Since we’ve all been spending a lot more time inside recently, it’s inevitable that we’ve also been scanning our computers and probably purchasing more on line.
We receive lots of emails each day with questions about our products and one of the questions we seem to get a lot is “What should I look out for when buying tack and why are there price differences?”
Here is our list of Top Ten Insider Tips to help you to decide when its worth the splurge and when its not.
- Don’t Buy it just because all your friends have it.
Sometimes when you go to a barn you may notice that everyone seems to be using the same item. This might be because certain trainers recommend the item or because everyone has seen the same Instagram ad. It could also be just because the local tack store is displaying this item in a prominent place, causing most visitors to overlook any other similar items in the store. Before you rush headlong into buying, stop and ask yourself exactly why you need the item. Is it because you truly believe it’s the best choice for your horse, or is it because everyone else has it? If you’re on close terms with someone you can ask them why they purchased, and perhaps get a closer look before you rush to buy. If after that you still absolutely want and need to buy it, then go ahead, but try to make sure that you at least examine your reason for wanting it.
- Research On Line
Back before there was an internet, riders would walk into their local tack store looking to buy tack but not really knowing EXACTLY what they wanted. Tack store owners would show them to the section and there would probably be only a few brands to choose from. So riders bought items based on what was in stock and what the store owner recommended from personal preference or experience.
That all changed when we all gained access to the ‘web. Suddenly riders became aware of hundreds more brands that they had never heard of. Now we can all can see reviews and know what world class athletes use, just by looking at the ‘tagged’ products on our accounts. But….amazingly some riders still don’t do a lot of research before they buy. If you have an idea of the type of item you want, compare features, materials and look at blogs and You Tube videos to really get all the background info. This will give you a much better idea of what you want. If you are shopping in a traditional tack store and don’t see what you want, ask the staff. Don’t settle for what they have in the store or get pushed into another brand just because its what they sell. Most tack stores can special order items for you so don’t be afraid to ask!
- Looks Aren’t Everything.
Going back to #2, when you start researching on line don’t just look at the images. Most Companies have a few ‘hero’ shots of their images that make them look really good, but when you get them in person they may tell a very different story. It’s super important to like the look of something, of course, but also take the time to read the description and understand the technology inside. One of the things that makes us different at Majyk Equipe are the proprietary materials we use. These materials aren’t just what’s available at every mass factory, they are materials that were painstakingly developed and refined through our network of world leaders – the same people who develop materials for the top sporting goods companies in the world. These materials can make all the difference to the feel and fit of good tack and surprisingly it’s not always the most expensive choice either. So before you rush to hit the ‘Buy’ button, take a look at really what you’re buying.
- How Much is Too Much?
A wise man once said:
“At the end of the day, what did you pay?
And what have you got, is it really a lot?”
When we started our company, one of the main reasons for doing so was because we felt like there was no real ‘middle ground’ when it came to horse tack. We had so many friends who ‘invested’ in show boots, but left them in their tack trunk year round only to pull them out a few times a year when they were competing. Meanwhile, they had a cheap, basic pair of boots they used all year in their home barn. Of course, this is just crazy!! The chances of your horse taking a knock during the hundreds of ‘training’ days is far greater than the 15 minutes in the ring. By not using a good pair of boots year round, you really could be playing Russian Roulette with your horse’s legs. A few things to remember when deciding how much is too much…..
- Many of the more expensive European brands are imported and distributed by a third party. Often riders will think that if they pay more, they get more, but an expensive import with a distributor attached may mean you are paying 30-40% more than the item really warrants.
- Many Tack brands use lower quality materials and technology. Pretty much all of the horse boots we discovered when we launched our brand used neoprene liners. Our experience in the horse world had led us to be certain that neoprene was not the ideal material to wrap around your horse’s legs but….it was very cheap and readily available almost everywhere. When we made our own line of boots we threw out the ‘old school’ book and applied all the latest techniques we had learned from working for top selling human athletic brands. However, because we cut out a lot of ‘middlemen’ we were able to bring them to market at a really reasonable price.
- Look to see if they have Independent testing. There are so few companies that submit their items for independent tests. There is a difference between ‘Independent’ Testing – meaning a qualified outside company is doing the testing and ‘Self Affirmation’ basically claims a company makes itself.
- Are You Paying for Packaging and Marketing? Before you swoon over the outer box and fancy packaging, make sure you pull out the actual tack items and really read up on what you’re buying. Fancy packaging with claims and trademarked technology names might look impressive, but if the actual items aren’t made of high quality materials they might be a let down. Remember your horse can’t wear the box!
