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French saddle reviews

So we just started a new blog series (I blog for ISellTack.com) and featured Voltaire Design saddles. I’ve love to get input here from everyone not just on Voltaire, but we’re going to feature a different saddle line each installment of the blog and Rachel (who owns ISellTack.com) will be posting as well.

Since this is such a great forum for reviews, please share what you love/hate/like/dislike or anything else about ANY French saddle brand you have ridden in. And if you’re okay with me using a quote from you on the blog please let me know. I won’t quote anyone without direct permission. Oh and we do allow guest bloggers too if anyone is interested!

Here’s a link to the first blog that went up today. Thanks so much - looking forward to your feedback! http://www.iselltack.com/blogs/news/10989325-french-saddles-spotlight-on-voltaire-and-just-2-days-left-in-our-12-days-of-christmas-sale

Antares count, I assume?

I’ve had my custom Antares saddle since I was 16 years old (so, 8 years now). I’ve ridden every kind of horse and pony you can think of (from small welsh ponies to draft crosses). I have a medium tree, 17inch and long flaps (a number 4, not sure the exact numbers and letters but it’s a little more forward at the knee; I can check on the exact numbers/letters if you want). The saddle fits almost every horse pony pretty well. I have extra flocking in the rear panels so it sits more level. Two years ago I had new leather put on the knee flaps because they were getting holes worn through!! I ride in the saddle everyday, between 2-5 horses. I’ve never had a horse exhibit pain from the saddle either (ie. sour, back sore, etc). The seat is finally showing some wear and tear, but I refuse to get another saddle because it just won’t be the same. It fits me like a glove, and I hate every other saddle I ride in. I also have a second Antares that was purchased used, that’s close in size to mine except the flap is shorter. I also like that saddle too, just mine is better. Everyone that rides in my saddle, likes it too and thinks its comfortable. Not sure how a new Antares or other custom saddle would compare, but if it’s not broken, why fix it?!

I bought a used 2012 Voltiare Palm Beach and I could not be happier.

I did not realize how bad of a position my old saddle (2009 Pessoa A/O) put me in. One ride in the Voltaire was all it took to sell me on it. My horse absolutely loves it. He moves better and jumps better with it. I feel so secure in it. Even when my horse and I had a fall, that saddle kept me balanced and secure so that I rode the fall most of the way down and did not end up face-planting from 6-7 ft in the air! (I only face-planted from about 3 feet up :)) It’s been a game-changer for sure and I’ve only had it a couple of months. I cannot wait to show in it next month.

I just purchased a L’Apogee…I was shopping for a new saddle for my mare because I felt like mine (Phillipe Fontaine) did not fit her well and restricted my mares shoulders. The saddle fitter brought out at least 15 different saddles for me to try. As soon as I sat in the L’Apogee I was in love. My Mare moved so much better but something I didn’t expect was that I felt more secure! I have heard people talk about a saddle putting them in a bad position but I never really though a saddle could make that much of a difference. I now realize that a saddle CAN make a difference in your riding! I have only had my new saddle for about 2 months but everyone (Me. my trainer, barn friends, my horse) has notices a difference in my riding. I have always had decent EQ however I am a timid rider and the saddle change has made me feel so much more secure on the back of my horse that if has changed my riding and progress! I don’t feel as insecure on those windy days when the spookiness comes out and can now laugh at a little buck my mare might throw in to liven up the ride. I wish I had of bought this saddle years ago!

And OP feel free to use my info for your article

I have owned several saddles over my riding career, beginning with a synthetic Thorowgood all purpose saddle. My first close contact was an old Hartley Galaxy. Next was a newer at the time Crosby Prix des Nations,then I went to a Pessoa Gen X that just didn’t work for my leg. Then finally to my Beval Natural which I loved dearly and had for 7 years. I only sold it because it wasn’t the cushiest thing and not most ideal for trail riding. My next saddle was an Amerigo Vega which was one of the most comfortable things ever, but the flap wasn’t quite long enough or forward enough and the seat was a bit small.

