I've been on the saddle hunt for 3+ months now, purchased two saddles that didn't work for various reasons, and am ready to just have a saddle that fits. The Antares rep was out on the weekend for someone at the barn so I had him look at my horse too and was shocked at how well the "cut back" (Evolution) tree fit my horse compared to everything else we have tried on. He is a TBxWB with a moderate whither and HUGE shoulder and it really gave him a lot of shoulder freedom without slipping back (a problem I have often).
But the price of a new Antares makes me want to and spew, and I know the chance of finding my size, his size, and the cutback tree used is slim. I'm also gunshy of buying yet another saddle I havent sat in first.
Is there anyone else who makes the cutback tree that is as comfortable as Antares? Maybe not as pricey, or has used saddles that are easier to find?
My friend's daughter rides in CWD saddles, and it seems like they are always trading in one for another. The have a lot of used saddles on their web site withh great pictures and details. It seems like if you know what you are looking for specifically, it's only a matter of time before one comes up.
I have a Smith Worthington with a semi-cutback head. Great saddle and much more affordable than Antares, even custom. Mine is the Stoneleigh AO model which is sort of like a Pessoa AO but more durable. Mine is 18 years old this year and still looks great.
They are hard to find but I don't understand why..this feature is .so helpful in getting a saddle to fit multiple horses.
Passier. It's easier to find their dressage and all purpose saddles than their jumping saddles, but there are a couple on eBay now for under $2K, so there are a few out there. They tend to have a very forward flap and both knee and thigh blocks, as they're intended more for jumpers than hunters.
Kieffer makes lovely saddles with very generous shoulder room and cutback heads for big withers. Like Passier, they're not "in style," but they are gorgeous saddles. Not cheap, though, but you may be able to find one used for a reasonable price because of their relative unpopularity in North America.
Another one to look at is Lovatt and Ricketts -- my horses all have the giant shoulder/big wither combo, and my ancient L&R has fit everybody. Their h/j saddle is about $2900.00 new, which seems to be about $1000.00 cheaper than a used Antares! They're an English-made saddle, and they don't have the "look" that's going in the hunter ring now, but they are comfy, lovely saddles and mine has lasted forever.
I would ditto the Northrun Ashland, however, it isn't as comfortable as an Antares. But...it will probably last you forever and hold up better, plus is about $3K less. I'm saying this as both a previous Ashland owner and current Antares owner! Don't get me wrong, I love my Antares but the Ashland I had before was going on 12 years and still looked pretty nice, with the exception of the seat (and even that, after the two years I owned it, wasn't dying anytime soon!)
If your heart is really set on an Antares, let the rep know to keep an eye out for one with your specs. There may be a demo version out there somewhere for sale. Also, there are a couple people out there who "rep" for Antares, but give you a huge discount if you don't need special paneling options. It drops the price of a new one to around $3500 (Smartpak does this, along with a French dude who's name/website I can't remember)
I don't need special panelling options, the demo M15 fit him very well but the rep won't sell the demos until the end of the year Does Smartpak sell the cut-back tree?
I will look into the other brands as I contemplate spending so much money on a new saddle! He did give me a discount if I order with a barn-mate but its still a painful amount of money to spend, and to be without a saddle for 12 weeks.
Has anyone heard of there being different "degrees" of cutback in a tree? I was just asked this question by one of those "rep" stores. I would have thought it was a situation of cutback vs non cutback as opposed to a "how much cutback?"
I'm not sure whether its a case of them not knowing what I mean vs me actually having a clue!!
I'm well aware that the latter might entirely be possible. This saddle fitting stuff is a giant PITA