Barn Privacy

cee entrance gateFor many horse owners, the farm and barn are your sanctuary. They are places where you and your family can enjoy your horses in peace. Or they should be, at least – encroaching development of neighboring properties or busy nearby roads can leave your private property feeling anything but. Don’t worry, though – we’ve come up with some great ways that can add privacy to your farm!

Set the Barn and House Back from the Road

One of the best ways to create privacy for your property begins with the construction stage. When you are planning out the locations for your horse barn and house, set them both well back from the main road. The further back that your barn and home are located, the more privacy you’ll have and the more aware you’ll be of anyone entering the property.

Install an Entrance Gate

An entrance gate is an excellent way to establish the fact that your property is private. Entrance gates don’t have to be big, imposing, ugly gates – Classic Equine Equipment offers a variety of entrance gates which can be tailored to your design specifics for your property. Done well, entrance gates create both privacy and make an attractive addition to your property.

Create a Perimeter Fence

An entrance gate won’t establish total privacy on its own, especially if your horse pastures are located near the road. In this situation, it may be wise to install a perimeter fence which connects up to your entrance gate. Try to locate the perimeter fence so that it is set well in front of the pasture fence. This method can help to prevent drivers from stopping and petting or feeding the horses over the fence.

Use Landscaping to Separate Your Property

Landscaping can be another effective method to establish privacy on your property. Adding dense trees and bushes can help to separate your property from both neighbors and from the road.

Install an Attractive Sign

Consider installing an attractive sign at your property’s entrance which designates it as private. Horses attract all sorts of animal lovers, and visitors may assume that your farm is public property, especially if your farm is large. Adding a “private property” sign can help to discourage these visitors, especially when it’s paired with an entrance gate or perimeter gate.

If you’re building a horse barn for personal use, then it’s a good idea to start planning ways that you can increase the privacy of your farm from the beginning of the process. With a little effort, you can enjoy your horses in privacy and peace.


10 Things To Consider On The Outside Before Building The Inside of Your Barn

CEE custom barnWhether you are building a new barn or renovating an old one, the best way to get the barn you want is to remember the old adage, “form follows function.”  Before you start planning your barn, think about the following things:

  1. How will you use your barn?  Are you a boarding stable or breeding facility?  The size of your barn might need to be bigger than you thought to accommodate tack rooms, wash racks and/or foaling stalls.
  2. How many horses will you ultimately care for? You may just have a few horses now, but if you’re dream is to someday have a training facility, you should build a big enough barn to accommodate more horses. It’s always less expensive to build right the first time rather than trying to add on later. 
  3. Consider the weather. Are you planning to have attached paddocks?  Cold or wet weather may prompt you to be able to close doors leading to the paddock to keep horses warm and dry.  Also consider doors at the end of the barn to keep out inclement weather.  With either or both have an overhang or awning over them to keep everyone dry?
  4. Let there be light – and fresh air. Look at barn designs that will maximize the amount of fresh air and ventilation – both important to your horse’s health – to flow through the barn.   Look for designs that allow large amounts of natural light into your barn. 
  5. Consider your daily workflow. Will you use wheelbarrows to clean stalls or feed or will you need a barn with an aisle wide enough to drive a truck down the center aisle for these chores?  Will your hay be stored off site or do you want it close by in your barn’s hay loft?  Will you need additional room for a viewing area for parents or a kitchen or clubhouse area for boarder parties and relaxing? 
  6. Look at your proposed site location. Is it level?  Is the landscape such that water flows away from the barn?  From which direction will the wind come?  Sun?  Is there room for a driveway and parking area for boarders, the farrier and vet?  Will you offer trailer parking – will it be part of the barn structure so it can be covered?
  7. Consider utilities. How far is it to the nearest electrical and water sources? 
  8. Consider barn style. Do you have a preferred barn style that works best for your type of facility?  A Shed Row barn a good choice for warm climates as they maximize air flow and ventilation.  They can be configured in a straight line, an “L” shape or a “U” shape. The Full Monitor has a high center raised roof that lets hot air rise above the stalls and horses. The design also allows skylights and windows to be installed on each side of the center roofline, letting in more light and additional fresh air. The Monitor is good if you need to build a long row of stalls.  The Gambrel offers a large loft located above the stalls for added storage and increased headroom. Gambrel trusses eliminate the need for interior post and beam supports giving you more freedom in your floor plan.
  9. Look at legal considerations. What do the laws in your area allow you to build?  Are there restrictions on size or location?  In some areas, the barn must be a certain number of feet from your property line.
  10. Consider available construction materials. Do you want wood post and beam for the old-fashioned look of a barn?   Or do you want the low maintenance and fire-resistance of a steel modular building?

