Best, non-fad, high-quality saddle? (Voltaire? CWD? other suggestions?)

[wow…this got long…thanks for reading. THE KEY POINT: I need a top-quality, non-fab, saddle - suggestions for brands?]

Well, it’s time for a new saddle. I’ve had my young horse for a year, and have come to terms with it being time to invest in a high-quality, well-fitted (to him, and me) saddle. While I love my Barnsby that I got a year ago for him, it’s not perfect for either of us for the long-term & probably isn’t worth the cost to refit (would be better to just resell since it’s only 2 years old & a popular model locally).

So…WHAT DO I GET???

I am willing to spend the $$$ to get the “perfect” saddle…one that can be custom-fitted to him and to me. I want something that will last for YEARS, that can be refitted as he and I change, and that will stay classic for all that we do (he is only 5…so I expect that over the years we’ll be in the hunter/equitation ring, jump around some low cross-country, and a bit of everything in-between). I need something that isn’t a “fad” (ex: what’s up with monoflaps? could I even have a monoflap in the hunter/eq ring?), and that is from a company that will still be in-business in 10 years. Resellable would be nice / I want something that will keep some worth over time.

For reference, I’m 5’2" and a bit heavy in the toosh (still working on loosing the pregnancy weight!). My thigh bones aren’t crazy-long - more of my height is in my torso. I love thigh blocks and calf blocks - looking for something that will actually HELP me in my adult-amatureness. My horse is a 5-yr-old 16’3"+ dutch warmblood who is medium-to-narrow with a fairly flat-sided barrel. I expect he will continue to fill-out more in the back, so I need something that can be refit as he grows.

So, what are the high-quality brands that are worth investing in these days? I’ve been a bit out-of-the-loop for the last few years as I lost my last horse and then had a baby. My new horse is a long-term keeper, so I want to show him some but also balance family and such. I keep hearing about:

  • CWD (are they falling back out of style?)
  • Voltaire (newer? is this a fab brand, or does it actually have sticking power?)
  • County
  • Antares
  • Devoucoux
  • Butet
  • others???

I’d like to keep in the $3-4k range if possible, could go slightly higher for the PERFECT saddle, but would be absolutely open to a used saddle to bring the cost down. I think that’s a reasonable range…but maybe not? $6k seems ridiculous, but tell me if that’s what high-quality, non-fab stuff is actually going for these days (ugg).

Thanks for reading & for any insights!!!

The best saddle is the one that feels and fits best for you. I stick with County Stabilizer and am waiting for my 2nd custom saddle from them. The only reason I had to order a new one is because the old one (10+ years old) is an XW and my new pony needs a M. It is wool flocked, the leather lasts, and the balance and fit for me is the best of anything that I have owned or tried (including County’s other saddle types).
County is also in your price range.

There are things that I don’t like.
Too much fancy stitching on the flaps means maintenance.
I don’t like foam panels. I want to be able to adjust when needed.
I want leather that will hold up to use. I prefer the “elephant print” as it is thick and has the instant broken in feel to it.
Comfort. No more rock hard seats for me (Beval Devons, Stubben).

I think the first thing you have to do is decide if you want wool flocked or foam flocked. With foam, you’ll need to check the fit frequently and do some shimming work along the way. Once the horse is at his “final” size, you made need to spend $600 or so to have the panels re-made.

With wool, you can have the fit tweaked along the way, but it is more maintenance over time. I do know people who have had their French saddles coverted to wool (costs around $400 in my neck of the woods), so if you have a strong personal preference for one of those brands but prefer wool, it can be done.

All of the brands you listed vary in popularity at any given time but all should stand the test of time. Don’t get a monoflap unless you want to event. I would either get an independent fitter out to give you some recommendations or work with someone like Rachel from iselltack who will have ideas of what can work. Once it fits your horse, it is all personal preference.

I love my Antares. Bought it used on eBay. Fit me perfectly and fits horses of various sizes and shapes very well. Because it had “jeans rub” from its previous owner, I had it re-seated. The customer service was outstanding.

So much about saddles is personal preference. For every person who loves one brand, you’ll find 10 people who hate it and are madly in love with 10 other brands. For instance, I adore my Antares. I absolutely loathed the CWD I tried but my trainer swears by hers. They’re both nice saddles, but she and I have different preferences of what we think is comfortable.

