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View Full Version : WWYD: aging dressage saddle — refurbish?



AzuWish
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:08 PM
I have a 25 (or so)-year-old Kieffer dressage saddle. I bought it knowing it needed a reflock and that the billets were fraying. It has served me well for over a year but now the panels are getting too hard and I might as well get the billets replaced while it is in the shop. It was retrofitted with short billets, so I plan to get it refurbished with the longer billets.

The saddle is magic. It fits 90% of horses and fits me like a glove. I adore this saddle.

With that said, the reflock and billet replacement will cost $650 done with Kieffer (this includes shipping). I bought the saddle for $400 so $1050 is not a bad deal for a nice saddle. But! For $650, I could also upgrade my saddle choice.

The saddler "near" (lol, three hours from me) will charge about $550 and I can either bring it there or ship it (so it would probably cost me around $650 also).

So do I make the $650 investment in this awesome saddle? Do I take that $650 and buy a new (used) saddle? Or do I just stuff the $650 back in my savings account and wait until I can afford a brand new dream saddle?

My saddle:

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_jHqBIAYy2bc/TMQ5dlXCt5I/AAAAAAAAELU/Uji77tKlWuM/s640/IMG_5013.JPG

(Yes it's brown and, at first I balked, but I must say I love this saddle and I now love that it's brown!)

citydog
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:10 PM
The saddle is magic. It fits 90% of horses and fits me like a glove. I adore this saddle.


Based on that, I'd have the repairs done.

buck22
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:17 PM
If I were you, I would go window shopping saddles at a large tack shop that has lots of consignments. Consider what you would/could be upgrading to. Examine used saddles in your price range. It may be that you'd love a nice new(er) saddle, maybe even a more recent version of what you currently have.... but you may also discover that anything that compares to what you currently have is out of the range of price you'd like to spend, or you may discover the sad truth that 'they just don't make them like they used to'.

Many people, including myself, love their old saddles and regret the ones sold on.

If I were in your shoes, and I had a specific saddle I knew I'd really like to upgrade to, then I'd hold off on unnecessary repairs (not to say sacrifice safety or horse's comfort) and pocket what I could until I could afford the one I wanted.

But, if I went window shopping and saw that the grass probably isn't much greener anywhere else, I'd invest in something I know I love and will use for quite some time.

(and, brown tack rocks!)

AzuWish
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:30 PM
It's true that the saddles I actually want are quite a bit higher than $650. And to be honest, $650 is a bit steep on my budget right now, but these things have to get done ... and they might as well get done while I'm preparing for a hunter show over the next month.

The saddle isn't causing issues yet for the horses I ride, but the back panels are becoming firmer and firmer, and I just think that's not fair to ask the horse to round up to something that isn't welcoming. Right now the chestnut in the OP pic rounds much better in my CC than my dressage saddle and I suspect that has to do with the flocking.

Window shopping is hard for me. Closest large saddle shop is three hours away. Most are about three and a half hours away in Southern Pines. I live in a black hole when it comes to equine goods and services lol

I think you guys have confirmed what I already know: eat the $650 and keep this saddle for another 25 years! :lol: Sometimes you just have to say it (or post it) to get your mind around it. I'm not telling the husband haha That's what personal savings accounts are for!!!

Thanks!

Rubyfree
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:35 PM
I have a Kieffer older than yours (a 69 model) that I bought this summer for a whopping $100. It is also magic, I plan on keeping it forever and ever, and when the time comes for repair and refurbishing I will pay $650, $750 or more to keep it solid.

Those older saddles are still around for a reason. Keep it alive. :)

katarine
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:37 PM
I'd refurbish it. Maybe the billets first for safety, then the reflocking.

Belg
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:38 PM
I think you guys have confirmed what I already know: eat the $650 and keep this saddle for another 25 years! :lol: Sometimes you just have to say it (or post it) to get your mind around it. I'm not telling the husband haha That's what personal savings accounts are for!!!

Thanks!