Take some time to day dream about your perfect barn.  Visit other barns to get additional ideas.  Now make a list of what you absolutely have to have.  Examples might be a wood barn with 12 stalls and paddocks with an overhang with each stall.  Now think about what you’d like to have.  It might be enough room for a full kitchen and TV room for boarders.  Make sure you write everything down so you won’t forget anything when talking with your barn builder.

A final consideration when designing the outside of your barn is to make sure it’s horse friendly as well as people friendly.  Horses dislike dark, closed in places so design your barn with lots of room and plenty of natural light and air.

Photo credit:  Classic Equine Equipment

West Nile Virus Can Infect Humans As Well As Horses

West nile transmission you’re a horse owner, you’ve probably been aware of the West Nile Virus potential for your horse for several years and, hopefully, have given your horse the proper vaccinations. However, there have recently been news stories about  cases of human West Nile cases.  You may be hearing the following – we’ve investigated to see what’s true. 

FACT: People and animals can become infected from the bite of certain kinds of mosquitoes that are infected with the virus. Mosquitoes may pick up the virus when they bite, or take a blood meal, from wild birds that are infected with West Nile Virus.


FACT: Mosquitoes transmit the virus when biting to take a blood meal.


FACT: Infection occurs primarily in the late summer or early fall in the northeast and Mid Atlantic regions.


FACT: Only humans and horses can get West Nile.

FALSE. In addition to humans and horses, dogs and cats have been found to be susceptible to the disease.

FACT: Humans and horses can get the virus from other infected mammals.

FALSE FOR BOTH. Once a mammal is infected, it is considered a “dead end” infection and mosquitoes cannot ingest the virus.

FACT: There are symptoms to watch for if you think you have West Nile.

FALSE FOR HUMANS In approximately 80 percent of West Nile virus infections in humans cause no symptoms (also known as “asymptomatic”). Click HERE for more information on symptoms of West Nile in humans.

TRUE FOR HORSES Symptoms in horses may include a general loss of appetite and depression, in addition to any combination of the following signs:

  • fever
  • weakness of hind limbs
  • paralysis of hind limbs
  • impaired vision
  • ataxia (weakness)
  • head pressing
  • aimless wandering
  • convulsions (seizures)
  • inability to swallow
  • walking in circles
  • hyperexcitability
  • coma

FACT: There is a vaccine to prevent West Nile.

FALSE FOR HUMANS. Also false for dogs and cats.

TRUE FOR HORSES. Click HERE for recommendations by the American Association of Equine Practitioners on how, when and how often to vaccinate for West Nile.

FACT: There are steps you can take to eliminate the possibility of mosquitoes, and therefore West Nile.

