I am in Montana also. I am attempting at getting into the English world. Right now I am working with a trainer but she does mostly AQHA HUS type stuff.
I know there are some people in my side of Montana, but I know nothing about Eastern Montana. I know theres some in Billings but....thats pretty west when it comes to Montana :P
If you're ever in the Bozeman area you will have a fellow English (kind of) rider.
Stormy, you would be very surprised. Montana is mostly ranchers and western riders. There are some AQHA breed shows, but as far as eventing/HJ whatever goes, it is very few and far between. The Dressage show I'm going to be going to in June is about an hour and a half from me and I am in western Montana where we have a bit more going on.
There is stuff, just very few and very far in between.
You weren't kidding when you said eastern, Appy. Good luck! I have been pestereing everyone with questions so at least you will have company :P
An older leather saddle is a better investment than a new Wintec. They will hold their value better and you will get more use out of them. You may have to get it reflocked, but with a good cushioning pad (like a ThinLine or Skito), you can get away with waiting a while on that. It costs about $80-150 to have a saddle re-flocked, depending on how much work needs to be done and the saddle fitter.
Plus those CAIR panels do NOT fit all horses. Just because they're air filled, does not mean they will completely conform to a horse's back. I have see three very different models of CAIR Wintecs fail horribly on different horses using a Port Lewis Impression pad. They do well on some horses, and then do fine on many others, but when a horse doesn't like them or they don't work, you can get some pretty darn STRONG reactions, lol.
I had a Pro-Jump and it worked well on my mare, but my gelding bucked like he had a mountain lion on his back, lol.