Saddle Differences

Hi All,

I’m looking into a new saddle for my new horse as my current saddle won’t fit him well and it’s still being used by my old man. I’ve been really into the CWD saddles since I sat in one when I tried one of Michelle Parker’s horses. I fell in love with that saddle and the way it fit my body!

Lately, I’ve seen some Voltaire’s for sale and they look nice as well. I don’t know much about the brands other than what I see online. I’m sure both can be customized but I don’t know much about the different technology between the two brands. Anyone have experience with both saddles and can offer advice? I’m open to other brands as well like Meyer but I’m not interested on Devacoux. I already have experience with the brand and am not interested in their products.

I expect my horse’s back to change shape and I need something that will work throughout his developmental stages. I know nothing is perfect all the time but something that can work with shimming or a fluffy pad is fine too. He’s only 5 right now so still building up that body. I know the new foams aren’t like the old ones but I’m sure there’s some different technology going on between the two brands.

Thanks!

I’m a huge fan of Prestige saddles, the quality is excellent and they are quite adjustable. The tree can be widened 2cm either direction, by a professional, as the tree is plastic and needs to be heated up and changed.

Prefer wool flocked as well since your horse is so young, I feel it would make most sense to stick to wool over foam panels. You can work more with the wool, with foam you will have to switch out the panels as he changes shape which can be pricey.

I don’t have personal experience with CWD, my opinion, CWD and Voltaire, Antares, Devocoux are all brands that seem to always be available used. I don’t know if people just are loaded with money and can keep upgrading, but a lot of the CWD’s I see for sale used, are only a year or two old. My point is, the brands that are constantly for sale make me question why. I find the better brands, people hold on to and don’t let go of.

I would want something super adjustable as he changes shape.

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My requirement when looking over saddles the last couple of years was wool flocked. That was an excellent decision because one horse due to growth and injury (non-saddle related) changed shape multiple times and I could have the saddle adjusted to fit him.

One thing I would say is know what kind of saddle you like. Manufacturers have a “type” that tends to be pretty consistent. Personally I like a flatter saddle with minimal blocks or no blocks. I’ve been riding in a monoflap of some sort for 25 years and I stick to them. I like the close feel of those saddles.

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A helpful first step would be to work with a fitter and ask “For my horse’s back, what brands use trees that should work”. You may adore brand A but if your horse has a curvy banana back and they build pancake flat trees, no padding in the world will fix that.

Another consideration is that the exact same saddle can sit so differently depending on the horse. If you fall in love with a specific saddle, I’d try to ride in the same brand on a different horse. I LOVED Black Country when I rode in one on a specific horse. I loved it a lot less on other horses.

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Not a fan of Prestige either. I have a barn mate who tried and failed to get that brand to fit her horse. It ended up hurting him more than anything else.

I’ve wondered about that too but I feel like people are upgrading more than anything else with those brands. I don’t see a lot of Stubben’s on Facebook but that doesn’t mean people aren’t reselling them. I don’t know anything about Antares either but that’s one I see from time to time.

Wool and foam each have advantages and disadvantages. CWD and Voltaire are both foam saddles. Foam panes often give you a much closer contact, but they can be a little harder to fit. Many will require or benefit from a shimmable pad to adjust the fit as a horse’s body changes over time. It’s more expensive to change the foam than it is to adjust the flocking of a wool saddle, though not that much. I’ve seen saddle fitters in our area charge about $300 to reflect a wool saddle, while most foam saddle makers will charge about $400 to redo the foam in their saddles (assuming you bought it from them; if you buy it used, you’re often out of luck sadly).

I personally prefer the foam saddles to wool. I find it can be difficult to find good saddle fitters that actually make the right adjustments. My boyfriend has a Smith-Worthington reflocked, and the saddle fits worse now than before they modified it. You are really constrained by the expertise and skill level in your area.

Personally, I’ve had CWD and Voltaire. I’m in the process of switching back from CWD to Voltaire in fact because of the expertise. The CWD saddles are great, but saddle fitting is a low-paying, demanding business. They lost a couple good reps in our area, and the new one is very nice, but not the most skilled. Voltaire sent out one of their top experts, and the customer service has been much more responsive.

Basically, I recommend asking what the reps are like in your area (if you’re buying new), or what the fitters are like (if you’re buying used, but they won’t be able to do much with a foam saddle). It’s important to have a knowledgeable expert to make sure your saddle fits you and your horse correctly.

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I was all about wool flocked too but I’ve heard the foam actually gives better shock absorption to the horses back than wool. I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I am very familiar with wool flocking and that’s what I have with my current guy. I wonder though if that’s more of a detriment these days. My farrier has CWD and says the same saddle can fit multiple horses with different backs because the foam is able to accommodate a variety of horses.