TRUE FOR BOTH  Mosquitoes by far are the biggest carrier of West Nile. Mosquitoes breed in standing water – eliminate the standing water and you’ll start eliminating mosquito breeding grounds. Be sure to:

  • Empty and refill outdoor water troughs or buckets every few days.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
  • Clean and chlorinated swimming pools when not in use. Mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property, especially near manure storage areas. Mosquitoes may breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters every year. Millions of mosquitoes can breed in roof gutters each season.
  • Most barns have their population of birds and some birds can be beneficial to insect control. However, if your area is infected with West Nile, consider reducing the number of birds in and around the stable area. Also, periodically look around the property for dead birds, such as crows. Use gloves to handle dead birds and place the birds in plastic bags for disposal.
  • In addition, use mosquito spray or topical on yourself and your horses, especially at night. For more information on best mosquito repellents, click HERE.  Consider fly sheets that stop “no see ems” for horses and long sleeves and pants for humans.

For help in assessing mosquito exposure risks on your property and for suggested control practices, contact your county extension office, county Department of Environmental Protection, county Department of Health, or mosquito and pest control company.

Photo credit:

Could An Equine Chiropractor Help Your Horse?

chiropractor vetmed.vt.eduWhile traditional equine veterinary medicine continues to grow with new techniques and medications.  However, sometimes your horse may need a little “extra” or alternative help.  One you may want to consider is an equine chiropractor.

Equine chiropractic care is a rapidly emerging field among veterinarians due to increasing demand from horse owners for alternative therapies. It is an art of healing that focuses primarily on restoring the spinal column’s normal movement and function to promote healthy neurologic activity, which in turn supports effective musculoskeletal function and overall health. Chiropractic care centers on detecting abnormal motion of the individual vertebra and its effects on the surrounding tissues. Reduced mobility between two vertebral bodies can irritate the nerves exiting the spinal cord, leading to decreased nerve supply to the tissues. This altered nerve function causes problems such as pain, abnormal posture, uncoordinated movement, overloading of leg joints, and muscle changes.  

An equine chiropractor can make a big difference in a horse’s comfort and performance, but it’s important to find a talented chiropractor. Put these tips to use when it’s time for you to find a great equine chiropractor.

Ask Your Vet for a Referral

Your vet can be an excellent source of information when it comes to reputable, skilled chiropractors in your area. Many vet offices work in tandem with a specific chiropractor, ensuring that horses get the treatments that they need. Check with your vet and ask them if they can refer you to a chiropractor.

Ask Other Horse Owners for Recommendations

Other horse owners may be able to recommend chiropractors that they have hired to work on their horses. Horse owners may have had excellent results with a particular chiropractor, which may indicate that the chiropractor could be a great fit for you and your horse. Be sure to pay attention to any warning stories you hear, too.

Carefully Read About a Chiropractor’s Education and Experience

Once you have the names of a few potential chiropractors, see if they have a website. Read up on the chiropractor’s education and experience. You may want to research the reputation of the schools that the chiropractor attended. Make sure that you choose a chiropractor who has plenty of experience – while a chiropractor just out of school may be very talented, you can’t replace the value of firsthand experience.

Consider Rates

Rates for equine chiropractic services do vary according to each individual chiropractor. The distance that a chiropractor will have to travel to your barn will also factor into the cost. While you shouldn’t automatically hire a chiropractor just because he or she charges less, you should consider the cost when choosing a chiropractor for your horse.

Schedule a Trial Appointment and Evaluate Results

The only true way to determine whether the chiropractor you’ve chosen will work out is to have him or her come out for an appointment with your horse. Make arrangements to be present at the appointment, and provide the chiropractor with as much information as possible about your horse’s medical history and current problems.

During the appointment, your horse may get a little antsy or uncomfortable, especially if he hasn’t had chiropractic treatments before. If the chiropractor is working to alleviate a particular issue, it’s a great idea to take photos or video footage both before and after the appointment to observe any changes.

A great equine chiropractor will explain their findings to you, be skilled in working with your horse, and will be an excellent partner in keeping your horse in his optimal physical condition. It’s well worth it to spend the time necessary to find a great equine chiropractor.