Then my foray into French saddle land…

  1. My 2005 CWD flat seat with a 3L flap. The saddle was comfortable enough, but didn’t fit my horse or myself quite right. It put my leg in a terrible position and I constantly felt like I was fighting it. So I sold it.
  2. Next was my 2010 Voltaire Palm Beach that I bought from Voltaire. I immediately fell in love with it the first time I sat in it in February of 2013. Although the seat was a bit snug, I ended up keeping it because I couldn’t find an 18" saddle in my price range. I tried to sell it with not much luck. So I decided I’d just keep it.
  3. After speaking again with Voltaire, they offered me an incredible deal on a 2013 Palm Beach, this time with an 18" seat and 3AA flap. I absolutely love it. I just got it last week and I love the feeling of having a saddle be supportive but not in the way. I feel secure, but I don’t feel trapped. I’ve ridden in it 3 times and my horse seems to like it too. I loved it even more when my horse took off bucking the other night and even though I lost my stirrups, I managed to stay on. Whether it was my extreme desire to not hit the dirt, or the sticky buffalo leather, I managed to stay on. I can’t say enough good things about Voltaire. From the company, to the employees, to the quality of their products. They are my favorite.

I have to second the staff at Voltaire. We just bought a used saddled from them…not a Voltaire and Claude (i think that’s his name, i can’t really understand his accent!) was awesome. He didn’t try to sell us his brand and he went out of his way to get this saddle to us when others wouldn’t have. They are great people to work with.

I have bought a (slighly) used Voltaire Palm Beach Second Skin (buffalo) and love love love it. It sits me at the right spot, fits my horse really well (despite not being custom to her), is very comfortable, fits my long legs well (3AA flap), and is lovely too look at. I almost had a heart attack when i paid for it, but have ridden in it regulalry since May and cannot say enough good things about it.

I have to second the staff at Voltaire. We just bought a used saddled from them…not a Voltaire and Claude (i think that’s his name, i can’t really understand his accent!) was awesome. He didn’t try to sell us his brand and he went out of his way to get this saddle to us when others wouldn’t have. They are great people to work with.[/QUOTE]

Claude is amazing!

I bought a new calfskin Voltaire Palm Beach w/ second skin option in February of 2013. It’s a 17.5 w/ pro panels, 2AA flap (regular length, double forward-due to my freakishly long femur). It is by far my favorite saddle I’ve ever owned, and I’ve previously owned brands such as Butet, Devoucoux and County. The quality of my Voltaire is impeccable (it still looks brand new today!), and the leather is butter soft. I had SUCH a hard time trying to find a saddle to fit my horse due to his sharkfin withers and massive shoulder, and this one fits perfect. When I first got it, we made sure he had more than enough room for his shoulders and adequate wither clearance. I knew he needed to build more back muscle, so I went with a little less wither clearance than “perfect” with use of a sheepskin pad until he built up. Now he has built up muscle and it fits like a glove with no pads.

Voltaire’s customer service is second to none, and they will assist you at the drop of a hat. I was scared to try a new saddle after the atrocious customer service and saddle issues I experienced with Devoucoux, but after working with Voltaire I have restored faith!

This looks like advertising to drive people to the sell tack website to me

Thanks for the reviews guys! I love hearing all the stories. Of course I’m biased to Voltaire since that’s what I ride in, but I’d love to hear more about the Antares as well since that’s one brand I have very little experience in riding in myself.

And yeah I want to keep the blog going on the site, and am definitely open to anyone interested in guest blogging!

Dogrider - networking, not advertising. I am not posting anything for sale here and while I will always share a good deal when I see it, I wanted to get honest feedback on French saddles. I love my Voltaire but am also friends with one of their head sales reps and Claude is also great, and before that I loved CWD til I had some issues. I’d love to learn more and as stated in my original thread - if people are open to being quoted on the blog or interested in guest blogging that would be great! If not that’s fine too, I’m learning more about other French brands that I didn’t know about or experience firsthand and since I do work in the equestrian industry, I love learning whatever I can about saddles and people’s first hand experience. Worth SO much more than just corporate sales/reviews etc.

