Manufacturer: M.Toulouse (View all products by Marcel Toulouse)
Model: Aachen (View all Aachen reviews)
Category: Dressage Saddles
Purchase: Purchased this saddle through SmartPak Equine, Dec. 2009, due to their free shipping promo and their return policy. Paid $999 for a brand new saddle. I have seen them go for less at other online stores, but I trust SmartPak (loyal longtime customer).
Likes: I have had some higher-end saddles in my life, and this saddle ranks up there with the best in terms of balance and comfort. The leather, as other reviewers have noted, is absolutely amazing. I'm a devoted full-seat wearer, and even my slipperiest knee-patch breeches are secure in this saddle. I'm currently coming off a Prestige 2000D, and thought my position problems were due to myself (constantly fighting to keep my leg long and my thigh vertical), and I have had great difficulty sitting my gelding's bouncy trot. After riding in this saddle just once, I could keep my leg long and sitting trot was actually comfortable! My gelding also didn't hollow his back in sitting trot, which speaks volumes for HIS comfort.
Dislikes: The only negative I can say about this saddle is that right by pommel, where the nailheads are located, there are a couple of stitches that looks fairly cheap to me. The billets are also not of the quality you'd expect on a high-end saddle - they're strong, but they're not "finished". Other than that, my non-horsey husband was extremely impressed, and the rest of the workmanship is well-above average. Please bear in mind that this is a sub $1000 saddle. It doesn't appear to me that the makers have sacrificed quality where it matters (i.e. safety).
Quality: Due to the way the saddle allows a long leg and the slightly forward flap, my thigh actually does not come very near the kneeroll, which is on the smaller side compared to my Prestige. This isn't a bad thing, as I have had trouble with most dressage saddles and the knee rolls/block being too vertical, with my knee pressing against or even overlapping the roll/block. The saddle is so supportive that I find that I don't need it at all. I normally take a 17.5-18" in a dressage saddle (my Prestige is a 17"), and this saddle in an 18" fits me perfectly, with a little wiggle room. I could probably go down a size, but I have a long thigh and like the room it gives my leg. I also have a 31" inseam, 18" from hip to knee, and I'm 5'5 overall. The billeting system is slightly adjustable - the front billet is located near the front, almost like a point billet, and there is a "Y" sliding billeting system in the rear. I haven't had reason to adjust it on my fairly average gelding. However, my Wintec girth tends to draw in both billets close together, which might pinch on a more sensitive horse, so a different girth or some adjustment may be in order. The gullet is a bit narrower than on my Prestige or on an Albion, County, or other brand that is known to fit a broad-backed horse. If you have a super-wide, table-topped breed (like the more Baroque breeds, or a QH, draft cross, or Morgan), I wouldn't recommend this saddle. Even the extra-wide doesn't get that wide. Go up a tree size when ordering. They run narrow. For a TB type, though, I think this would be perfect. My typey Trakehner gelding normally takes a MW in most saddles, and this one is close fit for him. His Prestige is a 34cm, his Amerigo jumping saddle is a MW, and his Black Country XC saddle is also a MW.
Summary: I find that I like to sit back a bit more, especially in a dressage saddle. MY Prestige tends to sit me a bit further forward, more like my Amerigo, over his center of gravity. This sits me back a bit further, which I like because it helps me keep my upper body and thigh back at the sitting trot and canter. It rides more like an Albion in that respect, than like the French and Italian saddles. Definitely a saddle to consider, especially if you are on a budget, and even if you're not.
Usefulness Rating: 4.41667 out of 5.
36 reader(s) voted.
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