BUYING A USED MULE SADDLE Part One bought my first saddle with my own money, when I was about 15 years old, give or take.
That great event took place fifty years ago, give or take.
I had worked after school, weekends and summers at the 5-C Stables in San Bernardino, California, for Bill and Darlene Cole.
I was riding an old Coggshall saddle that didn’t belong to me and I wanted my own rig.
In the fall of 1959, I had $100 burning a hole in my pocket for a used saddle.
That was not a lot of money in those days, compared to this day and age, but a hundred bucks was a lot of money to a fifteen-year-old kid in 1959.
A trip to the Los Angeles sale barn resulted in my becoming the proud owner of a used Bona Allen roping saddle in rough-out leather and a padded seat.
I thought I was walking in tall cotton.
It was a good buy, and I rode that saddle for almost ten years.
From that first purchase, I have had dozens of saddles over the years from as many companies and custom makers, new and used.
For ten years I owned Sandhill Ranchwear, a western clothing and tack store in Yuma, Arizona, and was a dealer for Tex Tan, Ozark Leather, American, and Big Horn Saddlery.
I bought and sold new and used saddles as part of my living for a number of years.
By necessity I have learned a little boot and saddle repair along the way, and a lot about buying saddles, both new and used.
There are mules in the world that can be successfully ridden with a saddle made for horses.
I personally know of three of them.
However, there is a great big bunch of mules in the world that will eventually have some back issues from horse saddles.
The problems may be temporary and minor in nature, or really involved with more issues than Time Magazine.
If you only ride an hour or so a week, in easygoing country, it probably will make very little difference what saddle you use.
However if you really plan to ride, or just want the best from your mule, you need to purchase a mule saddle. I By Terry Wagner Mules change.
Their entire look, physical appearance and structure, can change, as they get older.
The above photos are the author, Terry Wagner, riding his mule Jones, taken as a six year old (left) and then at almost eighteen years old (right).
They almost don’t look like the same mule. Mules, because of their donkey half, present completely different saddle fitting problems than horses do.
Horses have their own saddle fitting dilemmas.
However, keep in mind that saddle fitting is not a complicated science, just common sense.
This article is not going to even attempt to get into the fine points of saddle fitting, but rather how to help you look for and buy a new or used mule saddle for your mule.
It starts with the premise that mules are different and need saddles designed for them.
However, I will point out some structural suggestions on saddles that will help the saddle make a better fit for your mule.
Currently, the vast majority of better mule saddles are custom made.
These saddles will run from about $2,000 to $5,000, or more, if you want to spend that much.
If you can afford it, I encourage you to spend the money.
Plain and simple, you get what you pay for when it comes to mule saddles.
One major point to keep in mind in your shopping is there are no standards in the saddle and tree making industry when it comes to “mule bars.” Mule bars are whatever a tree maker wants to call mule bars, or what the custom maker feels are the right specs for the mule saddles he makes.
The mule bars in a saddle may not fit one mule, but will fit the mule tied next to him.
Just because the tree has mule bars doesn’t mean it will fit.
Here is something I have learned over the years about people selling saddles.
The custom maker is, of course, going to point out all the good things about his product, and he may point out all the bad things about his competitor’s products.
A sales person, may or may not have a broad range of personal experience to draw from, and very likely has a supervisor who has told him or her what to say about the store’s saddle inventory.
A private party may be a terribly experienced person, or someone who doesn’t know a seat jockey from the cantle.
Basically, do your homework before you shop.
Learn the parts of a saddle, and their variations.
It has been my experience that saddle makers, and sales people have a tendency to degrade what they don’t sell or don’t understand.
Being prepared will give you a better chance to evaluate what you are being told by a saddle maker, sales person or saddle owner. There are a lot of new, lower priced mule saddles available today and they may or may not be a good choice.
You simply can’t get a Rolls Royce in Chevy sheet metal.
There are some cheap mule saddles on the market that have a crupper ring installed, and in that manufacturer’s mind, that alone qualifies those saddles as mule saddles.
Cost cutting, to achieve low-end prices, runs the gambit from inferior materials and poor construction practices, that not only look bad, but can also create safety issues for the rider and the mule.
Remember, when you leave your barn on your mule, you don’t want to end the ride in an ambulance.
I have spent a small fortune on cheap, expensive and every price in between mule saddle you can imagine.
I can say unequivocally that you should spend good money one time rather than on saddle after saddle that won’t work for you or your mule.
I never understood why some mule owners will spend $2,500 to $6,500 on a well trained safe mule, and $50,000 or more on a truck and trailer to haul him in, and then want to ride that good mule in a brand spanking new $250 saddle that will hurt the mule’s back, be uncomfortable for the rider, and have the potential to get the rider bucked off.
Make no mistake about it; you need a saddle that fits the mule.
There are a lot of good solid well trained mules out there that won’t tolerate an ill fitting saddle and will solve the problem by bucking off what hurts.
With the cost of today’s new saddles, a good quality used mule saddle becomes a good option.
The mule rider is better off to buy a quality used saddle, than to spend money on a lesser quality new one.
If you have done your shopping and managed to find a new or used mule saddle, here are a few tips to help you finish your shopping.
One-way to help you broaden your possibilities, especially in searching for a used mule saddle, is not to be style conscious.
You may picture yourself riding in a saddle endorsed by a popular mule guru, but do yourself a favor and buy what fits you and your mule.
Because the saddle you buy for style reasons only may not fit.
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