border (true story)
  • the time spent with FedEx because whatever the reason of the day is
  • the time spent delivering the saddle to you
  • time or materials custom flocking the saddle on delivery
  • 0r for topping off the flocking 6 weeks later when it has settled

because all of that is included in the purchase price.

By the time you subtract my expenses and then divide the remainder by the time I invest, my hourly income is almost certainly less than if I fixed the saddle you have.

“But wait!” you say, “at least you know you will have all those hours of work to do, rather than having to attract business from other sources.” Nope, sorry, that doesn’t hold up either. I have consistently had more requests for appointments than I can possibly find time to grant. If your saddle fits and I can move on the next person then I can make more people and horses happy rather than spending hours sourcing a new saddle for you.

If you calculate in the amount of money I’ve had to invest in demo saddles so we can figure out which one suits you and your horse best, the time I have to spend managing that inventory, the expense of housing it, etc., a potentially losing situation for me becomes even worse. Just think for a minute about how much leather I have to condition…

There is also a mental/emotional cost to me. When I accept a saddle order for you, I feel an obligation to make sure I have done everything in my power to make sure that it’s the saddle of your dreams. I spend a lot of time analyzing options when you are not even around. By trying to make your buying experience as stress-fee as possible for you, I take on the stress myself, and then some.

So why do I tell people that their saddles don’t fit?

Because I have integrity so I tell the truth, because I’m not just in it for the money, because I have a conscience, and most of all because I need to be able to sleep at night. If I’ve approved for use a saddle that causes your horse pain, I would not be able to sleep at night. The reason I’m writing this essay now is that I’ve had too many people recently hear me say (in no uncertain terms and with detailed explanations), “your saddle doesn’t fit” and decide to use it anyway. THEIR horses are keeping me up at night. Those horses, and all horses, deserve better than to be ridden in a saddle that causes them pain, which, frankly, is abusive. Riding is NOT your right as a horse owner, but saving your horses needless pain IS your responsibility. Saddle fit is a welfare issue.

Why do I even sell saddles if it’s such a hassle for me?

Because I know that as awful as it is to hear that your saddle doesn’t fit, it’s worse if you are then left not knowing what to do about the situation. There are so many different kinds of saddles in the world, how are you to know which one, in which size, with which options is best for you? I can’t, in good conscience, leave you in that lurch. I want to help.

Last question for now:

What would make a saddle a hopeless fit?

One of the more heartbreaking things I encounter is when someone is just past the window of time when they could have returned their saddle, but they didn’t worry about having it checked sooner because “it’s an adjustable tree and it’s wool flocked so it can be made to fit any horse!” because, no, it absolutely cannot. If it’s too long for your horse it can’t be made shorter, if it’s too curvy or too straight, or the channel is too narrow are just a few of the possible scenarios that can make a saddle a hopeless fit for your horse. Please make your saddle fitting appointment before you buy the saddle, even if you are not planning to buy from me. I’ll be more than happy to advise you!

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