Fancy Saddle Shopping – CWD

Fancy Saddle Shopping – CWD

As I mentioned last week, I’m in the market for a new saddle. One of my friends told me that she was going to live vicariously through my saddle shopping, which made me figure that it would be a decent process to blog about. Plus, I can’t write depressing broody content everyday… right?

The first company I had come out to fit me and Simon was CWD. People seem to either love or hate the company, but I’m a big enough fan of French saddles that I decided I needed to have them come out. Plus our local rep is someone I had previously met through riding and our local tack shop. I had enjoyed her demeanor and knowledge in the past, and thought she’d be a great person to contact first.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I told her when she first came out the barn that:

  • I was looking at other companies as well
  • I had heard some not so great stories about CWD
  • I wanted to blog about the experience (and asked her permission)

We chatted briefly about some of the not-so-great CWD stories I had been told. Her opinion was that a lot of the saddle experience depended on who your rep was, and that some reps had a not so great post-sale relationship with clients. Like I mentioned earlier, I knew the rep and personally liked her so the explanation made sense to me.

The fitting started with me pulling out my current saddle and basically saying, “This saddle and I were never meant to be. I hate it.” If that’s not a great way to entice a sales rep… I don’t know what is. She placed the CWD 2G next to my Prestige, and explained to me the differences in construction with a CWD versus some traditional saddles. These include…

  • Special rolling of the leather/stitching across the pommel so the seams lay flatter, and therefore don’t rub as much
  • Panels made of angular memory foam, which molds to the horses’s back and is constructed in a way that matches the curves of their body
  • Panels are sewn directly onto the flap so it lays flatter and has a closer contact
  • Recessed stirrup bar so you don’t feel as much as a bump where your leathers go
  • Some kind of cut back flap (forgive my oh so technical terms) near the girth for a closer contact
  • Extreme flexibility in the shoulder area so the horse has more freedom of movement

This part of the pitch was extremely thorough. She answered all my questions and provided a lot of information. I should have probably taken notes, but I imagine all of this is listed on the CWD site if you’re extremely curious. I will say that having the two saddles next to one another made it painfully clear which one was better made and sat at a much higher price point.

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After we chatted, she went on to fit Simon. Truth be told, I’m no great expert in saddle fitting. I felt like what she did with him was a little bit on the general side. She placed the saddle on his back, checked the pinch of shoulders and wither clearance. After explaining a few things about the general fit to me, she said that she would like him in a regular panel with two modifications – “two bumps up” on the withers to give him more wither clearance for his shark fins, and some foam shaved off of the shoulders to accommodate for his wide shoulder. Like I said, I’m no fit genius but the demo saddle she had laid nicely on his back.

Since I have this pipe dream that Simon might eventually fill in his topline more over his back and wither area, I asked about what happens if he muscles out and outgrows his saddle. She said that panels can be modified for around $300, and if a horse would need entirely new panels than she thought that cost around $600. Neither of those figures is pocket change, but it’s certainly less than a new saddle and the low end is comparable to some prices I’ve been quoted for re-flocking on a wool saddle.

We discussed leather quality and options, and she told me the order of price goes Grain -> Full Buffalo -> Full Calf. The grain saddles are standard, and come with a calf seat and flaps. She said that while calf leather is very nice and super sticky, it doesn’t hold up as well as the other options. Grain is the most durable, and she mentioned that many pros like Buffalo since it is sticky but more durable than calf. The grain saddles come with calf knee rolls and seat, and if I wanted to go even more durable I could sub out the calf leather on the seat & knee rolls for buffalo at no extra cost. I’m not a huge leather snob, but it was nice to learn about the differences and hear my options.

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Finally it came time to sit in them. She had two demo saddles with her to work for my purposes. One was the 2G in an 18″ medium deep seat with a forward flap (I want to say it was 3C but don’t quote me). This is by far the more expensive saddle, because it has a fancy smancy tree. The tree of the 2G is made of carbon fiber and she compared it to a snow ski. It will bend and flex a little bit to essentially move with the horse. This model also has a gel seat, and some other pretty techy features for a saddle. I asked if you had to have the giant plastic CWD branding, and she told me the hunter version covers it at leather for no extra cost.

