I will admit that in the days after I ordered my Arion, I was wondering if I was massively crazy. First and foremost because any saddle purchase is always a big one, and for me this was by far the biggest one I’ve ever made. It was my very first brand spankin new saddle. And while I had a good feeling about the company and the rep, the fact remained that Arion is newer compared to the stalwarts we’re all used to (Devoucoux, CWD, Voltaire, County, etc) and I rode in one for a grand total of like 15 minutes before I took the plunge. I was sweating maaaaaybe a little bit.
A lot of factors drew me to pick Arion. The price (a bit lower than comparable brands), how the saddle felt to ride in, the turnaround time (they quoted only 5 weeks compared to 14-18 from others), etc. I liked the rep I spoke to in Kentucky, and I thought it was a bit serendipitous that the Florida rep is actually a good friend of one of my good friends. I tend to have a deep-seated mistrust of a lot of saddle reps at this point due to various experiences over the years, so having someone that I liked and felt like I could trust was a big selling point as well. I decided to go with my gut, placed my order with Arion, and proceeded to wait.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait long. Only 4 weeks later, this beautiful hunk of buffalo showed up at the farm. Four weeks from order submission to arrival from France is pretty damn impressive for a custom saddle. Full disclosure, I did have some initial disappointment because I ordered it with blue on the cantle and obviously there is no blue. They did offer to make it right though, either with a new saddle or with an accessory of my choice. The rest of the saddle was perfect, so in the end I decided the blue wasn’t a dealbreaker and I opted to get a girth instead of a whole new saddle. Slightly sad it doesn’t have the blue on it, but… meh. I needed a new girth, so it’s fine. I did appreciate that they were immediately responsive, apologetic, and willing to fix it.
As for the important part – it felt great from the very first ride. The buffalo is GRIPPY (I hemmed and hawed about that upgrade but am 900% glad I did it), the balance is impeccable, and I feel very secure in it. Henry’s saddle is a Devoucoux Chiberta, and I had been riding in Hillary’s Voltaire Lexington, and in my opinion the Arion rides kind of in between both of those.
In the Devoucoux I felt secure, but also like I was always struggling a bit to keep my leg from getting too far out in front of me. In the Voltaire I liked it a lot for flatting because I felt very balanced, but when jumping I felt like it pitched me a little forward and made me want to pinch with my knee sometimes. I have neither of these issues in the Arion. I just am where I need to be, and there’s no struggling. I can move where I need to, but it wants to help me stay where I’m supposed to be. I honestly like it even more now that I’ve done more things in it. I hack in it, flat in it, jump in it, go XC in it, and from horse to horse the overall balance and ride remains really good. So far I have no complaints about that at all, I think it’s an exceptional saddle, particularly for cross country. Hillary made the mistake of riding in my saddle “just to see”, not expecting to like it as much as her Voltaire, but turns out that was a big whoops because now she wants an Arion too. It has that effect on people.
I opted for the pro panel since I needed it to fit two young horses that are still growing and changing. Luckily Presto and Gemma are similar in shape so I can get by with one saddle for both of them at the moment, and the pro panel is a pretty good fit. I did opt for the shoulder relief option in the panel and could tell an immediate difference with Gemma. As they both grow and develop I may end up having to re-panel it later, but for now it’s working out well. Happy backs and free shoulders.
Luca has already checked in with me twice to make sure I’m happy and everything is going well, and to ask for my feedback on the saddle. So far I’ve had nothing but good things to tell him. I do appreciate that their reps don’t just take your money and disappear. He even came by last week when he was in town to check up on us in person and make sure me and the horses are happy with the saddle. I get the feeling like if I did have a problem, they’d do whatever they could to fix it… which is important, because it’s certainly not the feeling I get (or the experience I’ve had) from other brands. Everyone I’ve talked to and dealt with has been great, and from what I have seen they seem dedicated to good customer service and happy riders.
A little bit about Arion in general, for those who haven’t seen much of this brand yet and have been asking me…
They’re a French-made saddle company, relatively new to the scene but have been around for enough years to have started making an impact. They have a lot of h/j riders in particular, and really started pushing more into the US eventing and dressage markets in the last year or so. What I think is of particular interest about this brand is that in addition to their full custom line, they also have a more affordable semi-custom line called the Atlas. Those are similar design, also made from buffalo, but start at only $3500. Super attractive price point for a French-made buffalo saddle (fun fact, Emily Hamel rides in the Atlas line), and could be a good option for a lot of people.
Arion has got all your standard options – close contact, xc, and dressage models, sizing and specs out the wahoo, customization, etc. I will also be 100% honest and say that on the most extremely superficial level, the fact that all their brand’s stuff is navy makes me very happy. I cannot even tell you how much I hate the green and yellow of Devoucoux or the the bright red of CWD or the brown and turquoise of Voltaire. Vomit. But my navy Arion saddle cover and saddle pad and shirt? I’m in.
I also know the Texas rep, so if anyone in Texas or Florida wants their info, drop me a message. So far I’m very pleased with my decision and my saddle! I’ll check back in after more time goes by, but at this point I have to say that if you’re looking for a new saddle, Arion is definitely a brand worth checking out.