Nicole Puts You In the Right Place

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The Passier Grand Gilbert has great “parents,” a world-renowned rider and an even more world-renowned saddle maker. Designer Nicole Uphoff is an Olympic gold-medal-winning dressage rider, best known for partnership aboard the breathtaking Rembrandt. G. Passier & Sohn is in its fourth generation of ownership.

The Grand Gilbert is constructed on Passier’s PS tree, which was developed over 40 years ago and involves over 1,200 manual steps to make. It’s primarily made of wood and leather, although bamboo canes are also used in order to maintain a high degree of flexibility. The gullet plates are made of top-quality alloyed steel. The seat and knee inserts on the flap are Jupa leather for softness. Jupa leather is a soft, smooth cow leather that undergoes a special vegetable tanning process.

The triangle or “V-system” of the long billets and the overall proper design of the panels — combined with the depth and width of the gullet and the shape of the panels — give the Grand Gilbert exceptional stability on the horse’s back. Our test riders marveled at its flexible fit, and we found the saddle well balanced with enough spine and withers clearance for most horses.

The thigh supports are small in comparison to many dressage saddles on the market today, but Passier believes they help the rider’s legs stay in the proper position. We were skeptical at first but found this to be true. The seat and flap allow an average-built rider to maintain proper position without feeling forced into place, although a rider built long from hip to knee might experience a tendency to “climb” onto and ahead of the soft, wedge block.

The seat has a medium-to-narrow twist, which all our women testers found comfortable. The supportive balance in the seat allowed the rider’s leg to fall naturally into the correct position. Even the one tester who swore she preferred a larger thigh block was pleased.

The only complaint we had was that the saddle was hard and difficult to break in. A less-experienced test rider wasn’t comfortable until the saddle had been ridden in more extensively. This difficult break-in period is typical of Passier saddles.

While you’re going to have to give it time, even with repeated conditioning of the leather, we believe this saddle will outlast many of the cushier saddles available on the market today. It’s a trade-off, really, whether you want instant comfort or saddle longevity.

While we believe the Nicole we tried is suitable for most horses and riders, you can get custom options:

• Seat depths: regular or deep.
• Panels: gusseted or not.
• Thigh supports: regular and large (??” thicker).
• Seat and flap sizes: Custom.
• Tree widths: regular, wide and custom.

All Passier saddles are stamped with a serial number. The Grand Gilbert is a high-end dressage saddle that is suitable for all levels of riders and their horses.

Contact Your Local Tack Shop Or: German Equestrian Manufacturers 866/436-8225, www.passier.com.

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