There’s an old saying “Never Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth.” Basically meaning that if you get something for free you shouldn’t look too closely at it as it’s likely to be less than you thought it was.
We’re thinking that this old nugget of wisdom could easily be applied to what’s going on in the horse equipment world right now – with one word of caution – if you do decide to buy something that seems too good to be true then chances are that it probably is.
With world wide shortages of materials following the shutdown of factories due to COVID and slow moving shipping lines running at half capacity, supply chains the world over have been negatively affected. Add to that the scarcity of shipping containers and high tariffs, and you have the perfect situation for empty shelves at the tack store and ‘out of stock’ banners online. Even items that are ‘American Made’ usually rely on some components from overseas – many aren’t readily available in the US so delays are compounded across all industries.
So recently, we’ve noticed a worrying trend of non-branded tack items showing up on facebook, Instagram etc. Sometimes these items are being sold in specialty groups, sometimes via targeted ads, but the message is usually the same and goes like this:
New with Tags! Buy Now! Only a Few Colors Left!
The headline is then accompanied by a brief description of the item with a killer price attached. Usually there’s very little detail about the materials, technology and most importantly where and by whom the items are made.
It’s easy to think that if something is offered for sale in a forum or group designed to be seen by equestrians, that the person doing the advertising has done their homework on the items. Unfortunately, this is not always so. There are many wholesale online marketplaces offering horse equipment for sale to anyone with a credit card and shipping address. But what do you really know about the people manufacturing these unbranded items? Do they even know their way around a horse? Have they taken precautions to make sure that their designs are suitable, made from horse friendly materials and safe to use?
While we are not saying that every ad is offering unsuitable items, we have seen a lot that are. Recently we saw an ad in a facebook group offering ‘Eventing Boots’ for sale. Closer inspection of these boots showed that they would really be better described as ‘Brushing Boots’ as they had no proper protection in the areas that are imperative for a boot designed for Cross Country. These particular boots were made of a soft fabric material (probably neoprene but hard to tell with no real description) and looked so flimsy that there was no way they could protect a horse’s leg from any impact. The stitching was shoddy and the design looked like it was just a piece of material sewn together in a rough shape to fit around a horse’s leg. No technology, no ripstop material, no reinforcement – nothing. Yet the (American) facebook seller had them described as ‘Eventing Boots’ – a sad misrepresentation if ever we saw one.
We’ve also seen ‘Jump’ boots made from plastic so hard as to be immovable on a horse’s legs – and shaped completely at odds with a horse’s anatomy – likely causing stress and eventually pain for a horse. Oftentimes the main selling point is color matching or patterns designed to catch the eye. But a closer look shows that beyond the pretty outer material there really isn’t anything that should go anywhere near a horse. Sometimes the sellers may be selling multiple items across various categories – but just because they appear to be a ‘horsey’ person, doesn’t necessarily mean that they have any knowledge about the manufacturing process. Nor may they even know anything about a particular category of items they are trying to sell.
Before jumping headlong into purchasing something from one of these ‘too good to be true’ offers, ask yourself this. How can you be sure that the person designing and making these bargain basement items really has any idea about horses? Will they be able to answer questions about the intricate design and materials of the item? Can they tell you what manufacturing process was used? Do they know if the items will function well for different disciplines – in different climates – what sort of testing has been done along the way? More importantly, is there a warranty on the product? Where do you return them and can you get your money back if they aren’t what you thought they would be?
Because without asking all these questions, you could be setting yourself and your horse up for problems. Remember, horse tack is not the same as buying fashion items. We’ve all been guilty of buying a piece of clothing that looked amazing online but turned out to be nothing like the ad when it actually arrived. The best case scenario is that you were able to return somewhere, even if it took a month to get the money back in your account. The worst – you wrote it off as a bad experience and moved on. But horse equipment isn’t like that. Your horse can’t always tell you if the structure of the item is causing him irritation or pain. He also can’t let you know that the item won’t offer the proper amount of protection until its too late. Suddenly the cheap price of the item doesn’t seem such a great deal.
So while we’re not suggesting that you will never come across a great bargain in a chat room or watching a TikTok video, we are asking you please to stop and pause before rushing headlong. There is a reason that brands build value associated with their products and have a customer base buying over and over from them. Usually the people behind these brands have spent years studying their items, are working with the best riders in the world to develop their product lines and have independent testing to show that they work.
With online shopping at an all time high, it’s easy for anyone looking for a way to make extra money to jump on a band wagon and try to sell some horse safety equipment. But if the helmet, horse boots, bridle, air vest etc doesn’t seem to be made by any reputable brand, please ask the questions and look at manufacturing and warranty details BEFORE YOU BUY. It’s the only way to know if you really are getting a bargain or simply buying something that really does turn out to be too good to be true.