When an eBay saddle doesn’t live up to expectations.

I’ve bought and sold a lot of saddles on eBay. It’s my way of feeding my “addiction”. I’ve written before on how to avoid getting scammed on eBay, but truth be told, even I buy the occasional lemon.

Recently a saddle caught my eye that I thought I might use for hacking out. As someone with an usually long femur, I’m always on the look out for saddles with extra long or extra forward panels. I don’t always like to ride in a xc saddle and this one looked like  it had potential. It was an older saddle made in Walsall England. Here’s the auction page and description:

Here's the description of the saddle that I bought.

At under $200, I figured it wouldn’t break the bank.

The saddle arrived and yes, it’s a nice older saddle. The problem is that isn’t exactly as it was described.

Problem #1 – It is not an 18.5″ seat. It’s an 18″. Now that might not be a huge deal for a lot of people but I buy a larger seat size so that I have a place to put my 22″ femur. Seriously, folks, if you’re going to sell a saddle, it’s not that hard to measure it correctly.

The seat size of an English saddle is measured from the button to the middle of the cantle. This saddle is clearly an 18" saddle.

But that’s not the only thing that wasn’t accurately described. The seller wrote, “It appears to be a medium tree – a little medium wide.” That would have been perfect for Freedom. Except, that the saddle is actually on the narrow side of medium. While you can fix a saddle that’s slightly too wide using pads with shims (like the Mattes pad or Thinline pad), there’s nothing you can do with a saddle that’s too narrow. Especially when the saddle has foam panels like this one.

This saddle was described as a medium to medium-wide tree. However, when you measure the points of the tree you can see that it's actually a medium to medium-narrow: it's less than 5".

As for the panels, the seller repeatedly says that the “flocking” is in good condition. Shame on me, I didn’t ask specifically if the panels were wool because flocking implies wool. Foam panels are foam panels; they are not flocked. I assumed that a nice older English saddle would have wool panels but that wasn’t the case. The panels are in nice condition but they are definitely foam. Once again, if the saddle had been a medium wide, the construction might not have made a difference because it could have been padded to fit.

Don’t make my mistakes

So, learn from the mistakes that I made. When you buy a saddle on eBay, it’s important that you ask enough questions to verify what’s written in the ad. Since this saddle was being sold by a riding instructor for one of her students, I assumed that she’d measured the saddle correctly, assumed that she knew how a medium or medium-wide tree fit, and assumed that she knew that foam panels are not flocked!

  • Always ask for a photograph that shows someone measuring the seat size of the saddle.
  • Always ask for a measurement that shows the distance between the points of the tree.
  • Always confirm that a saddle is flocked with wool (if you care about that).
  • Never assume that the seller knows what they are talking about even when they write a pretty good description.

I don’t think that the seller was trying to intentionally misrepresent the saddle but she did. A saddle sold as an 18.5″ with a tree on the larger size of medium is not the same as a saddle that has an 18″ seat and fits on the narrow side of medium. It’s just like buying a pair of shoes that is advertised as size 11 wide and getting a pair that’s a 10 1/2 narrow. The shoes (and the saddle) don’t fit.

I’ve told the seller that she should take the saddle back and refund my shipping. I haven’t heard back from her. I’ve sold a lot of saddles on eBay and that’s what I’d do if I found out I’d inadvertently misrepresented any item. I’d pay for the return shipping, too. Update: I did hear back from the seller who is sorry that I do not like the saddle but said she is not in a position to take it back since she sold it for a student who has already used the money to buy a new saddle. I can’t punish the student . . . so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I get my money out. In the meantime, I will consider it research for my blog :).

I’ve actually relisted the saddle on eBay. It’s not a bad saddle. I’ll probably get my money back if I end up reselling it. And the next buyer will have the advantage of having the right information in the description!

Related articles:

Avoiding eBay Saddle Scams

Tips for buying a used saddle.

10 thoughts on “When an eBay saddle doesn’t live up to expectations.

  1. It’s too bad the seller isn’t being responsive to fix the problem, but who knows, maybe you’ll actually make some money on it! I’ve only purchased one saddle on Ebay, but was lucky with it. I will definitely know which questions to ask next time, thanks!

  2. Egads. I didn’t even *know* anything other than wool was used in the panels of leather English saddles. I am aware some synthetics saddles have foam panels (because I ride in one and hate it) but it wouldn’t have occurred to me, seeing this saddle and the word “flocking” that it could be anything other than wool.

    Great tips for both online shopping and used tack store shopping!

  3. I actually just bought a saddle off ebay as a cheapo first saddle for my mare. I found out you have to be really specific when asking questions. I would ask about the measurements between the points of the tree and get a gullet measurement in response, not helpful.

    1. Honestly, I think many folks really just don’t know a lot about saddles. I’ve bought/sold at least 10 saddles on eBay and for the most part I’ve always been pleased with what I got (or at least got what I expected)! However, I got lazy on this one and sure ’nuff, got a few surprises.

  4. You can file a complaint with ebay that the item was significantly not as described (SNAD).

    In your situation, I would tell the seller that you have relisted the saddle and if it doesn’t bring what you paid for it, you will file a SNAD with ebay against the seller. If the seller doesn’t want the SNAD on her record, she can refund you for the saddle, shipping, and your ebay listing fees, and you will cancel your current auction and send her the saddle.

    I see you haven’t left feedback for the seller yet. NEVER leave feedback until you are done with negotiating with the seller and are 100% done with the transaction. Never mention feedback to the seller. The seller knows if you haven’t left feedback yet – they know what’s at stake. This seller has 100% positive feedback, they know it’s at risk if you decide to leave honest feedback about the transaction.

  5. You list some great tips for buying a saddle not only from eBay but also from any online seller. You should not be afraid to ask questions as you want to be sure that you are getting the type of product that you want and can actually use for your horse. I hope this experience with this saddle doesn’t deter you from buying saddles online anymore.

  6. As someone who’s looking for a specific “type” of older saddle after being away from horses for over 20 years, I’m very glad to have found this article, WITH photos. After being told that the gullet measurement was 8 inches on one saddle (hmmmm), being told numerous seat sizes are 18 or 19 inches from “front to back” (hmmm again?), I now have a list of questions I ask and photos I send if I need more info.
    So far, I haven’t found the saddle I’m looking for: An 18 inch, medium narrow, extra long panel saddle just like the one you ended up with a year earlier. HAH! Thank you again 🙂

  7. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this great article! It was so informative and helpful. After reading this I was much more confident in purchasing a saddle on ebay. With your tips (esp asking the seller to post pictures measuring the tree/ seat/ etc), I bought a beautiful saddle that works perfectly for me and my horse. Thanks again!

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