What do you look for in fit and to know if its quality or not? I know nothing about them. I do know to stay away from Hilason and the saddle bundles you can get on eBay, but there seems to be as many brands of western saddles as there are breeds of horses. I don't want to spend a fortune, just have something to play around with and trail ride (and ride in until I can get an english saddle figured out).
I would look for a good used saddle if you can't afford a new quality. Corriente is highly recommended by a saddle maker I know ( if you can't afford one of her saddles LOL) Rocking R is getting quite a good name. I ride a Cowboy Tack saddle (hard to find Mooreland isn't making them anymore) my daughter rides in a Double J Lynn McKenzie. Circle Y, Tex Tan, Simco Hereford, Billy Cooks, Crates are all names I would ride.
I have a crates saddle I bought over 15 years ago, ride in it daily and ruefully admit I don't care for it like I should - can't remember the last time it was oiled or cleaned, actually - note to self to buy leather cleaner - and it still looks great, fits every horse I have owned, and is styled nice so looks modern. I bought it used for 700.00 and it is as comfortable as my oldest pair of levis.... I highly recommend a good, used crates saddle.
I second the Corriente if you have a horse that would wear a FQHB tree with a 7" gullet (as that's all they use). Great quality, super reasonable price, very durable and sturdy...and **** comfortable on my butt .
Don't what ever you do buy a cheep saddle. It could harm your horse and you. I have been there. I don't think I am allowed to mention company names but here goes as a badly fitting saddle affects the wellbeing of your horse and you.
After a nasty episode with a cheep import I contacted Charlie at horsesaddleshop.com He provided all the information I needed to measure the horse and me for a saddle. I purchased a Tucker westernised endurance and my wife a Fabtron just for women. Good luck and I assume I will soon find out if I have broken the rules.
Price range and weight plays an important role in the decision and any recommendation. How much can you spend and are you comfortable lifting a 40 lb saddle, a 30 lb, or something in the 20lb range? The heavier saddles are built to last a lifetime but ... they are heavy!
BTW, many of the name saddles that have been around for years are, unfortunately, not the same quality as the ones being made today.
I don't want to spend a fortune, but I am so frustrated with saddle shopping for an english saddle. Most wide trees under $1000 aren't wide enough! My mare is built like a tank, I compare her to halter horses with her huge shoulders and big butt.
These aren't the best pictures of her, but gives an idea of how she is built:
I don't want a super heavy saddle, not that I can't lift one, but I am closer to 200 pounds than 150 and don't want to hurt my horse! When we go trail riding we go for several hours up and live in a very hilly area. I don't want her to tire out.
I had a mare that was an odd build. Honestly, I could not even find a winter blanket that fit her right. To look at her, she looked perfectly normal, but I could not find a saddle to fit her and I tried EVERYTHING! Every make, every style. The only saddle that worked was a Tucker wide tree. They make lots of different styles and have some fairly light saddles. Mine only weighs 24 pounds. I love this saddle and it is by far the most comfortable saddle I have ever ridden in.
My horse is ~1,150 lb, I'm ~ 210 and my saddle is 45lb with all fittings. She can easily handle it and we go for 4 or 5 hour trail rides. Don't let that be a concern because a well made heavy saddle will work better then a lighter poorly made one.