The first thing I thought when I sat in this saddle is, Damnit of course I like the expensive saddle.

Guys, guys – the tree feels SO COOL. It was unlike any other saddle I sat in. It felt like the pommel and the cantle were no longer solid, and I had an extremely close feel of my horses’ back. One strange side effect is that my stirrup leathers actually felt a hole too long in this saddle, and I had to raise them up one. Once I did, everything felt damn near perfect.

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2G

Riding in it, the balance was excellent. While my Prestige kind of wants to throw me out of the tack every time I post the trot, the CWD 2G whispered to me. It said, “Relax… stay close to me… it’s a great place to be!” I found the canter was easy to sit, but I could also easily get out of the saddle to jump around.

What did Simon think? He basically thought “THERE ARE PEOPLE WATCHING ME AND IT’S DARK AND I’M OH SO FANCY WOW LOOK AT ME THIS IS THE BEST RIDE EVER WE’RE JUMPING WITH VERY LITTLE DRESSAGZ!”

Awkward distance, but love my leg. 2G
Awkward distance, but love my leg. 2G

Needless to say, Simon is not much help in the decision making process.

"Just buy one."
“Just buy one.”

After I rode around in the 2G, we switched to the classic CWD model. The main reason for switching was to evaluate whether I liked the medium deep seat or the flat seat, and my rep warned me to try and ignore the seat size (too small) and the flap (wrong for me). Even though I tried to ignore these factors, I didn’t like the classic version at all.

The flat seat pitched me forward, and it just felt like a ho hum regular ill fitting saddle. Nothing special. No rainbows. Nada.

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Classic

Simon? He was still power trotting all, “I GOT INJECTED LAST WEEK AND I FEEL GREAT AND IT’S NOT RAINING AND WOW LOOKIEMEEFAAAAAAANCY”

Again, no help.

I got off and talked to the rep about my thoughts. Basically it boils down to this:

  • I loved the 2G, but holy crap that’s an expensive saddle
  • I like Grain leather, don’t need anything fancier than that
  • My horse thought these were acceptable options
  • I want to try other brands still
2G
2G

How I left it with her is that a roughly $2k price difference between the two saddles was not something I was willing to speculate on. I wanted to try a very similar version to the 2G that I sat in. Basically do more of an apples to apples comparison to see if it’s the magic carbon fiber tree that I loved so much, or the correct seat & flap. She’s going to work on finding me a comparable CWD Classic to sit in, and we’re going to do another test ride.

What does my gut tell me? That I like the fancy tree. Of course I do. I love expensive things!

2G
2G

This was a great intro to premium saddle buying, and I’m really excited about the entire shopping process now. Next on the docket is County!

44 thoughts on “Fancy Saddle Shopping – CWD

  1. You could sit me on both saddles, not tell me a word about either, and without a doubt my butt would love the most expensive one. It’s a gift. You can imagine how it thrills my hubby. I’m interested to hear about everything you try – someday I’m getting a nice new saddle.

  2. I’m telling you–the 2g tree is nothing short of magic. It’s my dream saddle and I don’t even really jump. When they start putting that tree in their dressage saddles, I’m sunk.

    PS full disclosure: I’m a CWD/Antares girl. Or would be, in a universe where I could afford it.

  3. Very interesting to hear what your rep told you. My rep said the same about buffalo being more durable. She also said price wise it goes:
    Grain (calf or buffalo seat/ knee rolls equal)
    Full Calf or full Buffalo (equal cost)

    I am in a SE02 seat with the 2c flap and that was much more comfortable to me than the flat seat. I didn’t even sit in the 2G because I knew I would probably want it and I was not paying that much for a saddle. That said with a pro panel and some padding removed at the shoulders the sadde fit Houston beautifully.

