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.