Depending on shipping, you might want to call Journeymen Saddlery in Middleburg, VA. They've done excellent work on multiple saddles for my wife and I... and I think we could get two of them done for that 650... ;)

katarine
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:40 PM
yes- my billets were replaced for about 100, I think?

mjhco
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:42 PM
I had to make that decision about my saddle a year ago. The saddle at the time was 11 years old. Leather was in GREAT shape. But the seat needed replacing. The panels needed to be rebuilt. And while we were at it I had the billets replaced.

I asked the saddle maker if it was worth it. The answer was YES because it worked so well for both me and my horse. So for $800 I have a NEW saddle. One that I know fits. One that I know the history of.

Belg
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:51 PM
yes- my billets were replaced for about 100, I think?

I'd have to ask K regarding billets, I don't remember. She has 80% of the saddle work done. I'm trying to remember if getting my Stubben reflocked was 170 or 270, I think the latter... Either way, they did an awesome job for a lot cheaper than 650 :)

jn4jenny
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:55 PM
You are paying "dealer prices" for those services at $650. Compare that to using a qualified independent fitter, such as Kate Wooten in Tennessee, who could probably get you the same work for about $450-$500 including all shipping costs:
http://www.englishsaddlefit.com/procedures.html

If you can, pay whatever it takes to have the billets reattached to the tree with nylon (from which leather billets are hung further down the nylon billet) so that future billet replacements can be done by a local cobbler. Most of your repair cost is the cost of the teardown, so if you've already paid for the teardown for the reflock, might as well do yourself a favor for future repairs.

You might also think of it this way: in its current condition, your saddle is virtually valueless; someone might give you $150-ish for it max. But if it were refurbed with a fresh reflock and new billets, it would easily command $300-$400 on the used market. So you'd get a lot of your repair money back at resale time if you ever chose to resell.

AzuWish
Dec. 28, 2010, 02:59 PM
Depending on shipping, you might want to call Journeymen Saddlery in Middleburg, VA. They've done excellent work on multiple saddles for my wife and I... and I think we could get two of them done for that 650... ;)

I'll have to check them out! Do you have contact info? I did a quick google and couldn't find a website.

I think to have the billets replaced it would be around $395 at Kieffer (new flocking is $295), but they have this thing where you send the saddle in for a "midrange overhaul package" that includes that stuff and more for $550. Then $50 both ways for shipping.

The saddlery near me is $350 for the reflock and $100 each billet :eek:

Ruby, old Kieffers FTW!

AzuWish
Dec. 28, 2010, 03:12 PM
Wow, jenny, I didn't realize! I just e-mailed a few of the fitters (including the one you posted) and see about prices. I thought I was getting a good deal! :lol:

I don't know if my saddle is value-less :( I bought it in this condition after all! haha

Oh and I thought about it: I think I actually paid closer to $350 for it. But the ole memory is fading so there you go.

Belg
Dec. 28, 2010, 03:15 PM
I'll have to check them out! Do you have contact info? I did a quick google and couldn't find a website.

I think to have the billets replaced it would be around $395 at Kieffer (new flocking is $295), but they have this thing where you send the saddle in for a "midrange overhaul package" that includes that stuff and more for $550. Then $50 both ways for shipping.

The saddlery near me is $350 for the reflock and $100 each billet :eek:

Ruby, old Kieffers FTW!

PM sent w/phone #. Don't think they have a website....

AzuWish
Dec. 28, 2010, 03:53 PM
Thanks, belg!

With these "cheaper" prices, this means I can also put long billets on my CC sooner instead of waiting! No more bulges under my leg in either saddle then!

You guys are great. Thank you!

katarine
Dec. 28, 2010, 03:57 PM
I heart my ancient Kiefer I paid 400 for, what I can say, pay it forward :)

buck22
Dec. 28, 2010, 04:35 PM
With these "cheaper" prices, this means I can also put long billets on my CC sooner instead of waiting! No more bulges under my leg in either saddle then!
if the horse you intend to ride your cc saddle in 'holds a saddle well' or isn't roly poly, then go for it, but if not then you may want to think on adding long billets to your cc. There is a reason it isn't done often.

