A customer of mine bought a high-end used jump saddle on eBay, got it for a song, looked fantastic, only a few scuff marks, couldn't believe her luck ... but when it arrived, she noticed some suspicious-looking wrinkles across the seat. So she propped it on her thigh and flexed it - and it flexed quite a lot. Being of the opinion that it's better to err on the side of safety, she brough it to me so I could check it out. The degree of flex made me think I should drop the panels check the tree. Lots of flex isn't always indicative of a compromised tree, but I agreed that erring on the safe side would be a good idea.
Glad I decided that.
Broken spring bar. "But couldn't a good saddler just replace that?" I hear you ask. Possible in theory, but usually, if there's been enough trauma to snap a spring bar, there's other damage on top of that. Case in point: though it doesn't show in this photo (and I couldn't get a decent shot of it), the tree's cracked on both sides at the rear of the flap. And ...
I didn't peel the seat off to check the upper head plate - this tree is a complete write-off as it is - but that may be compromised, too. This sort of damage usually comes from the saddle somehow coming between the horse and the ground - either the horse flipping over on it, or rolling on it in the stall. There were some scuff marks on the pommel and cantle which would be pretty consistent with the latter, though if the horse landed on the saddle in deep, soft footing, that could cause similar marks.
So here's the deal on buying used saddles: caveat emptor. If you're buying it from a reliable tack shop with a knowledgeable staff, chances are it's gone through a pretty thorough safety check. However, if you're buying from an unknown source or individual, they may not be informed enough to know if the saddle's safe ... or they may be unscrupulous enough that they don't much care (though in this litigious climate, that's becoming less and less common).
If my client is willing to spend between $700 and $1200, she might be able to have this saddle re-treed - IF this model is still in production and she can find a replacement tree. If so, she'll have to purchase it (most trees run between $200 and $350), pay shipping and import fees from the UK/EU (which can easily run equal to or even exceed the price of tree) and another $400-$600 for the actual re-tree, plus shipping to and from the saddler. Tack on the initial price of the saddle - even if it was only $500 - and you're in the neighborhood of a nice quality used saddle in safe and sound condition ... without the frustration and time waste.