Thanks all - love reading all of these!

Just saw the L’Apogee post as well - never ridden in one, so thank you! Sounds like it’s absolutely what works for you. I’ve learned that everyone is different so what is best for me may not work for you at all which is why I am trying to learn more about some of the different brands.

Merry Christmas all! I’ll be back in a few days after the craziness of the holidays!

Love my Antares. I was a diehard flat saddle fan (Beval, Hermes, etc) and I rode in my friends Antares one day and I was sold. I’ve ridden in many cushy saddles over the years but NEVER wanted to buy one. My Antares (made just like my friends) sits me perfectly with definitely no “chair” seat and provides great comfort but still allows me to feel my horses. Loveeee it.

Putting in a plug for Arc De Triomphe saddles. I had a bridle from them that I loved and when I was on my endless saddle search I figured “why not” and looked in to their saddles as well. I really love my saddle and the leather quality is amazing. It sits in a tack room with CWDs, Butets, Devocouxs, and Antares saddles and doesn’t suffer for the comparison (and they are much more expensive!)

It fits me great and fit my average backed TB perfectly, but I know that is different for everyone. I do like that the saddle bar is set further back and it is one of the only saddles I have found that doesn’t put me in a chair seat.

I’ve ridden in a variety of A/P saddles over the years including an ancient Kieffer eventing-type saddle, Crosby Sofride, Jimmy’s 20th Century and Beval saddles. The Voltaire appealed to me because everything I read said it fit a wide variety of horses, was designed to free up the shoulder for better movement and didn’t weigh a ton like my cushy Sofride.

I bought a 2010 Voltaire Palm Beach 18" 3A flap on eBay and it really did fit everyone I rode surprisingly well. Despite this I struggled with the thought of reselling it for the first couple of months because it seemed like the stirrup bars were not jiving with my body. They seem more prominent and more forward than what I was used to on other saddles. I had huge bruises on the inside of my thighs from the buckles of my leathers even though I had used them on previous saddles for years. This was solved by buying a new pair of the Bates flat buckle leathers. The bigger problem was that I had trouble finding the right balance and couldn’t get my butt out of the saddle in two-point which I never had problems with before. It felt like I was riding in a bit of a “chair seat” with my legs more forward than usual. I ended up removing the knee blocks since I think they hit my knee at the wrong point (probably should have gotten a 3AA), and this helped a bit. It seemed like the stirrup bar placement was still putting my leg a little out in front of me. One of my fellow COTH posters suggested wrapping a little Vetrap on the front edge of the stirrup bar to bring the stirrup leathers back a bit (I ended up using a wad of braiding rubber bands) and it was like a magic trick, balance in two-point is back to normal and I’m totally in love with this saddle now.

Overall a very comfortable, secure and nicely made saddle. One of the greatest features is the billet design. It has three Dee rings and two nylon-topped leather billets that loop and tie securely onto them on each side. The billets are easily removed if you need to replace or move them to a different position. No more worrying about loose stitching or sending your saddle off to have the billets replaced. Extremely soft leather. Not sure how well it would hold up in constant heavy use–mine looks amazing so far but I only ride a few times a week. This is the first and hopefully last $$$$ saddle I’ve ever purchased. I baby the heck out of it, clean it after every ride with Effax and keep it covered in a climate controlled room in the hopes it lasts forever.

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Hi all - quick updates, I got the OK for a product review blog!!! I looooove reading the feedback here (and the tip on the stirrup bars MB is awesome), and if anyone would like to be featured as a guest blogger, just email me at cj@iselltack.com or info@iselltack.com with any images you want me to use as well, and how you’d like to be credited for your work (COTH name, real name, whatever you like). I just posted an update on the blog here - http://www.iselltack.com/blogs/news/11586789-support-ottb-s-and-an-all-new-blog-series - but by no means am I qualified to write every single review myself. Open to ideas and reviews on saddles, tack, really anything equestrian. I know FITS is launching a new line of H/J breeches that I’m dying to get my hands on and write a review about so we will see!!!

