03-04-2009, 04:57 PM
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Maureen, There are a good number of things to look for in saddle differences. Besides the leather, look at the stitching, the conchos, the strings, the tree, the seat, and look at the carvings.
A cheap saddle will not have even stitching, the leather color may vary on different parts or look wiped on instead of dyed. The seat will have a cheap look to it and typically be a rough out suede. The tooling will be machine done which can be seen by unevenness or looks shallow or lightly hit. The tree will be nylon or fiberglass (a wood tree may be fiberglass covered and that's OK).
A good saddle will just have a quality look to it. It will have a wood tree typically covered in rawhide (in some cases double covered in fiberglass). The tooling will be deep and even. The leather will be supple and of even thickness with finished edges. The billets should be leather not nylon. The conchos should be heavy duty not light weight. The strings will be good quality latigo. The rigging should be stainless, brass, or bronze, the padding should be heavy and most likely sheepskin (although many makers are using a heavy synthetic now).
If you put two saddles together, it is easy to see the difference. It would be easier to show you rather then just tell you! OH, and if there is no makers' mark, it's most likely imported and to be avoided.