There are people on here that are really knowledgeable about what brands likely fit what kind of horse so they’ll be able to give you some good advice. But from personal experience, sit in as many different saddles as you can get your hands on before you shell out the big bucks.

I love Voltaire. Also like Butet (the older ones), Antares, L’Apogee, Equipe, Bruno, and PJ… But saddles really are a personal preference. Try many brands and try many models within each brand. I find I like a similar model across many different brands as opposed to having a strong preference for the brand in particular. Voltaire just happened to be my favorite for a combination of reasons (leather, customer service, the value they offered for my trade in saddle, and I personally love the blue stripes)

With your price range and your willingness to go used you really have access to all of the premium brands. Although I know you’re just looking for a starting point, if I were you I would not settle for what someone on an internet BB told you their favorite was - I’d try a million saddles and figure out which one suits me best.

I don’t know if you’re thinking about resale value at all, but I do a lot of browsing online for used saddles and as of right now the CWDs seem to move the fastest and hold their value the best. It is pretty common to see a popular seat/flat combination posted on one of the high end used tack sites and listed on trial within a day or two.

You might check out Prestige. I am similarly built, with shorter legs and a longer torso and found their Meredith model to be very comfortable. My slab-sided, shark fin Thoroughbred enjoys the fit as well.

One thing I liked about the saddle is that the rep measured my horse and ordered the tree to fit, which Prestige does by cm, not a standard Medium, Wide, etc. Additionally, the Prestige trees can be narrowed or widened +/- 2cm throughout the life of the saddle, so it’s good for young horses whose shape might change.

I think your two best bets are A) contact a fitter who has zero affiliation with any brands and see what they suggest for fit for both of you. This can be helpful, but keep in mind that they aren’t infallible. My horse hated the saddles that were suggested for him and LOVED the ones that were “all wrong.”

B) have a bunch of saddle reps out and try a bunch of saddles! Keep notes, educate yourself before hand so you don’t get sucked into hype, and just try things until you find what you like. Ultimately, this is what I did.

You should try the new stubben portos elite!! It’s beautiful, soft leather and super soft seat! not like my mom’s stubben from 50+ years ago! plus they have so many options for customization.

My advice would be to take your time and enjoy saddle shopping. Try saddles from different brands to get a general feel of what you like and get a sense of which brands have a good rep in your area. I think that among the premium brands the saddles are fairly similar and what will make the difference for you is finding the right model, flap size, etc.

Personally I use Antares and have always been pleased with their quality and customer service. I found CWD slightly less comfortable (and a bit pricier–they do a lot of advertising and sponsorships), and I heard negative comments about the Devocoux customer service (although a friend recently purchased and her saddle is well-fitted and lovely). I think the Voltaire saddles are pretty but have never tried one. I like the Prestige saddles but the ones I have come across don’t seem to fit a wide range of horses.

Most of my saddles have foam padding and I have never had to have one re-paneled for fit reasons. IMO, the foam panels are very practical and in general fit a lot of different horses very comfortably. I have wool flocked saddles as well, but have come to prefer the foam. I would also advise you to ride in as many saddles as you can and then go with your instincts. If a saddle feels right to you and you feel the horse moving freely and comfortably under you, put a lot of importance on that. For a higher dollar saddle, I think it is fair to expect a bit of a “wedding dress” moment, you know, like in the movies where the bride puts the dress on and it is THE dress.

As far as independent saddle fitters vs. brand reps, either way you need to use your own knowledge and instincts in combination with what they say. Don’t be talked into a saddle that you don’t really love because it “fits” so great. Likewise, don’t order an expensive custom saddle if the rep fitting you doesn’t seem knowledgeable and on target with their recommendations. Good reps want to fit you well so that you are a satisfied customer, there is no shame in them getting paid for their work as long as they do a good job. If you can go to a show with multiple reps in attendance and try a bunch of brands and saddles on your horse that really is the best.

I have had an Antares, Devocoux, and CWD. I would highly reccomend the Devocoux and the Antares. I found my devocoux fits a number of horses as I got the pro panels. I did not like my cwd at all. I found the pommel to be a little… Personal and uncomfortable.

I have also heard great thing about Bruno Del Grange lately. A friend of mine just became their rep, and my trainer was fitted for one this week. They seem to have lots of satisfied clients with the new design.