Photo credit:

Should Your Horse Go “Back To School”?

working with trainer Julie Goodnight RFD TVLooking back on a summer of riding, were there things you wish that were different about the partnership between you and your horse?  Do you wish your show results were better?  Did you not quite get to your goal of jumping 3′?  Are you still uncomfortable riding out on the trail?  Maybe it’s time for your horse to go “back to school.”

Sending a horse away to a trainer for schooling requires a good deal of trust, since your horse’s care and well-being will be in the trainer’s (and often a new barn’s) hands. If you’re planning to send your horse away for training, you will want to make sure that the horse will be safe and that the training will be a positive experience. Here are some factors you’ll want to consider.

Find an Experienced Trainer

When choosing a trainer, look for one who is experienced and who trains horses full-time. A person who has made training their career should take their work seriously, and should also have plenty of success to show with the horses that they have previously trained. When someone trains full-time, you know that their focus and energy are on the horses in their care and their progress. Additionally, for a full-time trainer, training horses is a profession, so the operation is more likely to be managed professionally.

Make Sure the Training Facilities are Safe

Before you agree to send your horse out to a trainer, you should pay a visit to the training operation with an eye for the safety of the facilities themselves. Ask plenty of questions, such as how much time your horse will be spending in a stall and whether he will have access to turnout. Look for standard safety issues, such as the quality of arena footing, the condition of paddock fences, and that horse stalls are designed to provide adequate room for your horse to move around.

Additionally, watch to see the condition of the other horses on the property. Do they appear to be well-fed and in good physical condition? Look out for hoof issues, low body weight and the presence of saddle or girth rubs, all of which could signify that the horses aren’t receiving quite enough attention or care.

Hire a Trainer With Similar Training Methods and Approaches

When you send your horse away for training, it is important that the trainer you choose is someone who shares your same training methods and approaches to training. In order for training to be a success, both you and the trainer need to agree on the desired outcome and what training methods are acceptable to get there. You will also need to find a trainer who shares your view on horse care, and who will keep your horse in good health while he is away in training.

Get and Check References

Everything might look great at a facility, but you should absolutely still get and check references on the trainer. Call each reference and talk with them about their experience with the trainer. Ask them what they sent their horse to the trainer to learn, how long the horse was away in training, what the results were and whether they encountered any issues.

Sending your horse away for training is a big decision. In addition to following the above tips, be sure to fully read the training contract and ask any questions you may have before signing the agreement.

Photo credit:  Julie Goodnight-RFDTV

Give A Horse A New Beginning

rescue before and after Tails OfA Shelter VetFostering a rescue horse is a great way to help out a horse in need. If you are new to horses, this is a great way to try out home horse care.  If you think you’d like to give fostering a try, here are the basics that you will need to know.

Know What You Can Reasonably Do

Many rescue horses come from truly horrific situations.  They may be dangerously underweight or have serious health issues that have not been addressed.  Many rescues do what they can to stabilize a horse before putting it in a foster situation, but realize that this is not a free horse that you can do anything with.  Most likely it will be unrideable for the forseeable future and you will need to follow a consistent diet to put weight back on.  The horse may require stall rest with some hand walking.  Make sure you are ready for the challenges of a foster horse in need.

Read the Fine Print

Every horse rescue has different expectations and needs of their foster homes. They also have their own individual home screening and approval processes. Before you get too far into your plans of fostering, ask the rescue for a detailed explanation of what duties, financial or otherwise, a foster home assumes. For instance, if the horse is injured while you are riding it, are you solely responsible for resulting vet bills?

Some expectations of a foster home are pretty standard – generally a home is expected to provide feed and day-to-day care for the fostered horse. Most rescues will want a situation where the horse has a stall available to him. Depending on the horse’s level of training, you may be able to ride him and enjoy him much in the same way that you would enjoy your own horse. Many rescues cover the cost of farrier work and vet visits for their fostered horses. Still, differences occur between each foster situation, so be sure that you have a thorough understanding of what your responsibilities will be.

