I've also looked into Collegiates. I have one that I love, but it's an eventing saddle and not suitable for competetive jumping. My friend, I believe, has the Convertible Alumni....I found this one used for $800, what do you think of it?
I paid a visit to the local [super overpriced] tack shop today to try out their selection of MTs. I must say, I'm very disappointed. I tried different sizes in Annice, Denisse, Legano, Premia, Noelle, and Padjette, and they all seemed to put me in a chair seat. The Lucia II and Legano fit much better than the rest, but they only had a 17" in the Lucia, which was too small. I think I'll order a trial on the Lucia II from Classicsaddlery.com. I also tried a few Stubbens, and again, major chair seat! **** long femur. Just for kicks, I tried a Passier dressage saddle and am absolutely in love with it. Suchh a nice saddle. My goal is to sell my too-big and too-small dressage saddles and buy a Passier used.
^^ I never had it with my MT (but I didn't try the models you mentioned, and yes, Claudine is not common - I got it in my local tack store and they had only one in stock), but yes, Stubben puts me in chair seat position too for some reason - I tried several (Collegiate as well BTW). Passier is very nice though. :)
I just bought the Stubben Roxanne and love it, love it, love it! And so does my horse. Once I found the right stirrup length, it naturally puts me in the best, most secure seat I've every had. Tried an MT and it was horrible - worst saddle I've sat in. Collegiates are nice, fairly reasonable and easy to find used.
You'll find that sitting in a saddle in a shop sans irons is completely different from sitting in it on a horse with irons. I ultimately picked my saddle by having a Stubben fitter come out, fit my horse and then having me ride in about 8 different saddles until I found "the one". SmartPak has a great Test Ride program that lets you actually ride in the saddle on your horse for up to a week before buying. Best part is you don't pay shipping either way so you're out nothing if you get a lemon that you hate. That's how I tried the MT. I highly recommend trying it out.
I've decided against the Beval; the seller seemed very scketchy and I didn't trust the situation.
I would love to find a local tack fitter and have them come out with a bunch of saddles, but I haven't had any luck in finding one local yet. I'm leaning more towards the Legano because it is more of a jumper/eventer saddle, and I've heard the Lucia II maxes out at around 3ft. The site I was planning to buy from only has a 17" in the Legano, however, and I think I need a 17.5 for my long leg. Thanks for the suggestion re Smartpak; I might just try a trial from them first!
I have a Collegiate Diploma and I ADORE it. If you've got a long femur though, I'd recommend the Collegiate Alumni, or the Bates Caprilli CC. I've never ridden in the Alumni but it looks like it would fit a longer thighed rider well. When I was saddle shopping I rode in my coach's Bates Caprilli, and found it REALLY comfortable. My only qualm was that it seemed to put me in a chair seat, but after reading some reviews I found that that seemed to be a recurring issue in riders with short thighs & long calves like myself. :) I really loved the saddle besides that and would recommend you give it a try if you can!
Also, for the record, I find the Caprilli CC runs a little bit big, just a smidge...my coach's 16" fits more like a 16.5", another one at my barn is 16.5" but fits like a 17". Just something to keep in mind :) I can send you a picture of my own Collegiate Diploma that I adore, if you'd like! They're very similar saddles.
These are the best pictures I've got of it at the moment...I'll try to get some better ones whenever I get a chance if needbe. :)
What kind of back are you shopping for? I know the Caprilli and my Diploma fit basically the exact same. My boy's got a very wide barrel + back, and basically no withers...LOL. His weight fluctuates too when I can't ride as much in the winter so I find the interchangeable gullet is really useful in that situation.
AAAAnyway...pictures as promised. If you'd like some more of it on him or of his back or anything let me know :)