Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's Shop

Sad truth: I shop for horsey things when I'm bored or stressed*. It's an expensive habit, but due to my OCD nature and the internet, it's not nearly as expensive as it could be.

That said, I work in a barn. I do not exactly pull in the big bucks here, so I can't just prance in to your local tack store and march back out the door with all those lovely, name brand items new off the shelf. That only happens in dreams.

Dressed for the party
However, despite being surrounded by lovely people with real jobs, my horse always looks the part. He has the right clothes, the right tack, and the right care. I am not wearing head-to-toe Gersemi (if only!), but I'm certainly not the rag tag barn help. Care to join? Here's a couple of things I do to make this whole horse habit more affordable.

Always only ever buy high quality items. Cheap leather will break. Cheap blankets will leak. Cheap tack will fail. Beyond that, if you ever get bored of something, the resale value of a name-brand item over some generic is ridiculous. It's easier to search for, it's easier to sell. I know, now you're saying, "But SB! If I could afford high quality items, I wouldn't need to read this post."

True. But here you are.

Dover boots. Seen in catalog.
Here's my process: I figure out what I want, usually from reading detailed item descriptions in the Smartpak/Dover catalogs. I figure out what the new price is. Then I hit the internet. My first stop is pretty much always eBay. This is where buying name-brand comes in handy. Searching "Rambo" brings up a whole list of fancy blankets. Searching "horse turnout" brings up lots of random crap you probably don't want your horse in.

I generally check used items first. I don't mind a little rip or tear that is repairable, as long as the item itself isn't compromised. I look for super sales. I prefer buying from individuals vs storefronts, because I find I'm more likely to get a good deal from someone just wanting to unload stuff than I am from a for-profit business.

Here's the trick to eBay, though: Know what you will pay. It's easy to get sucked into a bidding war on an item and not pay attention to how much it's really costing, particularly once you factor in shipping. Once you've set your max price, LEAVE IT ALONE. There will be another item.

If you've scoured ebay and nothing is available, I move on to the next most obvious location. Facebook! Seriously. With the blossoming of social networking has come a plethora of tack exchange groups. Here are some of my favorites: English tack trader, Used Horse Blankets. You have to wade through a lot of crap, but I have found some stellar deals.

Irish knit from facebook. $20.
If that fails, continue onwards! My local craigslist always=fail, but people in more equestrian-oriented areas can have good luck with it. I also love tack selling forums--the Bits and Barter board and the Outside Course. It's a mixed bag of both sellers and items, but I haven't had a bad experience yet.

Again, focus on buying quality items from recognizable brands. Many times I've snapped up an item I thought would work, then sold it on for more than I paid when it didn't work out. I'm not good enough to make a business of it, but let's just say saddle hunting has been a profitable endeavor for the most part.

Plus you have to wait for shipping
The biggest thing is having patience. Just because I want something RIGHTNOW doesn't mean it's available right now. I also pick items up at odd times of the year. In the past few weeks, I've gotten a show bridle, a waterproof quarter sheet, summer breeches, and paddock boots. Some things, like breeches and paddock boots, I search for nearly every time I'm online. They rarely go on sale, and I hate paying full price.

A corollary to the above principle is simple: be prepared. I've been winter blanket shopping since August. I won't actually need a winter blanket for probably another month, but just keeping my eyes open means I have a better chance of getting exactly what I want for exactly what I want to pay.

So there you go... that's my process for keeping Cuna in nothing but the best without completely breaking the bank.

*It bores and stresses me to shop for pretty much anything else. Ergo, I have needed black flats for two years. I live in the largest city in my state. Ask if I've done anything about that.


  1. This is such a great post! ps. I learned a neat trick or two from Craigslist recently, including using (which let's you search every state -- most people will ship items) and get this... did you know at the top of your search list there is a button that says "show all images"? Because I didn't... what a time saver so I don't endlessly click and open a bunch of crap!

    ps. Cuna always looks the part!

  2. Good to know Niamh. Tack Trader is another one. I picked up a new bridle for my WB mare, a bit, a leather halter for pony, 2 western saddle pads and a few other things. All at a substantially lower than 'new' price, but still good quality. Good post SB!

  3. Loving the tack trading groups on facebook. Ironically, I just went to Greenhawk tonight (the canadian version of Dover, I'd guess) and purchased a "gift to me" since I sold my old trailer. Do I like shopping for clothes? Not unless I absolutely have to, or are horse related (I have many polos).

  4. I agree with everything except in Australia I look at few different sites. It is amazing what bargains you can get if you are patient!!!!

  5. Love to get insight into how others shop... I too am an online deal hunter so thanks for your tips and places! :)

  6. As always, thank you for the brilliant advice. I have to say admit I've always been more the "el cheapo" type and bought non-brand names. But you're argument on the (a) quality and (b) resale value is highly convincing.

  7. Most of this is true, but I want to add the caveat that not everything expensive or trendy is good and not everything inexpensive is bad. A couple of the toughest-wearing pieces of tack I have are no-name brands that didn't cost much even new. My second favourite reins were $30 and my no brand $30 stirrup leathers have outlasted and are strong and intact at 6 years of an unearly number of saddle hours. The best pair of breeches I have were another generic, low-cost purchase.

    So while all the girls might be running out to buy their Gersemi and (oh what's that stupidly overpriced Italian one?) Animo, I can spend the money on the stuff that really matters -- high quality feed, vet care, lessons, and horse trials.

    That said, smart shopping is always good idea and being patient will most certainly pay off!

    1. Excellent point! I tend to focus on name brands because of the easy resale, but I always do my research first and have hopefully handled the item in person before buying.

      As to Animo, I do not get it. Hello ugly?


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