    I was told that if my saddle didn’t fit within a year CWD would fix the panels (for the same horse as original) for free. Then modifications are on me. They did reorder for me when I ordered a saddle I wasn’t able to sit in and didn’t like it after a few weeks of trying to make it work. I reordered a whole new saddle at no additional charge except that I ended up upgrading leather to full buffalo because drool.

    I hope you enjoy your other experiences. Feeling a county right after feeling most of the French brands made me realize the big difference in leather quality. But each person has their preference!

    hope you end up with something perfect! 🙂

    1. It’s very possible she said that Buffalo / Calf were the same price and I got that mixed up. She did tell me about the year warranty, and said that also applied to demo saddles as well I believe.

      Very curious to see how I feel about the other brands!

      1. Kristen from Stampy And The Brain should be able to chime in on the demo as she just purchased. I’m pretty sure they repaneled a demo for her. It wasn’t perfect and they redid it again with no extra charge (as they should imo)
        🙂

  4. I might be in the minirity, but I kinda like saddle shopping. I find it fascinating and exciting, unless your strapped for cash and desperately in need. Or your horse cares (mine gives zero shits about the particulars of his saddle fit) Then it’s annoying.

    In my experience the right size saddle for the rider will make a huge difference, so it’s worth trying the other saddle in the right size. I haven’t tried a jumping saddle in a long time, so all I can say is that seat depth makes the biggest difference to me.

    So fun! Can’t wait to see how County works for you guys! It might be a good saddle for Simon.

  5. You can definitely tell a difference between your normal saddle and that 2G in the riding pictures. I have the classic deep seat in a 3C flap as well, just a slightly smaller seat. So… very similar options! You know I love mine. I will say – I tried a 17″ flatter seat with a 2L flap and couldn’t ride in that thing AT ALL. Amazing how the right specs make all the difference.

  6. Interesting! I have a CWD 2G but I never noticed anything super special about it. In fact I kinda regret not trying more saddles, but there never was an easy way for me to do that since I don’t board at a h/j barn. I find my CWD very comfortable (but no more comfortable than my $1200 M. Toulouse was), but I never got that OMG THIS IS AMAZING feeling about it 🙁
    I mainly bought it because it seemed to fit my horse really well and it was supposedly the “best” saddle out there (or one of the best).
    Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading more about your saddle search!

  7. I DO like the 2g and the flexible shoulder accommodation. I’d also recommend the med deep seat. BUT – I went through a lot of ass pain with CWD where it fit me great but after two weeks or so Elf would start getting back sore. Over and over and over again. Frustrating when they are that expensive although they have great resale value

    1. I too have had very frustrating experiences with fit- have had 4 different reps and each other said the fit from the previous rep was really bad -which I knew. CWD is wiling to try a 3rd completely different size 2g for me, but Im fed up, and ordered a custom Butet, and CWD won’t even buy back their own poorly fit saddle, even at a loss!Bertrand told me `the best I can say is for you to sell it on the market for $4500″ ..I paid $6500 and it never fit!! Id never recommend a CWD. close contact NO, feels like riding in a western saddle.

  8. How fun to saddle shop! And I’m glad you’re being a savvy consumer and checking out different brands. I had a County Stabilizer that was my go-to for over a decade. Awesome, that as my horse aged, we could modify the wool to fit his back perfectly. I now ride in a County Innovation and it’s very nice (blog post to follow in the next few weeks after I have the rep out to flock it some more for better wither clearance).

    I am one of those folks who’s had a bad experience with CWD. I won’t go into all the details, but the way the company made things right was a trade off–I had to remove my blog posts suggesting I wasn’t in love with the saddle and they worked with me to resolve the problem. In the end it was somewhat of an amicable break-up, but I did have to relinquish my First Amendment Rights. An awkward situation, for sure. Can’t wait to read your next post!