I have so many pad options that finding something that works is less of a concern than it used to be. That was my big issue with the wool on my old man’s saddle, when it didn’t fit it really didn’t fit and took forever to get the fitter out. If you have a horse that’s hard to fit, it makes things even worse.

Since you have experience with both saddle, can you tell me if there are any major differences between them other than pricing? The Voltaire seems cheaper and both have different flap options and I’m assuming panel options too. If you take away the rep issue, which would you prefer and why?

I think I lean slightly toward the Voltaire Stuttgart. My first Voltaire was a Palm Beach, and I didn’t like that one at all. I’ve also seen some issues with the trees not holding their shapes as well (this may have been an older problem that’s solved now, but it stuck with me).

The Stuttgart gave me a really true close contact feel. I could feel every muscle in my horse’s back as it engaged. And the pro panels allow for it to fit a decent number of horses without custom adjustments (just not my monster with his massive shoulders lol).

This is in comparison to the CWD SE01 and Mademoiselle. I like the SE01, which is a classic saddle, no carbon, no frills. The Mademoiselle is a little too wide for my hips. I always feel like I’m doing a split. I also think the CWDs are a little heavier and bulkier.

The thing about pads is they can correct some minor bridging and such, but they will not correct all issues (like getting proper clearance over the withers and shoulders). If the saddle is resting on their spine or wither, a pad won’t fix that. If there’s a minor gap under the panels where the horse is missing some muscling, a shin could possibly fill that in until the horse’s top line develops.

But I am not an expert, I rely on them for their feedback, and I trust my own instincts about what I find comfortable and how my horse responds. My horse hated my CWD and was sucking back constantly, pinning his ears, and cocking his tail. He relaxed very quickly in the Stuttgart, engaging his hind end and lifting through his top line, which was something he wasn’t doing in my old CWD.

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I love my Kentaur jumping that I had fitted by Mike Scott in Camden. Less expensive, wool flocked, not beautiful, but fits everybody with a minimal amount of work (I have three in work). All the horses jumped significantly better than they did in my former Butet which I loved.

I actually love the brand, not sure where you read I didn’t like it.

If the brand doesn’t fit the horse then I completely understand, as someone stated some brands run very much the same in all their saddles. I would never say a brand fits all horses, anyone who thinks that is crazy. No saddle itself will fit all horses. I just really like the quality of the leather, the workmanship and the price tag. Their saddles are practically custom to my horse they fit so well, so I’ve not had a bad experience to say otherwise.

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I have had a few CWDs and the SE03 and mademoiselle I found most comparable in terms of seat, ride & twist. I find those two models most balanced from horse to horse. The Madem being a lot more saddle than the SE03.

I currently have my youngster in a new-to-us SE03 and he moves much better compared to a british saddle I had him in. I really appreciate the closeness of foam and use wool shims in a half pad when needed

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Figure out the general shape of your horse’s back (curvy or flat) and find a brand that has a tree that will accommodate that general shape. No amount of padding will make a saddle fit if the tree isn’t the correct shape.

Been there, done that! My horse has a curvy back with wither pockets and my gorgeous County saddles (straighter tree) really messed him up.

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That’s an excellent idea! However, how do I determine tree shapes of different brands?

Honestly, it’s hard to tell unless you contact a rep or search the threads on here. I can tell you that County saddles are built on straighter trees. Black Country has a few different tree shapes. I think Prestiges tend to be curvier as do certain models of Amerigo saddles.

It would be amazing if there was all of that info in one place!

Any saddle fitter worth their salt can tell you which brands have what kind of tree shape.

I have never heard of any saddle fitter switching out foam panels in a foam paneled saddle. I have heard of lots of people swapping out foam panels for wool flocking. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I suspect that is something that needs to be done by a brand rep. If you have a really great brand rep. in your area, that might not be such a big deal. And yeah, I suppose you could just use a bunch of different shimmable pads to keep it fitting right, but wouldn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of having that super close contact feel from the foam panels?

If you really like CWD or Voltaire, then have the brand reps out, and while they might try to sell you a new one, at least you’ll know what kind of tree to look for used. They might even have one used.

Update: I had both reps out but neither had a saddle with my seat size in their brands I try. I did tell them my usual seat size ahead of time too.

