Saturday, March 27, 2010

Two hundred dollars

That's the price of a brand new English saddle from Braymere Custom Saddlery. I didn't choose that number arbitrarily. It's based on several factors including a reasonable hourly wage for me, the cost of supplies and prices of comparable model saddles from other tackmakers. Honestly, I think I could charge a bit more, but for the time being, I'm pretty comfortable at two hundred dollars.

Still, there are always going to be some people who think that is way, way too much for a "toy" saddle. These are usually the same people who feel compelled to tell me that they could buy a real saddle for that amount.

I know I shouldn't be bothered by that, but it's hard not to get a little defensive. And the truth of the matter is that while you can buy a real saddle for $200, unless you are very lucky, you can't buy a real good saddle for that amount.

With this in mind, I set out to find and photograph every single saddle costing $200 or less at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo trade show. Here are the results of that search.

First up is this pink synthetic saddle. At $89 it was less than half the price of a BCS saddle.
This brown synthetic saddle was just a bit more at $99.
At $125 this was the least expensive leather saddle I could find.
If you prefer English, this old battered close contact saddle was $150 with fittings. I didn't think to look, but I'd be willing to bet that the Pakistani looking brown saddle on the bottom of the stack was even less.
This used Western saddle with partial buckstitching cost exactly $200.
At $230 OBO this Western saddle is technically a budget buster. Still, I suspect that an offer of $200 would have been gratefully accepted.
So, there you have it--one model saddle and six real saddles that cost $200 or less. If you prefer any of these real saddles to my model saddle that's fine by me. Just don't feel compelled to tell me about it, ok?


  1. I'm guessing you work pretty fast, which means you're probably getting a maximum of 10 dollars an hour? Minus materials and the initial investment in tools? If it were me, it would take quite a bit longer, so I'm just guessing here.

    Yeah. For top end artistic work that literally can't be done at this level of skill by ninety-nine people in a hundred.

    I'm a professional video game artist. When I freelance I expect 50 bucks an hour, which is industry standard. Even entry-level artists get thirty.

    So unless you can make a whole saddle from raw materials to in the mail in 4 hours or less, your customers are getting a steal here!

    I get the feeling that some people think a model saddle is basically frivolous and unnecessary, and thus not worth as much as it costs to make. But it's hard to imagine anything more frivolous than a video game, and people pay artists to make those.

  2. I totally understand. I don't charge by the hour for my custom braided horse hair work but by the work. Some take days to charge by the hour would be pointless. I need to increase my pricing though I have a HUUUGGEEEE wave of commissions from my blog. I might try my hand this week at making a bridle. Hell I have all the leather lacing and other misc leather things and am really good at working with wire to make buckles. Of course this bridle would be none other than a nurtural bridle, no bit there :P Will tell ya how it goes.

  3. I wanted to add more, so deleted the first
    I get where you are coming from. I get the same thing all the time! "You charge how much for that tiny little thing?" I charge 250.00 for a complete WP set that generally has over $50 in just the hardware! I know I don't get nearly enough per hour, but just can't bring myself to charge more.

  4. As a consumer I am happy to get the saddles at that price. I can imagine the time and skill that gets put into every piece.

  5. I think $200 for tack that swipes up every NAN card wherever it's shown is a STEAL! And yeah, we often receive less than minimum wage despite the experience that goes into each piece. We make collectors items, not just toys. Ok. Off my soapbox now :). Keep up the amazing, incredible, super duper work! (Now that I know your price, I know what I'm saving up for next!)

  6. I will tell you what I told another artist living in Colorado - not everyone is your customer. Those who are hard to deal with, complain, whine or otherwise make your life a PITA needs to go on a black list and NEVER be dealt with again. You have enough people willing to purchase your stuff withOUT the drama that you won't miss the problem people.

    And I sat in a $3500 jump saddle last weekend you would have drooled over in a major way. (The $4000 dressage saddle was even BETTER.) It was most excellent in every way, much like your saddles!

  7. Speaking as a non-"model horse person"... I think $200 is a steal for the quality of the piece, and certainly for the time and expertise put into it. I was actually thinking when I saw the title and before I started reading, oh, is it a sale saddle??

    I don't have models, and I still want some of your tack!! It is just too pretty. For showing people, yes, quite a steal.

    As for the "real" tack, yes, $200 buys you a crap saddle, a savings which you would really end up using for the chiro.

    There is something about that buckstitched saddle I kinda sorta liked... AFTER I took it to a local saddle/leather guy and have him change it to a rounded skirt and more slender fenders! =D Notice, you could trim away those parts of the saddle, and it wouldn't be nearly as hideous.

