Monday, August 22, 2011

RIP

There are some things in this world that I just cannot comprehend, no matter much I stretch my imagination. Abstract math.  The appeal of tiny, bug-eyed, yappy dogs.  Pamela Anderson.  Driving a Hummer in Manhattan or L.A.  Matching china.  Fabio.  The need to "put your face on" before you leave the house.  These are all anathema to me.  But the thing that unfailingly floors me, that boggles my mind and makes me do the Big Surprise Face, is when people drop a substantial chunk of change on a saddle and then fail to give it proper care.

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.



 The seat leather's worn through on the right ...

... and badly cracked - nearly worn through - on the left.

  


Left front panel cracked.

 


Right front panel cracked through to the lining.



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.

9 comments:

Melissa said...

What on earth happened to that saddle? So I can avoid doing it! Was it stored in a puddle? And how did the tree break??

saddlefitter said...

Melissa, the only thing I can say is that the fitter who worked on this saddle told me that, as far as she could tell, it received absolutely no care whatsoever, and she had spoken to the owner regarding this several times. The tree damage could have been caused by trauma (though there are no marks on the saddle to support this), or it could have been the rusted-out rivets allowed too much play and the head plate cracked as a result, or it could have been a flaw inherent in the metal of the plate itself - rare, but it does happen.

All saddles require - as Nancy's saddle proves - is some basic cleaning and conditioning to have a long and useful life.

Claire said...

no excuse for that! and what a total waste of money ....all for hte want of a little bit of saddle soap and elbow grease....

Cynthia C said...

I absolutely baby my saddles and sold a Courbette Close Contact saddle for $250. Does not seem like much but considering my original purchase price was $525 15 years ago that quick math computation clearly shows the elbow grease was worth it! Also I am currently working with Nancy (she is great!) and it looks like she may be sending me an Equinox to trial for my hard to fit mare. Nice to see if you take care of these BC saddles they hold up so well :o)Looking forward to finding that "it" saddle. Kind Regards-Cynthia

Liz Goldsmith said...

I had an old -- and I mean old -- Spirig saddle that I bought for a hard to fit mare. I paid $200 for it and Gary Severson estimated it was pushing 40 when I bought it. That saddle had a lot of miles on it but someone had taken good care of it and it had a lot of life in it, even when I sold it on four years later!

Now I joke about my "new saddle" which is a mere 5 years old. Glad it doesn't look like the one in your blog.

Culver said...

Eeek! Poor saddle. Do you have any posts or reviews on what is your favorite the soap/conditioner or technique for caring for leather?

Ravenwood Aussies & Poodles said...

we all see this way too often- god knows i'm constantly telling students (not just fit clients) hello condition that saddle!!!

Anonymous said...

I got a beautiful saddle about 20 years ago that had sat in the roof of a shed for 20 odd years. Mum was riding one of the saddle owners horses and loved the feel of the saddle, had a look at the plate on it and it said "Count Topani" it was saddle no. 51 of it's run. As it was in very poor condition Mum got it for $200. It basically got cleaned then 'soaked' in high grade oil then high grade bees wax was carefully applied. With a lot of care and conditoning the few cracks in the flaps disappeared and I had many years use of the saddle, but due to $ needed when I went to Uni I had to sell it - for more than 3x what we paid for it. By that time my dad was a show jumping judge and he got to see 'my' saddle in action for another 5 years, before his work changed and he was no longer able to judge. The guy who bought the saddle once remarked to dad that it just kept getting better and better.
It's not hard to give saddles and bridles a quick wipe down after riding and regularly condition them, and it can be amazing what results you can get even with 'cheap' leather. I have had people think that my $30 NZ leather bridle had to be english or european leather due to the suppleness - no, that's just down to care and work!

Anonymous said...

whoops - I missed a T - should have been Toptani for the saddle brand - I think they were the original close contact saddle.