Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Don't know about Montana, but where I live in Arizona, I'd never ride a horse if I needed to have someone competent fit the saddle to the horse.
The basics aren't changed between English and Western saddles. Does the angle of the saddle in front match the angle where it hits the horse's shoulders? Is the horizontal width close? If the horizontal width is a little too wide for the horse, some padding will work. If the angle is wrong, then the saddle is wrong. How closely does the saddle curve match the horse's back? If your horse is a banana back, get a banana saddle. If your horse is a table back, get a flat saddle. Make sure it doesn't put pressure on the spine.
If you get the saddle before the lessons, make sure you read up at least on English riding. A western seat used on an English jump saddle can make your horse very unhappy, and even damage his back. Jump saddles should be ridden with a forward seat. Dressage saddles are closer to being ridden in western style, but a western approach will still put too much weight too far back.
A horse that neck reins western will still neck rein with an English saddle, but real English riding takes a different approach to using reins. I switch saddles regularly, but always use the same approach to reins.
"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."