    1. Ohh. so thats what I need to do! ? I ll let them know of my bad experience blogs, and then they will make it right? I think CWD has given up on customer service. Who did you contact at CWD to help you relinquish your first amendment rights:) I’d do that to get my money refunded.
      I’ve been very polite and then firm, and now Bertrand simply ignores my emails.
      awful awful. not what I expected when I spent as much on a saddle ($6500) as I did on my horse!

  9. I’m super excited that you’re blogging about your saddle shopping process. I love my Amerigo, but I only bought it because it was the best fit for my horse that still worked for me. One day I’d love to buy something that is ideal for both of us.

  10. I’m glad you’re blogging about all this. I feel like I can learn from your experience without doing it myself. I still need a new saddle, but with no reps in our area, I don’t know what else to do.

  11. your saddle shopping experience already sounds way more fun and awesome than my own haha – those saddles are gorgeous! for the sake of your budget tho my fingers are crossed that it was the correct specs vs. the fancy tree that had angels singing for you! good luck!

  12. This post made me think that you should be keeping a detailed spread sheet and do some fun and fancy infographic saddle show down later before the big reveal of what saddle you go with!

  13. I LOVE my CWD SE02 2C. Fits me and my horse well. I look forward to hearing about your saddle finding experience. I did not know the 2G comes in a Hunter version though…. ack. I want!

    1. Its not really a hunter version.. more jumper no matter what they say. And don’t even try to adjust your girth safely, its not possible in the 2 G, as the flap doesnt bend due to the titanium piece of metal in it.
      If you love your CWD SEO2, stay with it. Many people I know are not happy with the 2g.

  14. We do have a pretty fantastic CWD rep in this area 🙂 I have yet to sit in a CWD that I feel comfortable in, but I think it’s just my preference for a flat seat and no blocks. I’d like to try the SE03, and the CWD trees are pretty dang cool. Good luck with all the shopping!

  15. My two cents (probably only worth 1 though!)
    Definitely try the correct size other version. You can’t compare something that fits you to something that does not. My step mother has the same saddle I do, but it’s a size bigger for her long legs. I can’t ride in it. And I love mine.
    And point two, careful with those trees with all the give. While on the one hand, yes they give to the horse’s movement and are all free and flowing… BUT they also give to your imbalances and movements and translates them right to the horse. It’s similar to what happened with the Tad Coffin saddles. Everyone wanted one, and then everyone’s horse’s had sore backs.

  16. I think they went out of business, but the only saddle I have ever sat in where my butt screamed for joy and I saw unicorn farts on the horizon was the WISE saddle. It had such amazing features and was like sitting on air. Easy to post, 2 point, sit any gait. I loved that thing. Unfortunately, my mare is the devil when it comes to saddle fit and I ended up having to sell it. The company was co owned by Phillip Dutton and someone I can’t think of right now, but the other owner ( a Brazilian eventer) had a serious riding accident causing him to shut it down. You can still find the saddles out there and they are absolutely amazing.

  17. I have to agree with the comment above about the tree being flexible and giving to the horses movement. Sometimes we want a little give, but sometimes we need it Not to. If you need it not to, how do you make it stop? Can you make it stop?

    It’s much like the gel pads that came out not too long ago and were all the rage. Problem is, the gel moves out from under where the pressure points are and the saddle still doesn’t fit like it should. Besides that, the gel is encased in plastic which doesn’t allow the horses back to breath. All things to consider.

    Try the other saddles before committing to any one. I’m interested to hear about the County saddles. I almost got one a few years back at what would have been a helluva deal. Whether it fit my horse or not, I could always flip it for a profit. That makes the uber expensive saddles, not so out of reach for some of us.

  18. The more expensive saddle is (hopefully) more expensive for a reason. I think saddles are one of those things where you should buy the best quality that you can afford. It is definitely worth it.

    I rode in deep-seated dressage saddles for years and thought that I loved them. Then I found out that the conformation of my seat bones is such that a flat, wide seat actually allows both my seat bones to make even contact with the seat. Wow. What a difference. The deep seats also force me to sit in one spot (the valley) while the flat seat allows some adjustability. I have no idea how I would feel about a jumping saddle though rider fit is definitely as important as fit to the horse.

