Manufacturer: Collegiate (View all products by Collegiate)
Model: Finalist (View all Finalist reviews)
Category: Close Contact Saddles
Purchase: I purchased this saddle from a local tack shop because show season was coming up and I needed my own saddle. There were already to many occasions in the past where another rider and I planned on using the same saddle, but used different horses. I paid about $730 without fittings.
Likes: The finalist is one of the most comfortable saddles I've ever ridden in. The seat depth is perfect for jumping and flatwork, and there's a nice amount of padding on the knee rolls and seat. The thigh blocks (which are on velcro) are adjustable, so you can move their position by a couple inches in any direction, or remove them at will. It took nearly no time at all to break in the saddle, with the exception of the billets. The billets broke in at an average rate. The european leather appears to be high quality, and the two-tone looks adds a clean, stylish touch.
Dislikes: The stirrup bars are pushed in to far. The first time I attached my leathers, one got a nasty scratch because I had problems putting it in. The scratch is not visible unless you remove the leather, but it's still scary to adjust my stirrups. There's a bad sound and I'm afraid it might happen again unless I find the correct angle. This might have been due to the fact that my leathers were new, but the bars are still to blame. I would not recommend this saddle if the stirrups will be adjusted a lot. Also, there's a bit of puckering around the flank of the saddle. It's not noticeable from a distance, but Kincades don't have this issue, and so I don't think there's an excuse for a nicer saddle to have it.
Quality: The Finalist's construction and quality is amazing- Even more so considering price. It would be nice if it came with the easy change gullet system, but since a regular size tree fits 85% of the horses out there, I think I'll do just fine. Even though now (Summer 2007) it's a relatively newer saddle and there aren't many used ones on the market, it seems like it'll hold its value well if there's ever a need to sell. My instructor wanted to buy one for herself the second she rode in mine!
Summary: All in all, the Collegiate Finalist is one of the nicest saddles for an individual to own. The leather, quality, look, fit, versatility, and most of all comfort make it one of the best saddles on the market. It would be better off used by an individual other than five people for a riding school program, but is definitely a smart choice for almost anyone. (Men might not find it as comfortable due to the slightly wider seat, designed for a woman's form)
Usefulness Rating: 2.8 out of 5.
10 reader(s) voted.
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