Foster Through a Reputable Rescue

If you want to foster a horse, then you should take your time in finding the right rescue to work with. Horse rescues have a variety of outlooks in terms of horse care, riding, and training techniques, so find a rescue with an approach that you agree with. You will also want to make sure that the rescue is well-established and reputable, and that the rescue will continue to act as a resource for you during your time as a foster home.

Be Realistic About Your Situation

In fostering a horse, you may have that horse for a few weeks or a few years, depending on how quickly an adoptee is found or if your own situation changes. During that time you can bond strongly with the horse, which will make letting it go to its new home difficult. Many rescues give a foster home the first choice of adopting a horse, but before you set out to foster, you should decide if you can handle owning another horse. Knowing what your decision would be ahead of time can help to make the situation a bit easier if or when it does arise.

Fostering a horse is a great way to start off a new beginning, both for you and for the horse. If you’re interested in fostering, then chances are there is a nearby horse rescue that will be grateful for your generosity.

Photo credit: Tails Of A Shelter Vet


Make The Best Use of Barn Time During Shorter Days

Riding at sunset WesternHorseman This weekend marks the “unofficial” end of summer.  Since late June, the days have been getting shorter and shorter.  Which means daylight time to ride is getting less and less.  In order to make the most of your time with your horse, here are 12 tips to save time on barn chores. With organization and a plan, you can still deliver a high level of care, but now at a faster rate.  

  1. Clean up the tack room once and for all and then set it up in an organized fashion. You’ll save loads of time if you don’t spend it looking for that missing leg wrap or crop.  Classic Equine Equipment has an organizational system for your tack room that can help you find what you want when you want it. 
  2. Move the feed room to either the middle of the barn or to the end closest to where you enter. Hay kept at the opposite end of the barn can mean wasted time walking to it before starting to feed.
  3. Color code. Depending on how many horses you have, consider color coding buckets and other accessories. This really helps at feeding time keeping everything straight.   At a small barn, one horse has a green bucket as well as a green grooming kit with mostly green colored brushes, combs, etc.  Another horse has black items and a third is purple.   Even the blankets are color coded.  It can be a bit of a challenge to find the right items in the right colors, but worth it in time later on.
  4. Use available barn accessories. Classic Equine Equipment offers some terrific automatic waterers.   They even have a water heater attachment.  You’ll save a lot of time cleaning and refilling buckets.  No more chipping ice or lugging hot water to the barn either.
  5. Consider upgrading your stall doors to include swing out feed and hay doors. They save quite a bit of time rather than opening each stall and trying to dump the grain in the bucket before Mr. Horse gets his nose in the way.
  6. Install blanket bar(s) on the front of each stall door. Not only are they a handy place to put your horse’s blanket when not in use, but you can also hang fly masks, bell boots and other things.  You can also attach a bucket to the blanket bar small items like gloves, polo wraps, etc. 
  7. Organize a shot clinic and have all the horses get their spring/fall shots at the same time. Ditto deworming and getting teeth done. You’ll also save money with just one vet barn call. 
  8. Find out if the blanket laundering place will pickup and deliver – have everyone prepare the blankets that need cleaning/repair in a plastic bag, properly marked and arrange for the place to come to you.
  9. Use a company like SmartPak for feeding supplements. I know, you think you can do just as well yourself using baggies and a mortar and pestle to grind everything up.  If you’ve done it for a few years, you’ll soon see it’s a wonderful thing to have someone else do it.   Prices are competitive, but the time you’ll save is priceless.
  10. Investigate new ways to bed and clean your stalls. Use rubber stall mats (Classic Equine Equipment offers some nice ones) to cut down on how much bedding you use.  Consider using bedding pellets – they last longer and are easier to clean.  Some come with additives to help eliminate the ammonia smell, cutting down the necessity to add something separately.
  11. Move your manure pile closer to the barn and start composting. The heat from properly composting kills parasites and eliminates the odor from the manure.  Plus, when it’s finished you’ll have a ready supply of fertilizer.
  12. Use the right tools and buy the best. Buying a manure fork that is heavy-duty can make the job go much faster as you can scoop up more.  Using a wheelbarrow or utility cart to feed hay and grain can also cut down on time.  Make sure these are all stored in a safe, but convenient place.  You don’t want to be lugging them back and forth to the barn to use them.

