Need a saddle for a tricky-to-fit horse

Hey all! I’m looking for advice on saddle fit for my horse that is nearly impossible to fit for a saddle. I’ve been part of the CWD gang for a while now, but it doesn’t seem to be fitting my horse’s (large) shoulders. Over the summer he got really sore because my previous saddle was pinching him in the BACK of the saddle (panels were too tight on his back and with only a fitted pad for showing, he got really sore). That was also a CWD. I swapped to another CWD that is much better in the back in terms of pinching, but is too tight in his shoulders and low in his wither area, and the way that his muscles are causes the back of the saddle to rub him. Obviously given his history of soreness, this is something I’m looking into. I’ve tried him in some other saddles as well, such as two different versions of the Voltaire Palm Beach (too tight in shoulders/withers, I think one had pro panels and the other had custom panels for a friend’s horse), and an Antares evolution. So far the Antares is what we’ve liked the most (fits shoulders well) but with the way my horse is shaped it still moved a bit as we rode. I really like the french saddles, and I’d prefer to stick to them. We’ve also tried a variety of pads, which have made the problem a bit better but I’d rather address the problem than avoid it. We’re headed to Ocala in a few weeks and if we don’t figure out a good saddle before then, I’ll have more fitters look at him in FL.

I guess what I’m wondering is:

  1. Has anybody had success with saddle brands or models for similar problems?
  2. Would a non-slip pad help with this kind of thing?


Have these all been saddles with foam panels or have any been wool?

When I went jump saddle shopping last, I took my mares back tracings to a good mobile consignment seller of French foam. We put the tracings into everything and seller concluded my mare had shoulders and back that were too big for most French foam brands. There was one model of Equipe she suggested I look for.

I ended up with Passier, like my dressage saddle. County has also been a good fit for her. Stubben was fine in the gullet and shoulders but the Roxanne I tried rolled on her, wrong tree shape.

I would try to step outside your foam comfort zone. You do not want an unstable saddle jumping. You do not want to be trying sticky pads to make up for poor fit. Get something that fits the horse. I’m old enough to remember (like ten years ago) when a wool flocked County was the absolutely favorite high end jump saddle :slight_smile: and they work just fine.


Cooincidentally, I just got home from a saddle fitting for our new horse. Our fitter, who happens to be a fellow boarder & also one of the barn managers – despises French saddles. ( Ironically, our trainer is sponsored by a French sellier for jumping saddles – a MW tree fits her horse. In what basically sums up everything I love about our trainer, she has no issues recommending saddle fitter to clients.) Saddle fitter won me over to her anti-French sellier viewpoint when I worked with her on our “adults only” leased pony. Almost impossible challenge, yet she was able to figure out an option that fit & the pony clearly loved. Complete 180 in behavior under saddle from the first moment. At today’s fitting, she managed to do the absolute impossible: convince my very aesthetically conservative 14yo, a Hunter/Eq rider.

Fitter’s main complaints about French saddles are that shape of the pommel/gullet is built for rider comfort but is too restrictive for most horses & the fit and shaping of the foam. If she had to pick one French saddle, it is the Antares Evolution. Honestly, because that isn’t working for your horse, I would branch out & try some non-French options. I never paid much attention to shape, only width. I can now see the difference in the way the trees are shaped. But it was really watching a 13yo pocket rocket pony realize that for the first time in her life, a saddle wasn’t pinching the holy crap out of her shoulders & withers that did it for me. I was sitting 50’ from the arena and could still see her exhale 10 years of anticipation. The difference in her way of going was mind-boggling. Virtually all the problematic behaviors just went poof in an instant.


One of my horses has really big shoulders but is overall still a medium tree. I always had issues because the saddle would get pushed back from his shoulders, but if I just went to a wider tree then his wither didn’t have enough clearance.
I got a Verhan saddle about 7ish years ago for him, and it’s worked out wonderfully for him. The Verhan saddles have generous cut outs for the shoulders to move freely. It’s one of my favorite saddles. It’s more English in style then French though. They may be able to custom make you something more ‘French’.

