For example: here are some photos of Nancy Okun's Black Country Equinox. This saddle is about 6 years old and retalied for about $2600 back then; Nancy figures she's put about 3000 miles into it. This saddle has literally been "rode hard and put away wet" - as is typical for a competitive trail saddle. But after every ride, Nancy wiped the dirt and sweat off it and put it on the rack in her trailer; she dried it carefully when it got soaked and conditioned it when needed - and aside from regular flocking adjustments by yours truly, that's really about all the care it's ever gotten. Nothing heroic or extreme, just good basic maintenance. Take a look.
You can see some wear on the billets and the ends of the undersides of the flaps; there's a little fading on the outsude of the flaps and the jockeys have shaped themselves to the billets and stirrup leathers, but this saddle is in wonderful shape, especially considering the life it's led.
Now, let's take it to the other extreme. This is a saddle that received flocking adjustments but little to no other care; the fitter who did the flocking repeatedly lectured the owner on the care it should receive ... but it seems those lectures fell on deaf ears. Take a look at the photos below, compare them to the shots of Nancy's saddle, and take a guess at its age. Keep in mind that this is a dressage saddle, comparable in quality and price to Nancy's Equinox. These photos were sent by the owner after my fellow fitter had dropped the panels and found a broken tree.
Head plate broken dead center, perhaps as a result of the rusted-out rivets on either side.
Any guesses as to the age of this saddle? You might think it's a venerable old unit that's been to the wars and back, and given the condition it's in, that's a justifiable guess. But I bet you'll be as floored as my fellow fitter was when you learn that this saddle is only 4 - yes, FOUR - years old.
Now, horror at the destruction of a lovely saddle aside, let's take a look at some very practical math. Nancy bought her saddle for about $2600 six years ago. The price of that saddle is now almost $3200. If Nancy sells the saddle for $2000, someone will be thrilled to save $1200 and get a saddle in such nice shape; that means that Nancy's only out about $600, which breaks down to only $100 a year for her saddle. Not a bad deal.
The other saddle, however, is a total wreck. Ironically, the tree is still under warranty, but re-treeing it wouldn't be worthwhile, since the saddle's totally trashed and the remaining leather probably wouldn't hold up to the stretching and stress a re-tree would place on it. Patching the seat or re-seating the saddle would be a questionable enterprise at best - again, given the state of the leather - and patching the panels is really a no-no, since patches on panels rarely stay and have a very real likelihood of creating pressure and/or soreness. Given that this saddle retailed for roughly $2500 four years ago, that breaks down to (let me get the calculator) ... $625 per year. Or, if you want to consider the saddle now sells for about $2900 ... well, I'll let you do the math.