Saddle Envy

So it’s no secret that one of the pros of horse shopping that besides sitting on nice horses, you also have the chance to sit in different saddles. Nice saddles. Voltaire, Amerigo, Pessoa, Antares… you get the deal.

I also had a mini lesson from a friend on her OTTB who is a lead change maestro, so that I could finally get to sit on a horse that had this skillset and learn the cues to ask for the change. She has her guy in a Stubben saddle, and I was prepared to loathe it as I have every other Stubben I have ever sat in, including the other Stubben she had on her pony cross. But you know what? I loved this saddle. More than loved it, in fact. I actually came to realize why exactly she describes the sensation as having one’s ass sing. It’s amazing. My leg fell exactly where it should. I felt more balanced in the 2 point than ever before. The feeling of security I had in that saddle was incredible. The con? The saddle, a Zaria Optimum with the Biomex seat, retails between $4,000 and $4,500.

Cantering about in the Stubben Zaria Optimum

Cantering about in the Stubben Zaria Optimum

This of course compared with the lovely Voltaire saddles I’ve also sat in recently, which supposedly (because my 30 second google search didn’t find anything new) retail for around $5,000.

Voltaire loveliness

Voltaire loveliness

Of course the major trouble with all this is that I have opened Pandora’s box- I now know what it is like to sit in a saddle that puts you in the right place, and conversely I now feel how much I am constantly fighting my Toulouse monoflap. It’s become a definite thing for me, even though searching for saddles before having the new horse is a thoroughly moot activity. But I’m taking the opportunity to sit in anything and everything in hopes that I can find a cheaper alternative to the buttery leather options that command such high price tags.

A Prestige I attempted to squeeze in.. this one was not a good fit but was a good deal. Womp womp.

A Prestige I attempted to squeeze in.. this one was not a good fit but was a good deal. Womp womp.

So far, no dice. I have a long thigh bone that requires a more forward/long flap than some of the close contact options I’ve tried. Plus, there is something really really nice about that calf block.

This guy felt good in the store, but having heard that Pessoas don't hold up well [opinions?] might avoid the brand

This guy felt good in the store, but having heard that Pessoas don’t hold up well [opinions?] might avoid the brand

I’ve now mentally started budgeting for a used option of a higher quality brand, in addition to the new pony costs. Because nothing says “I’m an equestrian” like being money poor but rich in pony breath and leather goods.. right?

29 thoughts on “Saddle Envy

  1. If you don’t like the Toulouse, you probably won’t like the Pessoa either. They haven’t been great since the 90’s. Totally feel you on the saddle woes though! Once you feel amazing, it’s hard to settle for meh.

  2. Try heading out to Rocking B out in Hillsborough. Their hours aren’t the best (typically close at 5:30 I think on weekdays), but they do have a good selection of used saddles. I know several Prestiges and Stubbens were there when I was looking (admittedly, it’s been a while). They have a pretty decent trial situation.

    Other used saddle shop I will recommend is down in Aberdeen, Barn Door Consignments. I ended up in something that’s kinda unique: saddle made in collaboration with Wayne and company over at Country Saddlery in Pinehurst. Love it, and never would’ve heard or found it before if there wasn’t a similar sized lady who put hers up for consignment there. Originally, since custom, it was in the price range of those Voltaires, but because of the lack of resell value, I got it for a song and have loved it ever since. Again, their hours aren’t easy to get to, and they’re a LITTLE more anal about trials, but they have a good selection.

    Stubbens last forever. They’re not buttery soft, but once you do break them in, last forever (I rode in my mother’s from when she was a child, and you’d never know it was that old). Newer Pessoas I think don’t have that same lasting power, but could last you a long while (my old trainer rides the crap out of them: at least 6 hours a day in the saddle and they last a few years). Pro points are that the resale is pretty decent and there is a lot of customization without a huge price tag. I kinda think of them as the Toyotas of the saddle world.

    Just my two cents as a local person. 🙂

  3. “Because nothing says “I’m an equestrian” like being money poor but rich in pony breath and leather goods.. right?”

    This is so accurate it hurts haha

  4. A lot of the older Pessoas will probably outlive me, but I’ve heard the newer ones don’t have the same durability. While buying my saddle hurt my wallet intensely, I don’t plan on buying another one for at least 10 years.
    Rich in pony breath and leather goods. Amen to that!

