I've said it before and I'll say it again: Butet. I am so in love with mine. It's a flat seat, knee and thigh blocks. It came with those; I really don't think that the thigh blocks make much of a difference because I do ride in other people's saddles sometimes.
I have put my saddle on everything from ponies to 17hh horses. Fits them all! It's incredibly comfortable, durable, and high quality. Would recommend Butet to anyone.
"A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character." - Tesio
I've been riding in a Steubben Lohengrin for years, but have also ridden in and really liked an old Crosby PDN, Crosby Olympia, and the Frank Baines Elan. Recently, I rode in a friend's County Symmetry and LOVED it. A couple of weeks ago, my trainer told me I needed a different saddle to help my position a little more. I ended up finding a used County Conquest that I'm really liking a lot. I've only had a few rides in it, so we'll see how it goes, but it's pretty comfy for me and the horse seems happy.
I have a custom Antares (although not custom to me!). It has a deep seat, forward flap, and buffalo leather. I bought it used for a steal. It fits me and my boy like it was made for us. I've had nice saddles before but this is the first one that fit us so perfectly! You couldn't pry that thing from my cold dead hands.
The dark shadowy place. You must never go there, Simba.
I'm 5'6 with short legs and I ride in a 18" Bruno Delgrange PJ Original with short flaps that was originally bought for a man. It's comfier than hell and fits my horse great, but doesn't always do wonders for my position.
I rode in a friend's Antares the other day (no idea what model) and I swear it made my leg sit so much better and made it sit down longer. It wasn't as comfy in the seat, though. It was way less deep and much less cushy.
I have 2 CWDs (they are for different horses). I adore both of them, they're the most comfortable saddles I've ever sat in. The one intended for my horse fits her beautifully; the other is more of my general use one, which fits a wider range of horses.
I think "pros" and "cons" of any saddle are very personal things. First and foremost, your saddle should fit you AND your horse. What I think is absolutely fabulous might be a nightmare for you.
After having had not one, but TWO complete disasters on custom saddles, I'd advise you to ride in whatever you can get your hands on.
You asked specifically about thigh blocks and whether they help or not. I think that will depend quite a bit on their size, shape and location. My saddle has thigh blocks that work well for me. However, I've ridden in many other saddles that also had blocks but did not feel quite right. Whether that was the block itself or some other aspect of the saddle (flap size, length, balance point, twist width) is another matter.
The only possible thing can think of as a "con" for the brands you mentioned is the softness of the leather. The ones that are mostly made of calfskin (the seat, covered flaps, etc.) aren't going to wear like iron in many cases. They aren't nearly as forgiving of a scratch, wearing jeans or other things of that nature.
Wow! Thanks for all of the replies! A little update- This past weekend, I went to the TB celebration show, and was able to sit in a few saddles over at the VA Horse Trial vendors. I sat in a Voltaire, a Devoucoux Biarritz, and some of the Wise Equestrian Event saddles (just for fun!). I was able to learn a few things about what I will need in a saddle. All of the vendors agreed that I don't just need a forward flap, but an extra forward flap. My thigh is freakishly long..... I liked the feel of the Voltaire saddles, but I wasn't in love with the price tag (since they are a newer company, finding a used Voltaire would be pretty difficult). Also, I wasn't in love with the look of them (not that this is the most important factor, but it is a consideration). I liked the Biarritz ok. It was a beautiful saddle with a good balance, but I prefer a deeper seat. The Wise saddles we pretty cool. GREAT balance, LOVED the extra forward option, and the depth of seat. If I'm ever in the market for an event saddle, I might just have to try one of those saddles.... Trying a few saddles confirmed a few things that I already believed I would need in a saddle. The main two things I am looking for are a very forward flap and a semi deep to deep seat. Also, I would like the saddle to be in the $2000-$3000 range used (even lower would be great!). After spending some time searching far and wide for a saddle that would fit this criteria, I came across a 2005 Antares with an extra forward, slightly long flap and a deep seat. It is also in beautiful condition at a price that is at the higher end, but still within my budget. I ordered it on trial. It should arrive late this week. I'm really excited to see if it works I will update everyone once I give it a try!
You should check out j4j's recent post about seat size and extra long/forward flaps. I was enlightened. Search feature doesn't seem to work for me right now... but if you can find it, you should check it out.
Tad Coffins depress me just a little because I fit in a 17"-18" in every saddle in the world except a Tad Coffin... I had a 17.5" or 18" (don't remember which) on trial and you could hardly see the thing under my rear
LOL! See....I look at it as just a number. This saddle was designed for someone that's my "height' and I personally think it fits perfectly Course I rode in a 18"-18 1/2" before that, so its really not ALL that much bigger then my normal size. I just have a really long thigh so need that extra seat size.
Similar to how I am when I try "other" pants on...in Victoria's Secret I'm a 6-8, in all others....anywhere from a 10-14, which is MUCH more depressing. Thankfully most don't have my length so I"m good in my "small" sizes
Update* I have been riding in the Antares that I have had on trial since Friday, and I think I've fallen in love.... Seriously, I am SO happy with this saddle! It is a 2005 17" Antares with a 5AAA flap and a deep seat. It is in PERFECT condition. The flap is so forward that it looks a little goofy off the horse and I was worried that it may be too forward and long for my leg. However, once I sat in it, I knew it was a perfect fit. It is so amazing to ride in a saddle that actually fits my leg! I will definitely be keeping this saddle!
Ditto!!! I've had 4 saddles made by them over the years--the last 2 both made for my current 4-year-old who is very difficult to fit. David Stackhouse and his assistant Lesley are absolutely lovely to work with and they provide amazing customer service! No nickle and diming like I've heard about some other custom saddle makers.
And the saddles...OMG! Worth every single penny and just beautiful! I've ridden in just about every saddle mentioned and nothing puts me in the right position like these saddles do. I have to be very frugal in my horse spending but you cannot beat a saddle that fits both you and your horse just right (and they also checked to make sure the saddles would fit the other pony I ride).
Just call up David or Lesley and talk to them. I remember calling at 6 pm on a Friday night back in 2004, thinking I'd be leaving a message, and David picked up the phone and talked to me for an hour, answering all the questions I had. I was on the verge of getting a Devoucoux but completely changed my mind with that one conversation. So glad I did!