- Look at the Finishes
Many tack brands buy a basic item from a factory that's making the same items for multiple companies. It’s easy to see whether or not the items you are purchasing are mass produced by taking a quick look at the finishes. If the item looks pretty standard but has a basic company logo sewn or screened on to it, chances are this is an item that is mass produced for multiple brands and then just ‘customized’ for each company. While that doesn’t always necessary mean it’s a bad thing, it does mean that the brand usually hasn’t had a hand in the actual design of the item. If you can see some actual uniqueness in the material itself, chances are that it has been designed by the company you are buying from. For instance, our XC boots all have an ‘M’ embedded in the actual outer shell material – our jump boots have custom vents and a unique strike plate with an ‘M’. This helps you to see that the item was custom designed and engineered by our team – not just ordered ‘off the shelf’ from a mass producer. Also check the stitching. Consistent, neat stitching will show you that care has been taken in the overall manufacturing. Haphazard stitching may be a sign of low quality control, and may mean the company you are buying from doesn’t even check the product before it ships to you.
Examples of basic boots purchased 'Ready Made' from a Factory .
- Love It or List It
If you own a piece of tack that you absolutely love, see if the same brand has other items you might love too. It might sound simple, but we are often surprised when people say “Oh I never thought about buying ‘XYZ” from you.” So if you have purchased and been happy with something from a particular tack manufacturer, chances are that the same quality will be applied across their whole line. Conversely, if you have been sorely disappointed then its probably better not to keep trying new items from the same brand, even if that’s the one your local store favors. Another great thing about living in the internet age? If you purchase something and hate it after a few rides then you can always list it or swap it for something you do love. There is a whole new world of internet tack exchange sites that allow you to make a few mistakes and then set you on the right path to getting exactly what you need for your horse.
- Size Does Matter
One of the biggest mistakes people make when purchasing tack is not checking out the sizing, especially online. If you are shopping on line and the site you are on only shows ‘small, medium, large’ type options then hunt around the site for a size chart. If you don’t see one, it is worth looking for the same item on other sites so that you can find a detailed size chart. The cost of shipping items back and forth can eat into any budget, especially if the site charges a restocking fee as some do. Much better to know the exact measurement that you are looking for BEFORE you purchase. (For more on this subject read our blog “Why Size Really Does Matter.”
- Look to the Professionals
Today’s top riders have their pick of hundreds of tack brands. If you compete in a certain discipline and see more and more nationally ranked riders using that brand, then it’s a good indication that it’s something you should consider. Remember, top riders have their pick of brands and will usually only choose to endorse something that they really believe in. You can bet that, if it has stood up to the sort of wear and tear that top rated riders put their tack through, then it will be great for you too. When we started our company, we first started working with Eventers because we knew that they needed to have the best equipment for Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. In other words, we needed to be able to make products for three completely separate disciplines. Now that so many of our riders are in the top 1% in the word, we feel honored to have been the choice from the beginning.
- Don’t Believe the Hype
Fashions come and go but quality lasts forever. While there may be fads in tack, there are a few things that never change. While its always good to look to newer brands for the latest styling and up to date technology, remember that some traditional styles become classics too. There’s a difference between picking good traditional materials that last, and using something that was the ‘best of the best’ in the 1970s but has now been superseded by superior technology and design. So shop around, know what you look for and don’t be afraid to experiment. While you're at it, look out for special deals or 'free product' promotions. Often if you're buying something of higher value, there may be a promotion that gives you something else for free to help you round out your tack trunk. So keep your eyes peeled and don't always just look for discounts, look out for other special offers too.
10. Listen to Your Horse
Your horse will quickly tell you his or her tack favorites. For instance, when you put a soft, good fitting girth on your horse you will find that they are much less fussy about being girthed. Likewise, it may take a few tries to get the best bit shape for your horse's mouth, and it may not end up being the one you first thought of. Also, once you own a piece of high quality tack, remember to clean it regularly to get the longest life span and make sure that dirt build up isn't causing abrasions on your horse.
So don't be afraid to veer off the well beaten path and try a few different set ups before you get it absolutely right. Remember every horse is an individual and their tack fit is unique to their shape and size. So, with a little forward planning and research you should be able to save yourself money and get the best tack choices so that you and your horse can have a happy partnership. :)