My parents are environmental economists, so using resources wisely for both financial and planetary reasons was ingrained into my DNA. You do not have to be a hippy, or a Millennial embracing the Zero Waste lifestyle, to recognize the benefits of the six Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Rehome, Repurpose. Do I always get it right? No. Life is hard enough without remembering to hand the Dutch Bros guy my reusable mug every single time, assuming I even have it with me…
Do I still try? Yes.
So how do the 6 Rs apply to saddlery, and what are some easy ways to embrace them?
Refuse items you do not need, the easiest example being flyers handed out on the street. I do not have printed pamphlets and I do not do printed receipts, unless requested, because in this day and age everyone has access to the internet, and I can save a lot of resources by going paperless. You can also refuse free samples that you are not going to use, including mine, and use sites like Catalog Choice to unsubscribe from physical mailing lists you do not want to be on.
Reduce what you need, including tack! Obviously WOW saddles are uniquely suited to this because of their adaptability to multiple horses, and the ability to change flaps on a single saddle to use it for multiple disciplines. Any high quality saddle will have an advantage over cheaper saddles, however, in its longevity, thus decreasing the number of saddles you need made for you over your lifetime. Even if you rehome that saddle and replace it when you need a different fit, that saddle will continue to serve its purpose instead of going into a dumpster.
An ongoing theme many fitters complain about is clients repeatedly buying a lot of cheaper corrective pads, girths, etc instead of investing in the more expensive but more permanent solution. In the end they often spend more on “cheaper” options than the initial solution would have cost, without solving the issue, and they end up with a tack room full of crap. So save yourself frustration, money, and waste by buying the right option the first time, whenever possible.
Again, WOW saddles are uniquely suited for reuse on new horses because of their extreme adjustability. Other ways to embrace reuse at the barn include turning your feed bags into reusable shopping bags, saving IV bags from any hospital visits for waterproof bandage covers, and of course using baling twine to repair everything.
When I reflock a wool saddle, I take the old wool out and card it so it can be reused in another saddle. This helps me keep my prices low without affecting quality, and helps reduce waste.
Whenever possible, repairing a saddle or other piece of tack will save you money and prevent you from having to buy a completely new set-up. Rein and bridle repairs are often overlooked as an option, but they really are fairly straightforward and affordable, especially if the bridle is only going to be used for schooling. Girth repairs can get more expensive, but depending on the girth can still be a lot cheaper than a full replacement! Check your billet stitching as part of your weekly deep-clean routine; restitching a billet is extremely affordable, it’s not worth risking having it come undone during a ride!
When you no longer need something, try to find it a new home. We take WOW saddles on consignment, and there are lots of other options for other high quality saddles. By that same token, if you are looking for a new saddle on a budget, I suggest looking at a reputable saddlery even if you are afraid they will not have anything in your price range. I have seen very nice used saddles as cheap as $600 in saddleries with new saddles starting at $2000, it’s all about the timing.
So, your tree is broken. For whatever reason, you decide not to repair the saddle. There is a local guy here that take old saddles and turn them into stools for people with hip and back pain. Maybe you make a stool for yourself. Many 4H and Pony Club groups love to get donated old saddles for their kids to tear apart for educational purposes. If you have a bridle or other smaller leather piece that is no longer suitable for its intended purpose, you can consider turning it into a purse handle (I have done it with my old reins). Basically, I am happy to take all that “junk” and repurpose it as best I can, or help you find creative ways of doing so.
I compost the wool from saddles I reflock that is not high enough quality to be carded and reused. My favorite thing about my chickens is their ability to repurpose our kitchen scraps into eggs and garden soil.