There are many other great ideas and tools that can save you time in the barn.  If you have a special trick, why not let us know and we’ll share them.  Then we can all have more fun riding!

Photo credit:  Western Horseman

WEG Dressage Competition Refresher

dressage REVERSED TheHorseWith the World Equestrian Games (WEG) just around the corner, here’s a quick refresher on the dressage competition.

For many years, dressage has been described “as exciting as watching paint dry.”  That’s the beauty and curse of dressage.  If done correctly, the spectator should see absolutely nothing – except a horse calmly and smoothly executing precise movements. 

As horse people know, “dressage” means “training” in French and is the basis for all equestrian sports.  Without the basics of dressage, especially lengthening/shortening and flying changes as well as balance and suppleness, riders would have a hard time competing in eventing, jumping, carriage driving, polo and most other riding sports.

In dressage competition, there are levels that a horse progresses through in his training. The World Equestrian Games represent a test of the highest level of training. It consists of prescribed movements, each of which is graded on a scale of 1 to 10.  Based on the number of movements, there is a highest possible score.  Seven judges sit at different points around the arena and separately grade each movement during the test.  At the end, scores for each movement are added up and then divided into the total possible score for a percentage score. The higher the percentage score, the better.

Dressage is performed in a 20 meter x 60 meter arena with a low railing surround it.  Around the outside of the arena, you will see letters placed at various points. These letters tell the riders exactly where a certain test movement must take place.  Accuracy in performing the movement at the prescribed letter is part of the judging. There are many theories why those particular letters are used, but no one knows for sure.  However, they are exactly the same in every dressage arena so you only have to memorize them once!

Dressage will take place over several days to determine both the team medal winners and the individual medal winners.  The first day of dressage, all riders will perform the Grand Prix test.  The teams that have the seven highest scores will proceed to ride the Grand Prix Special test. The winning teams are awarded their medals.

In addition, the top 18 riders from the Grand Prix Special will continue on to perform the Grand Prix Freestyle. Only the results from the Grand Prix Special determine who competes in the Freestyle for individual medals.

The movements prescribed in the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special are determined by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The Grand Prix Special test is a slightly shorter and more concentrated version of the first test with the same movements, but in a different order.  In both tests, the horse and rider are judged on correct execution of movements, the willingness of the horse and the effectiveness of the rider’s aids.

The highlight of the Dressage competition is the Grand Prix Freestyle. The Freestyle combines the elegance and beauty as well as the power and strength of the horse with the stirring impact of music.  Much like the long program in Olympic figure skating, riders choreograph a routine that includes movements from the Grand Prix test, but one that also best shows up the horse’s movement as well as musical interpretation.

Based on all scores, a gold, silver and bronze World Champion of the FEI World Equestrian Games will be crowned.

A sample of the best in dressage:

Human First Aid You Should Know If You Are A Horse Person

fallen off a horseWe all probably know at least the basics of how to take care of  your horse in case he gets hurt.  But do you know what to do in the event that a rider is injured and/or is left unconscious? Could you recognize the signs of shock, and do you know how to treat it? If you spend time around horses, then it’s possible that you will have to help a rider in a serious situation. Let’s review the First-Aid basics that you will want to know.

Dealing with a Fall

If a rider is injured, immediately call 911 and keep him or her still. Do not remove the rider’s helmet. If the rider is bleeding from a wound, use a clean towel to put firm pressure on the wound. Do not remove the pressure until medical assistance has arrived. Have another person catch the horse and instruct any other riders to dismount and hold their horses as the ambulance approaches.

