Purchasing Used Tack & Equipment

The purchase of good, used tack can be an economical alternative to purchasing new tack and equipment; however, purchasing improper or unsafe used tack can be a costly mistake. Caveat emptor (i.e., buyer beware) applies as much to the purchase of used tack and equipment as it does to the purchase of your horse. Take your time, seek appropriate professional advice, and choose wisely.

There are many sources of used tack: tack shops and retail tack vendors, Internet sales, tack auctions, and individual sales, among others. Used tack should never be purchased sight unseen unless the purchaser is assured of no-cost return if the tack is found to be unsuitable.

Used tack and equipment can be a great investment provided you and a professional check the tack and equipment thoroughly before purchase.


  • Plan your purchase carefully, and determine the intended use of the tack (e.g. English, Western, dressage, jumping, trail, driving) before purchase.
  • Each discipline has a standard for tack and equipment. When showing and performing, deviations from the discipline standard are often not accepted. Thus it is important to purchase equipment that is appropriate for the activity or discipline in which you plan to perform.
  • Consult with a trusted equine professional, qualified leather worker, or saddler before purchasing a used saddle, harness, or other leather goods.
  • Know how to properly fit tack before you purchase. A saddle needs to fit both you and your horse. An ill-fitting saddle can cause discomfort, injuries, bad behavior, and various other problems for you and your horse. Often sellers of used saddles will allow a trial period in which you can try the saddle at home on your horse to determine fit and comfort prior to purchase.
  • On a related note, know the shape and size of your horse before you start shopping. Does your horse need narrow, average, or wide tree? Should your bridle size be cob, horse, or pony? What type and size bit will best suit your horse? A good price shouldn't encourage a sale if the tack won't properly fit your horse.
  • Determine in advance if you prefer leather or synthetic tack and equipment.
  • Check the tack for signs of wear and tear. Used tack should be in good, safe, useable condition. Tack repair is costly.
  • Be certain the tree of the saddle is not broken. The tree is the skeleton of the saddle. A saddle fitter can help you determine whether the tree is in good working order.
  • Check all stitching. Minor wear should be expected, but major wear or significant loose stitching will be costly to repair and is dangerous for both horse and rider..
  • If purchasing leather equipment, check the piece thoroughly for evidence of dry rot or deep cracks. Minor surface blemishes are inconsequential, but severely worn, dry, brittle, thin leather signal unsafe equipment. Dry rotted tack will break easily and is therefore an unsound investment.
  • Examine flocking (English) or fleece (Western) for wear. These materials cushion your horse's back and function to minimize saddle slipping. If these materials are excessively thin or worn, determine the cost of repair before making a purchase.


  • Make a hasty purchase because "the price is right." Remember it's only a good deal if it fits you and your horse and it is safe and promises a long, useful life.
  • Purchase leather equipment that is dry rotted, stretched, deeply cracked, or brittle. Such equipment cannot be salvaged and will eventually break, which could be quite dangerous.
  • Never buy a used riding helmet. A riding helmet should be discarded after a fall to ensure proper protection of your head, and helmets should be replaced every few years to ensure they are in proper working order.

Article reprinted with permission from the Kentucky Horse Council.

About the Author

Kentucky Horse Council

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More