To me enjoying saddle shopping is like an oxymoron.

I ride in an Amerigo DJ on my high withered, deep shouldered wide beast, and in a Devocoux Socoa on my medium width, no withered, leggy creature.

Try to ride in some saddles to find out what feel you like the best, then get that saddle rep to come out.

My experience is that…

If you like…

Butet

you will also like

Devocoux Socoa
Bruno Delgrange
Voltaire
PJ (lite)
Antares

If you like…

CWD

You will also like

Devocoux Biarritz
County
Amerigo

Just in general though…the former have a lighter feel/ride and a more narrow twist, while the latter have a heavier feel and a wider twist.

I second this. I got one recently and love it and my horse moves well in it. It is definitely very comfortable, a big upgrade from my old Crosby and so much easier to sit the trot in this. I am also 5’2", and I tried a few different models and options and found one that is perfect for me. Yes the French saddles are en vogue right now but I thin Stubben will be around forever and has a lot of loyal users so there will always be a resale market for it. For reference her is a photo of mine: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-gbxTLI0uouo/VKbYo6dAiFI/AAAAAAAAAPI/NXs6rDADr5c/s320/20150101_134658.jpg

[QUOTE=MR;8007230]I want something that…can be refitted as he and I change.

For reference, I’m 5’2" and a bit heavy in the toosh (still working on loosing the pregnancy weight!).
[/QUOTE]

Based on your comment about refitting as he changes (and he will probably still grow if he is a WB), I would stick with wool flocked saddles. They are much easier to adjust and tweak. If you buy brand new, you’ll probably need some adjustments early on as the wool compresses, and then tweaking every 6+ months for a developing horse. I just bought a new wool flocked saddle (Black Country) for my horse, and I love how we’ve been able make little adjustments as he grows and develops. I’m your height and was able to order really short flaps…I love it! I will say that I miss my old Butet…too bad they don’t make them like they used to!

I love my county innovation a lot, and believe I got it semi-custom and new for around $5k with leathers. I love it so so much! I know it fits weirdly on some horses, but the best saddle for you will be one that fits you and your horse really well. May be a county (hopefully is!) may not :slight_smile:

I have a Bruno del Grange that I just love (the balance is wonderful), and I prefer it over an antares or cwd (though my mom has a Devocoux that I also really like). I would also recommend that you try a Stubben. My mom has one that I like also, as do many of her clients. I think they are quite comfortable and give you a very secure feeling (you mentioned that you like knee/thigh blocks). Plus, the Stubben brand has been around a long time. Good luck shopping!!!

[QUOTE=yellowbritches;8007543]I think your two best bets are A) contact a fitter who has zero affiliation with any brands and see what they suggest for fit for both of you. This can be helpful, but keep in mind that they aren’t infallible. My horse hated the saddles that were suggested for him and LOVED the ones that were “all wrong.”

B) have a bunch of saddle reps out and try a bunch of saddles! Keep notes, educate yourself before hand so you don’t get sucked into hype, and just try things until you find what you like. Ultimately, this is what I did.[/QUOTE]

This and what Indy said. Saddle fit is super personal for both you AND your horse. I have a Bruno Delgrange and a PJ Delgrange Light (from right before the dissolution of that relationship). I adore them both although the Bruno is a better fit for me. I’m not a fan of Antares as I feel like I’m in a chair seat in them. I like my Tad Coffin just fine but it doesn’t make me go WOW the way the Delgranges do. County was m’eh. I’ve ridden in some Black Countries I really like and some I don’t like at all. CWD doesn’t do much for me.

You’ve got to try a lot to figure out what you and your horse likes. Put the time in and you’ll end up with something that works for your both for the long ter.

I love my Bruno del Grange. It’s a very nice quality saddle. Super comfortable and I also really like the look. I’ve had mine about 4 years and it has held up great. I have friends with older models that are really happy with them. The sales reps were great, and did an awesome job fitting a tricky horse and getting my saddle to me as soon as possible!

I have also ridden in a couple Antares that I quite liked, but I’m not as familiar with those.

I’m built a lot like you, including the post baby butt. I bought a Prestige Roma last summer and LOVE it and VTO saddlery was absolutely awesome to deal with. And with the prestige saddles the tree can be changed as far as width, and they have both foam and wool flocked models. The resale value on these is also there.