I mentioned in my previous posts that I am on a saddle quest. This quest involves finding a saddle that fits my darling Rio, and that I feel comfortable and balanced in as well. I currently have a 17.5 inch 2010 Antares 3AA flap (long and forward) with a 4.5 in tree and pretty standard panels from what I can tell. It is a great saddle- I actually really love it. I feel very secure in the half deep seat, and it has served me well these past 2.5 years that I’ve owned it. But alas, it is not a great fit for Rio, it’s a tiny bit too wide through the front panels/behind the shoulder area and too low in the cantle, I would definitely prefer more spine clearance and not to NEED a half pad. The flap is also not long enough for me, and the forwardness of it combined with the slightly deeper seat means I have to fight to maintain a consistent 2 point at the canter. Would be great for a horse with less withers and a broad shoulder, and a rider with slightly less leg who prefers a more secure seat.
Why buy new?
I am pretty sure I could be quoted at one time saying, “I don’t know why anyone would buy a new saddle. You can find lightly used ones for a fraction of the cost, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Well… after looking at used saddles for about 2 months, I now know why people buy new. I have freakish long legs, and a huge horse but not your typical warmblood build (prominent withers, slab sided, not very wide). Finding the combo of these things in one saddle was just NOT happening. I finally realized that if I ever wanted the find a saddle I’d have to consider going custom.
I have been served well by French saddles, so I considered what I know about the various brands and picked out a few to demo: Voltaire, CWD, and Butet. I set up demos over a week and tried them all. Are non-French saddles just as good? Probably. I am not familiar with them and neither is my trainer. I felt more comfortable going with the “known” versus spending a lot of time and energy with the unknown. That said, if none of the knowns worked for Rio, of course I would venture out. He isn’t THAT hard to fit though, so I didn’t think that would be necessary. I also know that French saddles have very good re-sale value, which is comforting when you are spending an arm and a leg on one. I’d hate to buy a custom from a lesser known to the H/J world brand, and it not work out after a time and it not have any resell value.
So… who is the winner?
Drum roll please!
Voltaire for the win! IMO, the Palm Beach was a perfect fit for me, and with a little customization, will work great for Rio. They have a wide open channel with a lot of room for the spine, which I love. He felt awesome and so relaxed in it, and my balance was wayyy better. I also loved the close feeling with the horse, it wasn’t as bulky under my leg compared to other brands. I struggled to decide what leather option to go with, and after discussing each at length, I decided on the full calfskin option. Once it gets here (late February) I’ll have 3 months to test it out to see if it needs any further adjustments. There is also a tree warranty of (correction) 10 years, and a leather warranty for 2 years.
Huge thanks to Brittany (TX sales rep) and Bertrand, who is the sales manager for the US and has been with Voltaire since the company was founded. They were an absolute pleasure to work with, and I feel very confident that they will do everything possible to make sure Rio and I love our new saddle!
Can’t wait to try it out when it arrives in 12 weeks!