Performing CPR

If a rider’s heart or breathing has stopped, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is necessary to keep the rider’s blood flowing to his or her brain until medical help arrives. The American Heart Association recommends that anyone not trained in CPR provide only chest compressions and not attempt rescue breathing.

Before beginning chest compressions, you will want to make sure that the person is not conscious and that there is no heartbeat. Call 911 imediately, then begin chest compressions. To perform chest compressions, lay the person on their back on a firm surface and kneel near their shoulders. Put the heel of one hand in the center of the person’s chest, and put your other hand on top. Using your upper body and keeping your arms straight, push down into the person’s chest firmly – you should be pushing their chest down by about two inches. Repeat the compressions at the rate of 100 compressions per minute and continue until help arrives.

For emergency cardiovascular training, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

Dealing with Shock

A rider can go into shock for any number of reasons, including a traumatic fall, blood loss, and heatstroke. Signs of shock include a weak and rapid pulse; skin that is cool, clammy, and pale; the person feeling nauseated or vomiting; and the person feeling weak or being confused.

If you believe that a rider is going into shock, immediately call 911 and then have the person lie down. Elevate their feet higher than their head (unless the person is injured – in that case, allow them to lie flat). As you wait for help to arrive, keep the person warm and make sure that they are breathing and that their heart is beating. Monitor them to make sure that they don’t vomit – if they do, you will need to turn them on their side.

In a medical emergency, acting quickly is key. Always call 911 immediately. It is a great idea to take an emergency training course, and to post “how-to” tip sheets in your tack room to help teach other riders.

first aid kit image red crossSince hopefully any injuries at your barn will not be this serious, it’s not only a good idea to be prepared, but to also be ready for the small cuts and bumps of everyday riding.  Have a full stocked first aid kit available.

photo credit:  Country Stable UK, American Red Cross

Buying A Used Saddle?

used saddles HappyHorseTackTwo of the problems with buying a new saddle is the cost and the sometimes uncomfortable process of breaking in the new leather. However, when buying a used saddle, you need to be on the lookout for a variety of issues that could signify that the saddle is damaged. And that spells danger to you and possible problems for your horse. Here’s what to look for:

Check for Tree Soundness

The integrity of a used saddle’s tree should be top priority when you evaluate the saddle. In many cases, asking the seller if the saddle’s tree is sound may not do any good, since the seller might not know much about saddles or even be aware that the tree has been damaged.

To check the saddle for a broken or twisted tree, hold the saddle over one thigh with the pommel facing you. Grip the cantle with one hand and pull it toward you as you hold the saddle’s seat down with your other hand. If the saddle “gives” to the pressure of your pulling on it, the tree is broken. Reverse the saddle’s direction so that you are pulling on the pommel and repeat the process.

You will also want to examine the underside of the saddle for signs that the tree has twisted. Check to make sure that the center of the pommel lines up directly with the center of the cantle. You should be able to draw a straight line through the middle of the gullet. Any misalignment signifies a twisted tree. Uneven wear or warping in the saddle’s seat can also indicate a twisted tree.

Look for Cracked Leather

Examine the saddle closely for any leather that is dried and cracking. While superficial lines will appear in many saddles, be on the lookout for leather that is too dry. Once leather has dried to the point that it has cracked, it is no longer safe for you to use. Pay particular attention to the billets, and check to make sure that they are sound and secure. Billets can be replaced, though, so this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.

Test the Saddle’s Panels

The panels of an English saddle distribute your weight over your horse’s back, so it’s important to make sure that they are in good condition. Foam panels can become hard and stiff over time, and wool flocked panels can become compacted. If the panels on a saddle don’t have any give and seem stiff, you may need to build the cost of having the panels replaced or reflocked into your saddle buying budget.

Buying a used saddle has many advantages, but be sure to carefully evaluate any used saddle for potential issues before purchasing it.

photo credit:  Happy Horse Tack