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Saddle types

My daughter is looking at many different saddles… She is going back into riding after over 25 years. Saddles have changed drastically!! She will be taking lessons and prefers to buy her own saddle. Any thoughts??
Right now the leaders are Voltaire, Devoucoux, and CWD… mostly the Buffalo I believe… Pros and cons please… she is looking at used ones.

Saddles are very much a personal preference. Some people will say use the lesson barn’s saddles, but I think that so long as you get a versatile fit, it absolutely helps to have your own nicer saddle to ride in. I’ve had a CWD and a Voltaire, both with pro panels, both with around a 4.5" point to point measurement (fairly standard tree these days). I bought a shimmable half pad to be able to make tweaks to fit for the various horses I rode, but I knew they were all going to be reasonably similar in size and type. The best way for your daughter to pick is to sit in some of the options and see what she likes. I found the Voltaire Palm Beach to be the most versatile, and the way the saddles are made it is pretty easy for Voltaire to change out the panels if she some day leases or buys one and wants to tweak it for that horse. I had a nightmare experience trying to repanel the CWD - wasted 6 months, they created a new problem trying to fix the old problem. The barn she rides at may have some options she can try, or used saddle shops like Highline Tack and Maryland Tack Exchange will let you take theirs on trial.


If your daughter hasn’t ridden for so many years, I would suggest she uses the lesson saddles until she has regained muscles and, most particularly, her seat. What feels ok at the start will likely not be ok within a couple of months so the money would just be wasted.


The school saddles unfortunately don’t fit her, they’re mostly just 16” and 16.5. She’s a true 18.
That’s a very great thought though, hopefully she will be able to trade it back to the place where she’s looking towards a different one if that happens. She kept hitting herself so badly on all the school saddles… :frowning:

Those French brands your daughter is looking at are very popular (at least CWD and Voltaire, I’m not sure how popular Devoucoux is anymore) and hold their value well, so if she decides she needs something different, she should be able to either trade it in or sell it on her own and use the proceeds to buy something else. Happy shopping.

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I would suggest shopping from a used saddle dealer that allows trials so she can get an idea of what she currently likes in terms of flap sizing and forwardness and seat depth. Plus buying a good condition used one won’t take such a dive in value compared to the insane prices for those brands new these days if she needed a new saddle in a couple of years say because she bought a horse for which this saddle doesn’t work.

I’d recommend Goldfinch Fine Tack (on Facebook) and Highline tack. The owners are super nice and helpful in figuring out a good match. And allow trials. But if they don’t have the right inventory there are some others out there like MD Tack Exchange which tends to get in several of these brands.

If you have a good local rep, they may also have some used inventory. CWD and Devoucoux were allowing 30 day trials at least for a while last year on their used saddles.


If the available saddles are too small, I’d look for a middle of the road wool flocked saddle and not a foam French saddle. For $500-800 she can find a decent saddle and invest in a good half pad with ships. Regardless, unless she has access to lesson horses of very similar shape, it’s unlikely that one saddle will cross over to multiple horses. I’m surprised that a lesson program wouldn’t have adult sized saddles. Do they have a lesson string with enough variety to help her develop or will this be a short term relationship? If so, even more reason to limit the investment if the next barn may have saddled better suited to her needs.


She needs to discuss this with the coach. If the barn is halfway decent they don’t put any old saddle on any old horse. They may need to shim or bump up some saddles, but they are aware no saddle will work on all the horses.

If she wants to buy her own saddle it needs to be in co-operation with the trainer and perhaps the trainers saddle fitter to make sure she gets something that will fit most of the horse’s she might ride. One option is to go a bit wide in the withers and then shim as needed.

For this purpose, I’d suggest a used synthetic Thoroughgood or Wintec if the tree is a decent match for the horses. These can be had for under $500.

If you need to scale up, a wool flocked older jump saddle.

I would not suggest going for a French foam saddle at this point. New they are $7000, second hand never under $2000, and no you can’t easily trade them in on a new saddle, you need to sell them on and consignment stores take a 30% cut.

You could buy 3 or 4 different 18 inch saddles for that price, one for each lesson horse!

Also the French saddles fit one kind of horse better than others.


It is not accurate that consignment is a 30% cut. Highline only takes 18% and is a great option – IF you have a current brand with a decent resale market, which all of the brands she is considering do. But I do agree that talking to the trainer about what would work on their horses is a good plan, he or she may have helpful suggestions or know of options that would be good fits!

If someone is looking at the buffalo versions of Voltaire, Devocoux, and CWD, I would guess synthetic saddles are not really going to be of interest. That’s not everyone’s thing. And buying a wool flocked saddle just creates an extra hassle and is not realistically something someone will fool with often in a lesson situation (when I had one, it was even a pain just for my one horse! And then the fitter who did the flocking moved and there was no one in the area to do it!). If it makes the OP’s daughter happy to get a nice, current brand that she feels comfortable riding in, she should go for it – a saddle should be something you love since you’ll use it all the time!!

@GraceLikeRain even if a barn has something that would be considered an “adult” size saddle, there can be all kinds of issues. When I was taking lessons and then leasing, they had a saddle I could use, but it was so damn slippery that it is a wonder I never came off LOL! It was a bonus to be able to use it til I could get my own, but the trainer and I both recognized I really needed something else, it was hindering my position and uncomfortable. It helped that I was almost always going to be riding similarly built WB’s, but a pro panel with a shimmable half pad gave me all the adjustability I needed.


