How this popular business provides quality used saddles at affordable prices—with a customized experience.
A new saddle can be one of the most exciting things a horse person can buy. Choosing the leather, the style, and the color are all engaging parts of the purchase.
As exciting as that process can be, it is also very expensive. In 2015, Susannah “Susy” Shearer was experiencing those financial pains while looking for a new saddle.
“I wanted nice quality, but I was on a budget,” Shearer tells The Plaid Horse.
She finally was able to sell her saddle and buy a new one. However, it was difficult to find a used high-end saddle, and there wasn’t much guidance available to help find the right one for her and her horse.
At the time, Shearer just had her second child. She was a vet tech and was interested in going to vet school. After some consideration however, she realized that going to vet school with two young children was not going to be possible.
The concept for the now widely known Highline Tack started out as just a side hustle for Shearer as she figured out her next steps as a mom of two. Friends would give her their saddles to photograph in her backyard, surrounded by trees and flowers, and from there, she would list and sell them.
The business grew in popularity, eventually forcing her out of her backyard and into an office space nearby. From there she hired her first employee who helped clean and ship the saddles around the country.
With the new brick and mortar space, those who were local were able to come see and try the saddles that she had in her inventory.
When her first employee came on in 2019, Highline Tack had an inventory of 50 saddles. In 2023, they are up to over 500.
Shearer’s team now consists of certified saddle fitters who do both in person fittings as well as virtual fittings.
For the virtual fittings, individuals may order a saddle from their website and, once received, will digitally fit with an expert, and try the saddle for five days.
If they like the saddle, they can purchase it. But if the saddle doesn’t work for them and their horse, they can send it back to Highline for the cost of shipping.
“We tried to come up with something that was fair in all sections of the business, including trying the saddles and consignment,” says Shearer.
A Personalized Touch
While 75 percent of the Highline Tack sales stem from clients buying from all over the world, the rest of their customers prefer to meet the team in person.
For those who want a hands-on experience with the Highline Tack experts, the company just completed building their flagship location in Chapel Hill, NC—now open to the public.
“Riders will have a set appointment time and pull their trailer up to check in with staff,” says Shearer. “The saddle fitters will assess the horse and pull from our selection of saddles. We have a fitting bay where the horse can get fitted and tacked up so that riders can test out any of the saddles they are interested in.”
While most people travel in from surrounding states on a day trip, Highline has contacts with several area barns so horses are able to spend the night, allowing for further travel to their location. Given the store’s location in North Carolina, it also acts as an easy stop for those showing in Tryon or traveling to Florida.
The goal is to give both horse and rider a custom experience so that they are able to walk away feeling confident in their purchase.
“A lot of equine medical issues stem from a saddle fit issue,” says Shearer. “It’s just so important to make sure that everything is properly fitted.”
The other aspect of the business for Highline is consigning people’s saddles.
If you’re looking to sell your saddle, Highline will send you a shipping label, so as long as you can print out the label and box your saddle, it’s good to go.
In the first 24 hours of receiving a saddle, the product will be inspected in its entirety by multiple experts. If it passes inspection, it is then cleaned and photographed and put on the website.
On average, it takes about three to four weeks for a saddle to sell.
While Highline Tack’s new location is sure to be a hotspot for equestrians to shop, the company can also be found on the road at both local shows and those in surrounding states, such as Upperville.
Highline Tack carries high end saddle brands such as Voltaire, CWD, and Butet, to name a few.
In addition, Highline Tack also has a sister company, Fineline Tack, which offers a large range of other brands at a variety of price points.
Both companies offer jumping and dressage saddles, so there is something for everyone. Shearer is excited to continue her commitment to helping riders and horses find the saddle that fits them best without breaking the bank.
“I love tack. I’m a horse girl!” Shearer says.