They are based out of Ocala now. It may be worth a try since you will be in the area anyways.


Everything but that Antares has been foam. The Antares was wool.

Yeah, like scribbler mentioned, I’d step out of the foam world and try out more wool flocked saddles. If you’re having issues with shoulder pinching/sitting too low on the withers, it might be worth checking out saddles of the German persuasion with u-shaped head plates (not hoop trees). I don’t mean to sound snarky, but if you like the close contact French saddles, German ones are not that… Good news is though, you’re headed to a mecca of saddle fitters and used saddles to try out!

I would look at Equipe, Prestige and Amerigo if you like the feel of French, but need more adjustability.

Oh and some of the newer Stubbens are really great saddles that have a much more h/j aesthetic.

Haha. I still think of a good County as the classic jump saddle and the look of some of the French saddles as oddly stitched and padded, but I know fashion changes!!

I just ordered an Equipe Allegra (new model) in medium wide for my horse with big shoulders and high, sensitive withers who also tends to get sore in the lower back. It’s a similar idea to the Antares Evolution in that it has a more cutback tree. When I tried the demo, horse could actually go straight on his own without me managing his shoulders, and the saddle didn’t twist. He had been making do in a CWD as the best of the worst (at least it didn’t make him lame and we could rehab his back), but he got too wide for it.

Of course now he injured a shoulder by making poor life choices and will be out of work for quite a while, but I’ve got a couple more months to wait on the saddle anyway. That’s my wallet you hear crying.


Oh and while I think Equipes do have a pretty French-like feel generally, the Allegra in particular fits to the rider very similar to a flat seat Butet.

I’m also a do-or-die French saddle fan, but for my former big-shouldered mare, none of those worked. I ended up with a County that she didn’t object to too much. I never loved it, but perhaps if I’d bought new/custom, I could have gotten options closer to what I like about my French collection. The used saddle I bought for her just felt slippery and hard to me. I ended up selling the horse but wouldn’t hesitate to look at County again for future hard-to-fit horses.

Barn mate of mine had a similar set of fit issues and ended up moving from CWD through a long saga with an Antares to a Schlesse that has worked very well.

I ended up with an Amerigo DJ Largo for a wider sport horse

Interesting. I may be about to do the same. My young horse had some saddle fit issues and we ended up with a CWD that he loved. He went so beautifully in it that his topline completely changed and, after 6 months, it’s suddenly way too small. We are getting a Schleese on trial this week that is much wider and adjustable. My fitter was very enthusiastic about this saddle when I sent her the link. Fingers crossed, he’s so happy with a better fitting saddle, and I don’t want to lose the momentum we have gained.

Excited to say that we figured out the issue with my horse and it is not as saddle-related as previously believed! The vet came out and took some x-rays and he has a trouble spot (that we will be injecting) that happens to be right under where the saddle’s have been bugging him. The vet doesn’t think that it was created by a saddle, but of course it wasn’t helping! However, I will probably be following all of this advice when we go to look for a saddle after we deal with the obvious medical issue. Thank you all!


I found the Stubben Portos Elite fits my big wbs the best. All the french saddles have the same tree which jabs shoulders on the big sloping shouldered horses I own. The flex tree in the Stubben prevents this problem. The saddles are kinda hard and slippery at first but they break in and last. And they are not too expensive.

You can get a biomex seat in Stubben that’s anatomically padded for the rider!

I tried everything for my horse. A big Warmblood with a big shoulder, good withers and a hard to fit back. The Voltaire was amazing for him when I had the rep out and for the first time I felt him really use himself especially through his shoulder as it was so much more open. Its too bad that the palm beach you tried didn’t work. I eventually got sick of having to ship or transport all these second hand saddles trying to get one that fit so I ended up ordering a custom for him. I can’t recommend Voltaire enough, the rep was amazing so knowledgeable and helpful. I would suggest having them out and see, their consultations are free and it may be better than a friends saddle, best of luck!!

yes and I bet they are comfy but some of the models have an unconventional design that I feel funny with in the hunters