Many cc saddles have very short tree points, this allows the extra movement of the scapula for jumping, but the tradeoff is less stability. Hence short billets and long girths, they tend to be more stable in many instances. If you put long billets on a short pointed tree and your horse is a bit pudgy, you may find yourself slipping or fishtailing around.

Not always, and this is just something I've read in my travels so sharing it, there are lots of monoflap xc saddles out there so obviously its not a rule, but just wanted to share.

RLF
Dec. 28, 2010, 05:24 PM
I don't know if it's feasible for you- but I had an Amish repair shop do my billets. It was $90 for all 6 of them. Can't beat that! And really nice quality work too...you'd never know the saddle was apart!

As far as reflocking, IMO it would be better to have a saddle fitter who would come out and do it according to your horse. I use Gary Severson... I'm not sure if he still travels or not, but if you want his phone number, let me know. He's based out of PA and is awesome! And surprisingly cheap! I know his prices are different depending on different things, but he did mine for around $100.

Just a thought!

Bogie
Dec. 28, 2010, 06:15 PM
Gary is the best.

New flocking and billets should cost less than $300.

I don't think Gary does that kind of repair any more but Patti will (saddledr@aol.com) and she does a great job.

Absolutely you should have the saddle flocked on site to fit your horse.

I have had several saddles that are 25-years old. They were lovely, balanced saddles that worked. If you like yours as much as you say, I'd have it refurbished because you can't touch a new one of any quality for that price.


I don't know if it's feasible for you- but I had an Amish repair shop do my billets. It was $90 for all 6 of them. Can't beat that! And really nice quality work too...you'd never know the saddle was apart!

As far as reflocking, IMO it would be better to have a saddle fitter who would come out and do it according to your horse. I use Gary Severson... I'm not sure if he still travels or not, but if you want his phone number, let me know. He's based out of PA and is awesome! And surprisingly cheap! I know his prices are different depending on different things, but he did mine for around $100.

Just a thought!

princessfluffybritches
Dec. 28, 2010, 06:39 PM
I don't know if it's feasible for you- but I had an Amish repair shop do my billets. It was $90 for all 6 of them. Can't beat that! And really nice quality work too...you'd never know the saddle was apart!

As far as reflocking, IMO it would be better to have a saddle fitter who would come out and do it according to your horse. I use Gary Severson... I'm not sure if he still travels or not, but if you want his phone number, let me know. He's based out of PA and is awesome! And surprisingly cheap! I know his prices are different depending on different things, but he did mine for around $100.

Just a thought!


YES!!!! Me too. I paid 100 bucks for new billets, flap keepers, and restitching a few loose places. AND the billet leather was top quality. Pricewise, you can do alot better than $650.

sadlmakr
Dec. 28, 2010, 07:03 PM
I would get the billets done right away. The panels you can let go if you use a pad that has some resilience.
Those old Kieffers are wonderful. Keep it repaired and conditioned. It will serve you for many more years.
Reflocking can be done in 2 ways. Added flock from the backside of the panel, or pull it all out and reflock with all new wool. Make sure it is wool flock that is used. Someone out my way was using fibre-fill from Walmart that we use to make pillows. It will flatten out in a day or two. Not a good substitute.
Make sure the long billets are high quality leather. Otherwise they may stretch. And keep stretching. Not fun.
Look up what a new Kieffer would cost. that might help you make your decision.
JMHO
Kind regards,
sadlmakr

Hampton Bay
Dec. 28, 2010, 08:12 PM
Someone out my way was using fibre-fill from Walmart that we use to make pillows.
:eek:

But yeah, $650 for that work is a huge rip-off. $400 just for new billets?? Insane.

luvmydutch
Dec. 28, 2010, 08:29 PM
Not to be an enabler but...
http://www.dressageextensions.com/ProductDetail.asp?KEY=93309

Brand new Kieffer for $995
Just sayin ;)

I bought a brand new Kieffer Innsbruck last month and my god i love it :)

citydog
Dec. 28, 2010, 09:13 PM
Not to be an enabler but...
http://www.dressageextensions.com/ProductDetail.asp?KEY=93309

Brand new Kieffer for $995

Meh. That one is synthetic (well, the visible parts, anyway).

alto
Dec. 29, 2010, 03:33 AM
Do not confuse "new" with "better" - if the tree is sound & the leather in good condition & you are able to reflock panels, repair stitching & billets, this saddle will be superior to many newly made saddles.