Voltaire: my horse ended up going really forward in the saddle. It has a nice wide gullet and it seemed like whatever shimming the fitter did, made it balance for me and did not impair my horses movement. He told me upfront that his approach would be to get a saddle with average panels and then shim to fit because my horse is only 5 and is still growing. Once he turns 8, he would do more of a custom fit. I believe the fee to repanel was $900 but it’s not something you’d have to do for 3 years. I liked their Lexington and Palm Beach models but as he didn’t have my seat size, it was hard to feel truly comfortable getting into jump position. I felt more secure in the Lexington but I think I felt closer contact in the Palm Beach but I would need bigger front blocks if I went with that model to feel secure. He was great, no pressure except when asking what was keeping me from saying yes. Their flaps have a ton of give is it’s great for the shoulder movement. He also knee right away that their fancy saddle with the carbon fiber would not fit because it’s a smaller tree. He said he could have a saddle shipped out with the larger seat size for me to try but didn’t indicate if that meant I was then obligated to purchase. We did not discuss buying used but they are cheaper to start than CWD.

CWD: I specifically told the rep I enjoyed Michelle Parker’s saddle when I sat in it but I didn’t know the specifics. The rep was hesitant to tell me any specifics and complained about people having her out to get all the numbers they need and then buying a saddle elsewhere. Despite using her two pads and mine that usually lifts everything, we couldn’t get any of the saddles to fit my horse without it pinching either side of the withers. She did mention opening up that area but didn’t say how. I think she should have pushed for the classic style where they can make the tree wider but she only brought it up once as an option for being cheaper. I did not like her. The longer we went the crankier my horse got and he was much fussier to ride than with the Voltaire guy. I liked the closeness of the CWD and felt it more so than on the Voltaire. CWD has integrated panels, the Voltaire does not. I did notice I had to bring my stirrups up higher in the CWD but it felt more secure right off than the Palm Beach. With CWD, you either buy custom or you can buy used and you have a 30 day trial but I was told CWD will not re panel a used saddle.

Overall, I’m rather frustrated but I think I’m going to have to go with Voltaire just because it seems to fit my horse better. I don’t think the CWD rep had any saddles with her that had a wider tree. If she did, she did not offer. I might try a bunch of used ones for now since I have a better idea of what I’m looking for.

I don’t like working with brand reps alone because they are just trying to sell you a saddle from their brand, not necessarily the best saddle option for you and your horse. Some of them are also not very well trained and are more interested in making a one time saddle sale than actually getting the fit right. Try to find an independent master saddle fitter that can advise you on which brands and models would most likely work for you and your horse and then go from there. You can tell them what you liked about the CWD and, if the CWD tree just doesn’t fit your horse, they can suggest models that fit your horse and will ride similarly to the CWD. Once you have your list of probable fit winners, call around to the brand reps and ask for the specific model/seat size/tree width that you need to demo. If the reps don’t have what you want to demo and aren’t being helpful, don’t be afraid to reach out to the brand HQ or, if you are ok getting used tack, tack shops that will ship to you for a trial.

I’ll echo what others said about considering wool flocked panels, especially for a 5 year old whose back is going to change a lot. Wool panels can be adjusted to adapt as he grows and muscles up.

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This doesn’t seem like an auspicious place to start spending a lot of money on saddles. That your horse likes it, yes. That you are frustrated, no.

If you are looking to go custom new, now, before you buy, is your chance to make sure you like the saddle. If they don’t have a demo in the truck that matches your specs, what do they have used or circulating around that does that you could try? Equitack is Voltaire’s used arm, free shipping both ways and a 30-day trial on used saddles. (CWD, DVX, and Antares also have similar policies on used saddles and often have Voltaire in inventory.) When I was looking at Equitack’s inventory they also stated that they do a one-time free panel adjustment on saddles over a certain price if the saddle doesn’t fit- this isn’t advertised on their website anywhere but warrants a question. $900 for a panel adjustment is high…

Your CWD rep sounds difficult.

@catchcan I definitely felt like the CWD rep was just trying to sell and I haven’t heard great things about her ability to fit. I totally understand why after my experience. I am looking for an independent person who services my area but we don’t have a lot of options for that or for good quality used tack in stores for me to try. I guess in these fancy brands, I’m more of an 18 or 18.5 seat instead of 17.5, so it’s harder to find. I have found a few good used options to try but it’s like 3 different saddles and some places charge a restocking fee. It’s understandable but not ideal. I understand about the wool flocking. That’s what I have for my old man. The problem I’m having with wool is it shifting around, I don’t have someone great in my area to reflock and it takes forever to get the good person to come out because she’s not local. You also don’t have the same contact feeling using wool. I’m leaning more towards a cheaper used saddle for right now anyways and I can go from there. I don’t know.

@Renn_aissance the frustration is more that I can’t try my size (Voltaire) or know the the saddle will actually fit my horse (CWD). There are a few options I’ve found on the CWD site and the Equitack site. I just need to decide if I want to order them or not. While $900 is high for an adjustment, you’d still come out cheaper in the end than with CWD. And yes, I did not like the CWD rep. I really don’t want to deal with them again if I don’t have to.

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