Hoping some of you who are more knowledgable with the fit of French saddles can help me out a bit.
Without getting a rep out from every French saddle maker, how can you tell what is going to fit your horse? I have ridden in Childeric's pretty much for ever, but recently had a CWD rep out and really liked the SE01. They were slightly higher in the pommel and thus had more whither clearance. I also found that they put my leg in a position that gave me better balance.
Without being able to try all of them, is there a way to know that they will fit similarly to the CWD? I'm not aware of any local saddle fitter that carries all of the French brands around like I have heard of in the US, and access to many of the saddles is harder. I've seen a few Antares and Dev on US websites (high end used saddles, etc) that I like and seat/flap wise look like they would work, but I worry I'll get one up here and it won't fit. I really do like the CWD but even used they are quite pricey and hard to come by - seems the rest of the French brands are a bit more reasonably priced used.
If you are considering bringing in a saddle from the US, you really want to be pretty certain of the fit - at least for the horse, which can be done with comprehensive back traces (not just the wither trace) - be aware that you may end up paying GST when the saddle comes across the border & I don't know anyone that has managed to get that returned, once paid.
If I recall correctly, saddles manufactured in the US, are not subject to GST, but this is obviously not the market you're looking at.
To try all the french saddles, a major show/trade show is your best bet (if you contact the organizer they usually have a vendor list quite far in advance of the event).
Whenever you look at these "custom" saddles, fit may vary significantly between individual saddles (for both horse & rider).
As you have a CWD rep available, you might consider looking at their used saddles online & asking the rep to select those most likely to fit you & your horse & arrange transport.
If you contact someone such as Fine Used Saddles or CWD etc, there may be saddles already on trial in Canada & you may be able to arrange shipping within Canada & then just be responsible for any return fees (but no chance of being hit with the GST).
Anyone you know in the area who owns another brand who might let you try? That is how I tried the three major brands (CWD, Antares and Devoucoux) and was able to compare them back to back.
Also, are you asking about fit for you or for the horse? Because I found that all the saddles were very different. Comparable in quality for sure, but balance and twist and all that were different. I liked the CWD but man...that pommel is high. Antares is what worked best for me.
Kate, I found the same thing with the CWD pommel. But I have nothing to compare it to, so I'm not sure if I'm just used to the super low pommel on my Childeric? Pretty much everyone I know in the area (well enough to borrow their saddle) has a CWD or a Childeric, but I am going to try a Delgrange soon as well. I really liked how the CWD put my leg, though, and was hoping maybe one of the other French brands was built similarly.
What about Tad Coffin? Or is that a totally different ballgame?
I'm MOST worried about it fitting my horse, but he is a pretty standard fit. Just needs a bit more clearance through the whither than my Childeric offers, but my saddle does fit him "fine". It definitely isn't hurting him. The CWD rep suggested adding more padding (ie: an Ogilvy pag) for a more comfortable fit for the horse, but I ride in a Thinline and like to be as close to the horse as possible, and was impressed at the extra ballance the CWD offered as well.