I would refurbish this saddle without hesitation -depending on what exactly Kieffer is doing & quality of materials, they may not be so overpriced ...

KBEquine
Dec. 29, 2010, 08:46 AM
I have a vintage Stubben Romanus that I had imported from Germany in 1990. It fit almost everything except 1 or 2 horses so I had it refitted for the TB I was then riding.

THEN my butt got big . . . so the 16.5 inch saddle has been on the saddle rack being occasionally cleaned & admired for a number of years.

My solution was to find the exact same thing in a larger size - exact same age, too. Because newer ones have added some thigh blocks I don't like.

The old one can now officially hit craigslist. I guess. Still hard to part with. Along with an 18" Bates Haute Ecole that I really love. (But I have 2 of them & don't ride enough any more to justify that).

Oh. And do the billets first. I do billets pretty much when ever I get another used saddle. Cheap insurance . . . so long as you're not paying those big prices that were originally quoted to you.

AzuWish
Dec. 29, 2010, 09:39 AM
I wish I had Amish folks near me! Used to work for a guy in Charleston SC that did all his own tack for the carriage horses. So anytime I needed a repair, I'd ask him. Unfortunately, never had him do more than repair a stitch or two. Too bad I've lost contact with him!

I ended up contacting a saddle guy (haha The Saddle Guy) from my home state of SC. He quoted me $430, which includes return shipping, for billets and reflock. I've already had more wool stuffed in when I first purchased the saddle, so it is time for the wool to completely come out and get put in with the new (getting very hard packed). I know of this guy and used his student a while back, so I'm sure he's on the up and up (PM me if anyone knows any different!).

buck, I've heard that too. Luckily, I don't tend to ride mutton withered horses often! I am not certain if I will indeed do it, but I've been getting more and more unhappy with feeling the bulge. Of course, the H/J side pointed out I could just get a longer girth to get the bulge moved up where my leg is not in contact with the saddle. But a new girth (the ones I like) are $130 anyway, so installing longer billets is actually cheaper since I have to buy a dressage girth for my dressage saddle anyway. I could just skimp and use a cheap girth, but I'm spoiled!

I learned my lesson about not neglecting billets on my last concussion five years back. Granted I was riding in a friend's saddle, but now I CHECK to make sure there is no dry rotting. Aside from being frayed, my billets are actually in pretty good condition. Just a pain in the butt to do the girth when you have "two" pieces of leather to pierce :lol:

Thanks for the help and the push, everyone! This is a huge help. Plus, with the money I'm saving, that means I can actually get the girth I want! Right now with shipping AND a new girth, I should be paying around $560, which is so much more palatable than paying $650 and then forking out another $80 for the girth.

Too bad I don't live close to any saddlers. The two near me only flock a certain brand saddle and will only "evaluate" non-their-brand saddles. (lame)

Koniucha
Dec. 29, 2010, 10:21 AM
I have an older (1988) County saddle that I bought off of Craigslist for $130 with shipping. It also fits me like a glove and fits most of the horses I ride. I will be getting mune refurbished when the time comes. Believe it or not, it is in awesome condition considering it's age. I still can't believe I only paid $130!

TheBarnRules
Dec. 29, 2010, 03:31 PM
I would keep it - but shop around. I had a vintage Stubben (which I admit that I am debating selling) and my Collegiate reflocked at Saddlers Row (http://www.saddlersrow.com/Saddle-Fitting-s/226.htm) for about $250 each. Michael Dainton did an amazing job and I highly recommend him.