Model: Paris D
Category: Jumping Saddles
Purchase: I bought this saddle from Aitkens in Australia and paid normal retail price. I have owned/jumped in Prestige, Stubben, Bates and Kieffer. My opinion and comparisons are based on this level of exposure to other brands.
Likes: Prestige saddles look great and the leather quality is beautiful. The Paris 'D' is doubled with soft calf leather which is very sticky. It's hard to go past the Paris D, Meredith D, or Michel Robert for stickiness and security (although Kieffer does have an equivalent 'sticky' model). It has an adjustable gullet like Kieffer saddles, which is a big advantage when you change horses, or your existing horse changes shape with work or old age.
Dislikes: The cut is wrong. Prestige saddles all seem to be cut too short in the front of the flap. The only way you can get your knee nestled in correctly behind the blocks is to ride with stirrups that are basically too long. You need to be a short-legged midget, otherwise you will undoubtedly need to order the one with the additional 2cm in front. I had mine for 5 years and finally sold it because I was sick of my knees sticking over the front. I look at everyone else riding in Prestige saddles at competitions, and EVERYONE has their knees almost poking out over the front. This is with the exception of one of my friends who actually IS a midget, and she fits her little legs perfectly into her Michel Robert. It really is the perfect saddle for her. Everyone else seems to ride around oblivious to the fact they aren't fitting into these saddles. The seat is flat (which is good), but it is also very small. I ride in about half a dozen various 17.5" saddles, and I'm a small dress size in this country, yet I feel more comfortable sitting in a 18.5" Prestige. Considering I fit perfectly fine in a 16.5" Bates Isabel dressage saddle, I think I can blame the sizing discrepancy on Prestige. I also don't like the price. Yes, they are a very good saddle, but so are Stubben, Kieffer, and several other top brands. Even for their level of quality, Prestige are overpriced. that is unless they are all hand-stitched by virgins in the Tuscan hills out of leather from the hide of a near-extinct species of Italian calf. But none of that will help me jump better, so they are still too expensive.
Quality: There's no pretending they aren't an excellent quality saddle. they certainly are. I just don't think they quite live up to the marketing hype. You also must look after them. Soft calf leather and lots of riding don't go together unless you have a habit of looking after things. Just look at how beaten-up, wrinkly and worn some of the older ones look. Mine still looked like new after 5 years of riding, but it was cared for and oiled regularly.
Summary: They are a great saddle if you legitimately fit into one. When you try one out, really look closely at how you are sitting, your stirrup length, and your leg position on the flaps. I think less than 30% of people could honestly say it's the right shape for them. If you are in this 30% and have lots of money, then you can't go wrong with one. If you are in the other 70% and care about value for money, then buy something else. I'm not against ever owning another one, but I would make sure I bought one with the extra 2cm on the flaps (an extra 4cm if I could), and I'd need to purchase it second-hand to take the nasty edge off the price.
Usefulness Rating: 4.1 out of 5.
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