  8. The people that are outraged by the cost of the collectibles are usually the ones that either haven't or can't make the things they want. If they had done any of the crafting they would know that a lot of time goes into each piece. I think the really beautiful pieces are worth every penny of their cost. My dolls are just dolls, they are not real people. But Jennifer, your saddles are, for the most part, "real" saddles, just smaller ☺

  9. I am continually amazed by how often the experience of model horse artists mirrors my own as a veterinarian. People complain all the time about what things cost, without seeming to understand that something like a "simple blood test" needs an experienced person to restrain the pet, another to draw the sample quickly and safely, possibly a third to process the sample to get it to the lab which charges us a fee to run the test. Then when the results come back, I have to look at them and interpret them based upon the history and exam findings I made the previous day--they don't get that at least that part may seem free, but that I had to pay for the 8 years of education, and for continuing education courses since then. Or that if I did the draw and processing myself, it would be actually more expensive, since my cost per hour is higher than my techs--its better for me to spend my time doing stuff they CAN'T looking at tests results and making a diagnosis!

    I'm sure that you even get the occasional person who plays the Guilt card. It might not be "If you really cared about pets you'd do this for me for free" but I would bet you've gotten a variation on that.

    People don't seem to understand that skill take time and money to learn and develop and that they are worth paying for. And the ones who are real PITAS do deserve to be fired. They can find someone making a $25 wonder and then perhaps find out the hard way that quality is worth paying for.

    Your $200 saddle is a steal. And if you're bogged with orders, then that is a sign to bump your prices up :)

    Sorry! Soapbox over! This is a thing that just GETS me at times

  10. You people are all GREAT! I hope I didn't sound too whiny with this post. I really am happy with both my customers and my prices. I *know* I could get more--just look at the prices of similar quality English saddles on MH$P right now. $200 is nowhere near the upper limit for NAN quality work. Still, I don't have plans to raise my rates, at least not until I work out those few little details that still bother me...

    With that said, the comparison to real saddles just drives me crazy. It's totally apples to oranges in my mind. I know sculptors and finishwork artists hear the same kind of thing: "A thousand dollars--I could buy a REAL horse with a thousand dollars!"

    So, yeah, people are weird!

    Thanks for the good comments everyone.

  11. I get that a lot with dollhouse miniatures too. My comment is usually something like, "Well, if you need a full sized sofa instead of a dollhouse sofa, you should probably buy that instead." ;)

  12. Just some other thoughts here, and let me say first I COMPLETELY AGREE with Jennifer's comments!! I have a lot of people scoff when they ask what I charge for a 1hr riding lesson, and I'm the second lowest in the area. But I think where this attitude comes from is the basics of our society. Costs of living keep going up, and incomes don't. Most people just don't make enough to live the life they want, or their boss won't pay them what they are worth, or taxes are too high, etc. Then they see Joe Smith buy something that they want and not realize that Joe Smith makes $50 an hour more than them. So instead of realizing that, all they see is how "expensive" something is and how "unfair" it is. I even catch myself doing it sometimes. I think $200 would buy a lot of food for starving kids in Africa. So I feel guilty spending "that much" even though I know it's a heck of a deal. Just throwing out some thoughts from someone who's been on both sides of this sticky problem.
    P.S Jennifer, I love your blog!! Great reading and tutiourals, can't wait to try them.

  13. "I could buy a REAL horse with a thousand dollars"~unknown idiots

    Oh, a real horse will cost you SO much more than that... even if he's free!!

  14. I think people who complain about it are not looking at it as art work and that's what it is. I simply LOVE things that a human has made, not slapped out on a machine but loving created, kinda like God made us! :-) I think your saddles rock. I am seriously thinking about just not doing model horses and instead doing miniature TACK! Have a great day!

  15. Your saddles are worth every penny of $200, if not more! Your work is incredible! It is rare to see miniature tack as lifelike as yours and in my opinion, yours is by far the best I have ever seen. The english saddles alone are exceptional, and everything you have posted out here is top quality. Every time I look at your work, I am completely blown away. You have an incredible gift and pay attention to every minute detail.
    Some folks just don't have much sense. :)

  16. it says you make small saddles does that mean that you dont make regular size saddles because i really like that pink one

  17. For the quality of your work, $200 is a bargain. You could charge twice that, and it still would be a bargain. Your work is amazing, and I wish I could afford one, but I don't show performance.

  18. I am coming very, very late to this party BUT... I have having a miniature reproduction made of my English hunt saddle, a Pariani in the same style Jackie Kennedy used to ride in. Which I bought for $25 at the Berkeley Flea Market back in the '80s. Which is still my favorite saddle.