I paid $175 for a no name saddle at a horse auction this spring. Can't find a manufacturer's stamp on it anywhere. The leather isn't top quality, but the tree is solid and sturdy (the saddle is NOT particularly lightweight) and the seams are well sewn. The saddle isn't new, but it's been well cared for. And, it fits my hard to fit horse.
I think the point I'm trying to make, it that spending $1000 isn't always a guarantee of quality (that's about what the Billy Cooks run, and I've found some really narly ones), and sometimes a low price isn't indicative of a bad deal. HOWEVER - know your stuff.
If you are looking for a good saddle, do NOT look on Ebay, unless you are willing to risk losing money on the deal. The pictures of the saddles can be misleading and there is no way to actually feel the saddle - Is the tree tight, is the leather good quality - is the dye rubbing off? are the seams nice and straight and even? You can't always tell that in a picture.
Yes - the odds are if you bid on a TexTan or Bighorn or Hereford or whatever big name saddle, you are bidding on a decent saddle. But - you are depending on the seller to get the measurements right, and/or to know from whence they speak when they say the saddle is in good condition.
I paid $450 for a saddle on Ebay. It had a 20" seat and was supposed to fit "most" horses. Got the saddle home and a horrid winter storm it - couldn't try it on Dancer for a couple of weeks - and by then the return window had expired. The saddle was poorly made - might have lasted me a year at best - and only if I always used a mounting block. The seat was slightly warped and the stupid saddle had an 8" gullet. No WAY was it going to fit Dancer's high withers. I put the saddle on her and the rear popped up nearly three inches. To me, $450 isn't cheap for a saddle. I eventually sold the saddle on Craigslist - for $200. The lady was as large as I am and rode a flat backed draft horse. The saddle fit her horse okay, but still wasn't going to last her very long. (She had the same plan of action that I did - get a saddle that fits our butt now, and lose enough weight before the saddle gives up the ghost that a smaller saddle seat would be in order. Smaller meaning easier to find a quality saddle at a decent price.)
Believe it or not, Fifty, I'm not disagreeing with you. Buying name brand gives you a better chance at a quality saddle - especially if you are looking on Ebay. But - there are caveats there, and occasionally, a decent deal can be made on a less expensive saddle.
BTW - the saddle I paid $175 for - I was offered $500 for it two weeks later. I shoulda taken the $$ and run!
Plain Old Dee, horses Dancer and Rain I believe in dragons, unicorns, good men and other mythical creatures!