CWD Saddle problem

We have a CWD saddle that either was made incorrectly or measured wrong. It has resulted in a wasted year of riding (did not know it was done wrong) as we sorted through issue after issue trying to figure out what was wrong with the horse. Now, we are trying to get the issue resolved with CWD and they do not appear willing to rectify the problem they created. Anyone else have similar issues with an wrongly fitted or made CWD saddle. Please message me about your experience and what you were able to do to resolve.

I literally just got back from an appointment with the Voltaire rep. I am in love! I initially called them out because they were the “cheapest” French avenue. I have heard they give tremendous deals for trade-ins and the price of their new custom saddles are cheaper by a few $100 compared to other French brands (Devoucoux, CWD, Antares, Butet, etc.).

My 2006 Devoucoux Oldara was not fitting my horse (well, is not fitting…since I have to wait 10 weeks for my new saddle! :(). The shape of the tree causes it to lift significantly off his back and tilt forward onto his wither. I really just wanted to finally get a nice new saddle after always having used saddles. I wasn’t looking for a saddles to improve my position or anything. But boy I could tell a difference as soon as I started trotting in the Voltaire! It’s amazing how a well fitted saddle will completely change how you ride. I have pretty good natural balance, but I just loved that the Voltaire’s fit my horse so well and provided me stability to adapt my riding and have the best position possible. It didn’t force me into a good position but it just felt so balanced and comfortable that I was able to ride the best of my abilities I think.

I ordered a 2014 Voltaire Palm Beach in full calfskin with a forward 3AA flap and pro panels. Now to wait…

I’ve got two Delgranges: A Bruno Delgrange Athena and a PJ Lite by Bruno Delgrange. Basically the same saddle. Why two, you ask? Because I fell in love with the Athena that is custom to my very narrow TB and had to have one for my new girl who it didn’t fit. Thankfully, I found the PJ Lite which is almost identical to my Athena used on ebay for a steal.

The leather is amazing. It’s the right balance between sticky and durable. These saddles will last and last and last, unlike a lot of the other french models. I also like that the billets are nice, durable leather and not thin calfskin. (Ugh, some of the saddles I’ve tried have scary thin billets and each time I girth up I wonder if that’s going to be the time they just snap.)

the design/balance of the saddles is just about perfect. I had a friend who was certain she needed a deep seated saddle to feel secure. She’d tried saddle after saddle and never got the feeling she wanted. I finally had her try my Athena while explaining to her it’s not about how deep the seat is but rather where the saddle’s balance point is. My Athena is quite flat and she realized that it was the securest she’s ever felt. She didn’t go out and buy a BD, but she did start looking for balance over things like a deep seat.

I’ve also spent some time riding in the Bruno Delgrange Partition. While I prefer my flat seat, I can’t argue with the feel of this saddle either. Honestly, if I never get to ride in a saddle other than a BD again, I will be a happy girl. Love, love, love these saddles.


Dogrider - networking, not advertising. I am not posting anything for sale here and while I will always share a good deal when I see it, I wanted to get honest feedback on French saddles.[/QUOTE]

Yeah, dogrider, that’s Potato, not Potato.

Look OP, you blog for a company that sells used saddles. Reviews decidedly draw people to your site. Since you sell used Frenchies, you want reviews for Frenchies. Don’t sell, say, Stubbens? So no interest in having those reviewed. Sounds like “potato”-ing for your products to me.

I wouldn’t pick on you for obscuring the commercial/just talking line except for the reviews of iselltack’s sometimes AWOL owner here. People should be informed about that before doing business with you guys.

Otherwise, carry on.