Yes, if you can afford a second hand CWD for $2000 or more, and realize you will not get all your money back, and if that’s a reasonable fit for the horse or horses you will be riding, certainly there’s nothing wrong in choosing one. It’s just those are the most expensive options out there.

As far as CWD versus Voltaire versus Devoucoux etc that will depend on what panel configurations she finds on the resale market. Also flap size and placement and depth of seat can affect effective seat size.

All these saddles are originally sold as semicustom to a specific horse and rider pair so the trick is finding a second hand version that lines up with your needs.

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Boy, thank you so much. This is the OP’s daughter replying on this thread. As a 48-year-old, I want quality over affordability. I foresee myself developing bad habits based on making compensatory shifts to save my body from hurting in the saddles that my trainer has available. In fact after just a single lesson with her I knew I was shifting my seat to accommodate for the lack of clearance near the pommel (if you catch my drift). I am learning a lot about saddles as they have come a LONG way since I last owned one (in 1991) and there are so many more factors to consider that were not a “thing” in my youth. I am working with a good semi-local second-hand saddle shop (Redwood Tack) where I am able to try the saddles and she has been incredible! She’s been helpful in finding flap size and position and seat options and sent me with home with a few saddles to try on the 2-3 horses I will be riding. Should these not pan out I have an appointment with my trainer’s saddle fitter next Saturday. I think that this thread has been helpful and hopefully I am able to secure something that will work (and then get the shimmable pads I will likely need) for me and the variety of horses I have to work with. If after a few years I find I need a different fitting saddle, I will cross that bridge then. Until then I want the best possible option that will work for my situation. Thanks so much for your insight and help. It is great to read all of the comments here. The last time I read the Chronical it was mailed to my physical mailbox!


Good to hear you have good help on this and congratulations on getting back into the saddle.

I returned to riding lessons when I was in my mid 40s unsure where it would take me, and ended up loving it again and getting my own horse. I did suffer through somec horrible saddles (on good horses) for the first few years of lessons and now have my own second hand 18 inch dressage and jump saddles (Passiers, my mare doesn’t fit the French brands but they are lovely saddles).

Feel free to come on here and ask advice on everything! There’s a returning rider thread on here somewhere too.


Awesome!!! I will go and look for that I know my Mom, (the OP) who is turning 70 this year in August, wants to return to riding also!!!


I came back to it in my 40’s too and was exactly in your shoes - I never regretted buying the newer saddle and not trying to find something cheaper to just make do for a while. In fact I ended up needing a configuration that was really hard to find used and had to order a new CWD and still didn’t regret it. I enjoyed it for several years, it fit me well and helped my riding, and I had no trouble selling it through Highline when I bought a horse it didn’t fit. You are on the right path with the resources you are consulting, try a few, see what you like, and go for it, it will make a big difference! There are lots of good shimmable half pads out there now, and your trainer and/or the saddle fitter will be able to help you tweak the shimming if you need it.

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That sounds like a really great option. If you’re leaning towards one and the trainers fitter isn’t a brand rep, it would be beneficial to have them assess fit. They can give you in person guidance on how or if you need to shim across those horses. Many trainers have a good eye for awful/not awful but don’t have the additional training to get fine grained regarding fit. If the trainers fitter is a brand rep, they may still be able to help but I’d be prepared that they’ll try to convince you to buy their brand new or at a minimum sell you one used.


I will second the idea of buying better quality. I have bought cheap saddles to use on growing young horses and HATED them so much. They didn’t fit me well, didn’t fit the horses well, and I ended up selling them at a loss to get something else that was made better both times.

The French saddles tend to hold their value well, but try everything you can. If you can try a bunch of brands you will hopefully find something that fits. I love my Voltaire Stuttgart and it fits my jumper perfectly, but I think the Palm Beach tends to suit more horses and riders then the much deeper seat of the Stuttgart. I also had a County that fit a variety of horses, and a Devoucoux that was pretty easy to fit different horses with a halfpa.

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My suggestion is get an independent saddle fitter (not one associated with any brand) to help. We just found out that my custom made saddle does not fit my horse at all and could be causing her back soreness. An independent saddle fitter can help find what you need thats close enough to fit with pads etc.


@Horselover511, we’re in the same age with similar situations. My horse is out of state and has his own custom-fitted saddle, but I lesson at home and have my own saddle here. I only get to ride once a week at home due to my career. For the reasons you mention, I also don’t like to ride in schooling saddles. Some, like the Dover Circuit Pros, have a wider twist that gives me hip pain. Some don’t have great balance. Some have skirts that are too long (I have a short calf) and I don’t get the contact I need. Some put me in a chair seat. The list goes on… I only have an hour a week to ride, and I don’t want to spend that precious hour fighting with an ill suited saddle. And like you, I’ve hit a point in my life where the equipment matters and it was important for me to be able to choose the stirrups, leathers and saddle that make me feel optimal contact and security. The ground feels a lot harder these days!

I was lucky in that I already had a Voltaire Palm Beach that fit my previous horse, so I sent it to their shop in FL to have Pro Panels installed. It fits a wide variety of horses, and I have a shim pad to also help ensure a nice fit for those times when a little extra support is needed.

A friend of mine also had to sell her horse when she went to college and she also had Pro Panels added to her Palm Beach so she could use it for lessons and show leases. It’s worked out well for her, too!

Best of luck finding something that works for you!

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