  19. I’m another that is going to have to live vicariously through your saddle shopping trials. My girls & I need better fitting saddles but budge just won’t stretch at the moment…hopefully some day I can partake in the glory that is saddle shopping

  20. I do not need a saddle. I can not afford a saddle. And yet this post makes me want a new one. I’m completely dumb when it comes to saddle fit. I’m glad that you’re blogging about this. Living vicariously through you.

  21. I, like some other commenters, kinda liked saddle shopping. Though when it came time to make a decision, I did find it difficult.

    Growing up, I was tall and had extra long legs. Saddle fitting for me was difficult. I ended up with a Crosby XL H, and at one point, a Dominus. I loved both to pieces. The Crosby had a much narrower than normal medium tree, and as I found myself needing horses larger than 15hh skinny quarter horse, it just wouldn’t fit. I also was about to enter college, etc. and just didn’t have the time to ride as I used to.

    Now, out of college, I have another horse and about two-three years ago, I started saddle shopping again. I rode in a lot of consignment saddles and I will echo that if you are not able to ride in something that actually fits YOU, you’re not going to have a good opinion on it. I didn’t get to try anything like a CWD, but I did try County: the placement of the stirrup keeper on the Stabilizer was SO annoying and rubbed me all the time. It sits much higher on the flap than other saddles: I’m eager to here what your experience is like, because I’m apparently the only person who has this problem… ha!

  22. I have never ridden in the 2G but I am oh so curious. Your post just made me curious-er! But definitely agree you should compare apples to apples. I also admit to knowing nothing about CWD (rode in an SE01 seat once, hated the balance) – Antares and Butet all day, erry day. Good luck with the search and I’m so glad you’re blogging about it! Have you considered the used route as well? I’ve seen some decent deals on used 2Gs out there.

    1. After my experience with saddle reps from CWD, and trying several loan consignment saddles, I don’t understand the joy in looking for a new saddle. Good to know some people love it. 🙂 I just want a great saddle that fits me and my horse. My CWD 2g isnt fitting me, or my horse. Its still pinching his shoulder despite 3 reps trying to make it right. Whats fun about that? 🙁

  23. Thanks for sharing your saddle shopping journey! Very interesting… I’m decent at saddle fit when it comes to looking at an individual saddle sitting on a horse, but I know next to nothing about the finer points of the saddles themselves. When I bought my saddle for Prince I just bought the same thing as my favorite lesson saddle because I knew it fit him, what I rode like in it, and it was in my price range.

    It fits Hero well enough, but I know I could do better, and I know this time I’m going to want to really take my time trying different options and I know I’m going to end up wanting something high end this time around.

    Still working on saving up for it, but sometime in the next year I’m hoping to do some saddle shopping of my own… so thanks for sharing!

  24. Oooo, saddle candy!!! This is why I have to wrestle with myself to not sit in expensive saddles — um, because they feel awesome & then I have to slouch home now knowing that my life will never be complete unless someone wants to buy me $3,000 presents, sniffle. Those days are past…lucky for Solo, he got his during the golden years!

    Fascinated by the carbon fibre tree, would love to feel that (MUST. NOT. SIT. ON. ONE.), so many great geek-out angles there. Thanks to you & the rep for sharing the details of the visit too, nice angle & it’s always refreshing to hear about a GOOD rep/fitter, they can be harder to find than hen’s teeth!

  25. Like everyone else, I am extremely interested in hearing about your process. I am constantly amazed at what goes into saddle shopping these days – not all that long ago people didn’t put NEARLY as much thought into it. You bought a ______ because that’s what EVERYONE had (when I was teen it was a Crosby PDN, of course) and I don’t think the horse’s back or conformation figured a whole heck of a lot into the equation. That’s what pads were for! 🙂

    If you haven’t already I would recommend perusing COTH saddle threads, though, as people have many details to share about shopping, fitting, reps, companies, etc. and they certainly talk about the high-end models a LOT.

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