Tips from the tack store

Shopping for horse goods at your friendly neighborhood tack store can be a traumatic experience; trust me, before I started working at my local store, I did not like going in there. I was always the only customer in the store, the people working there didn’t seem knowledgeable, and they always seemed to lack the item I was looking for.

While my primary job isn’t to be out on the floor helping customers, I pop out of my office every time I hear someone walk up the stairs. I genuinely like chatting with people and trying to help them find what they’re looking for. I thought I’d offer my advice on how to get the most of out shopping with your local store- small stores are often very different from big tack retailers!

  • DO: Mention what you’re looking for to the people who work there! If someone asks you, “Can I help you?” or “Is there something in particular you’re looking for?”, your response is most likely, “No thanks, I’m just browsing.” This isn’t helpful to anyone! We aren’t trying to sell you anything- we just want to point you in the right direction. For example, my store has two floors and lots of little nooks and crannies. If you’re looking for girths, you’ll need to go upstairs. Fly spray? Back corner of the first floor. If you’re truly just browsing, that’s totally fine- we understand that sometimes, you just want to sniff the leather.
  • DO: Ask questions and/or ask for help! If you’re looking for a pair of tall boots, let us pull them out of boxes for you and help you try them on. Ask us which saddle pad we’d recommend. Don’t see the size you need? We’re happy to order it for you- just ask! You might think it’s easier to go online and look for the item yourself, and in some cases, it is. But your local store has access to hundreds of vendors, all of whom have extensive catalogs beyond what’s available on their websites. If you’re looking for something very specific, like 70″ laced reins in havana, or 8″ long black cheekpieces with round buckles, it’s likely that we’ll have better luck finding it than you will.
  • DON’T: Ask what’s legal/illegal for competition. I’m current on the rules that apply to me for low level dressage and eventing. I even have some vague knowledge of the rule nuances of upper level dressage. But I am not the best person to ask if the arms on your curb are too long, and neither is anyone else at your local tack store. Ask your trainer. Consult your organization’s rule book. Email a technical delegate. 
  • DO: Make offers on consignment tack! If you see a saddle you really like, make an offer on it even if you feel like you’re lowballing. After all, you aren’t going to have to talk to the consigner yourself- the tack store is your middleman here, so use it to your advantage. You also don’t know how long the saddle has been sitting at your tack store. We have a few saddles that have been hanging around since 2008 or so; at this point, the consigner usually doesn’t remember what they wanted for the saddle in the first place.
  • DO: Take saddles on trial! Take several of them. Keep them for their maximum trial length. We don’t mind, really. We want you to be a happy customer! Don’t be afraid to ask for a trial extension if you need it. If you trainer gets the flu and can’t evaluate the saddle the day before it’s due back, call and see if you can extend your trial by a day or two. In most cases, the answer is yes!
  • DO: Pay attention to the return policy! This makes everyone’s life easier. If you have a question about it, ask someone! It’s better to get clarification up front than when you’re frustrated.
What kinds things does your local tack store do well? What do they do poorly? Do you even shop at your local store, or are you an online-only person?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

12 thoughts on “Tips from the tack store”

  1. I am totally one of those just browsing people. If I need help, I'll ask for it but usually I've done my research and want to be left alone. I'm sure that comes off as cold to sales associates, but it's how I prefer to shop.

  2. love this!! i actually already know the layouts of all my local shops well enough to usually help myself – but still really enjoy talking to the staff too. also – thanks for sharing your points about shopping consignment and trial saddles, as that was super useful when i was shopping!!

  3. I love talking to people in the tack stores as i learn so much more about the products i went in to see and usually find out a heap of other things I'd never have even thought of.
    My biggest issue is language barrier…for some reason the go-to language for tack store staff in Luxembourg seems to be Germany first, French and/or English may be a distant second choice and obviously less preferred. From local friends i understand that the teaching of the latter languages at schools is far from ideal, but my Germany is spectacularly suck & I am much more comfortable & competent in the other two especially when it comes to technical equestrian lingo – so despite loving to chat & learn new things I tend to be invariably shy when perusing tack stores ;-/

    1. Ps: i will put the consignment saddle tips for haggling & trial periods to good use when I set about buying a better fitting saddle for Nancy. Sadly she won't have the luxury of a new one like Kika did 3 – 4 years ago as i just don't have the cash flow at the moment. Having sold an unwanted saddle through consignment for 1/3 of the price I paid for it new just to be rid of the blasted thing (that never fit K and solidified her nasty rearing habit…well with the help of my fear) i know all about selling stuff at a loss due to needing funds for other things and just wanting to get rid of something I wasn't using!

  4. I try to always be friendly and smile when I say, "No thanks, just looking." But then again I've been on the other side screaming in my head, "PLEASE LET ME HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING! I NEED SOME SOCIALIZATION!" I don't even care if you talk about your horse for 45 minutes.

  5. Great tips! Although as someone who's pretty introverted and generally well-researched, I don't always want help from a sales associate. Sometimes I just want you to leave me alone so I can grab my fly spray/gloves/socks/halter/try on breeches in peace! BUT for stuff like fitting boots and helmets, a good salesperson is INVALUABLE! I've also gotten some great deals by making offers on consignment tack – I paid a whopping $250 for my western saddle that way!

  6. My local tack store does one thing really poorly … not exist. 🙁

    That said, when I lived 20 min from The Tack Trunk in Ohio … I loved life. That place was amazing, and friendly, and I always got a steal on consignment stuff when I bartered.

  7. Great tips!! I'm blessed with a tack stop with very knowledgeable sales people. They're trained in fitting everything properly for horse and rider, and have many tack items tagged in some way with whether its show-legal or not, or have handy notices posted nearby for reference. I've become so dependent on the sales people (friends at this point) that I can barely make any tack purchase without consulting them!

Leave a Reply