    • I was lectured recently about why it’s worth buying a quality saddle that fits rider and horse, rather than buying something cheaper that doesn’t work. I’m starting to become convinced, for sure.

  5. I also have long thigh bones and like a thigh block. I tried a saddle from a woman who was a saddle fitter, and while that one didn’t work for me, she recommended the Thornhill Germania saddles. They’re wool flocked (a must for me so it can be fitted, plus foam becomes rock hard in our Wisconsin winters), have knee and thigh blocks, nice leather and are very affordable. I originally was looking for a Pessoa or similar, and I ended up finding the perfect Thornhill Germania and I love it. (And my wallet loved it, too.)

    • What’s the leather like on the Thornhills? I’ve noticed them before but never actually met one in person- do you feel like the leather will last a long time?

      • The leather is nice and pretty soft (but I do like a little sturdier leather). It definitely seems like it will last a long time. It’s really comfortable but not super cushy in the seat. I know it’s personal preference but I don’t always feel like the really squishy ones let me be as nuanced with my seat. I honestly feel like I got a super quality saddle that is much less expensive in large part because it’s not a “brand name.”

        • Also – if you’re not familiar with Redwood Tack, check out her online shop. She has a lot of really beautiful saddles and if you get in touch to tell her what you’re looking for, she’ll keep an eye out for you and notify you by email when new ones matching your criteria become available. The prices for her saddles seem fairly reasonable (though still much more than my Thornhill!), she ships for free, and allows trials. Although I didn’t end up purchasing my saddle from her, she was fantastic to work with and really helpful!

  6. Count me another not-a-fan of the newer Pessoas! I had an older one that I absolutely loved and was of good quality, but the newer ones I’ve seen have very poor stitching and low quality leather. I’d pass! But if you liked how it felt, perhaps look for a nicer saddle with the same shape!

  7. I’m still kicking myself for selling my stubben. HOWEVER there is currently a tent sale on the stubben north america site which has a couple of Zaria Optimums for less than $4k.

      • Sigggghhhh. I start my new job this month and am not in a position to buy a saddle (even one majorly reduced) at the moment. BUT the good news (sounds like it might be good news for you too given your horse shopping!) is they usually have another big sale in January, so hopefully by then I’ll be able to either replace my jumping saddle or get a dressage saddle. I currently have a Toulouse Laura B and it actually fits me well. Unfortunately it does not fit my TB well, hence why I really, really miss my old Stubben Roxane. Sigh again though. I do **love** that Zaria. I got to test ride one with the softer seat, and though it felt weird at first looking back on it it was heavenly. Good luck saddle hunting! If you haven’t already you might also try pelham saddlery online. They have a HUGE used selection, including stubben demos.

  8. I swear every new saddle that’s worth its salt is $5k. Outrageous! Older Pessoas are good circa early 2000’s. I also have a long thighbone and need a forward flap, and like my Prestige for that. It’s great for jumping, but hard for me to flat in because it puts me in a chair seat.

    • I’ve been thinking about the Prestige monoflap but haven’t had a chance to sit in one yet. I definitely like my dressage Prestige, and I must say the price tag on them is nicer than the Voltaires and Stubbens…

  9. Once I started riding in nicer options I was ruined. As Amanda said I doubt you will like the Pessoas long term quality. Good luck finding a saddle! Maybe you’ll have some extra wiggle room in the shopping budget for a saddle 😉

  10. Ugh saddle shopping is that one thing that the more I learn about it, the more I dislike it lol. All the same – nothing beats that feeling of absolute comfort and security and feeling like you’re in exactly the right spot!!

  11. I am probably the only one in the blogging world that has a Smith Worthington saddle. And holy mother of god do I love it! Is it French leather? Hell no- it’s a solid saddle that hugs me close when Chimi bounces over jumps that would launch me clear into the next county if I had a flat saddle (big man has big jumps!) it fits my long femer really well and I feel very secure and comfortable in it. I can’t remember exactly which SW it is but it is love in a saddle WITHOUT the insane price tag! (Somewhere under $2000) and the best part the tree can be changed to fit your horse if need be! Oh and another good point for you is I got it from Rocking B 🙂 love Dennis and Linda! Yes there is a small break in period bc it’s not calfskin leather but at the same time it will last for ages and is still comfortable from the start. I flat in it, I jump in it, I basically do everything in it. So I do think it is a worthy saddle for you to look at and see if it fits you too!

  12. Pingback: Saddles for trial | A House on a Hill

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