Not rude at all, but if you really want folks to see it and comment, you should probably start a new thread for it in the appropriate forum. This thread shows up on the main index as a thread on the "Trail Riding" forum about pack saddles, so folks who have no interest in that will pass it by. I actually put this one in the wrong forum, because I know who frequents this one and was confident I'd get the right people commenting.
From earlier conversations, I suspect you are talking about a western saddle. My personal favorite is a 14" seat 1947 Hamley ranch saddle with a 4" cantle and 15" swells. I inherited if from my wife's side of the family. Her uncle had it made for him. It's the saddle on my horse in the picture I posted on your other thread.
The old saddles don't fit modern horses very well, but it they sure fit my behind well. They tend to be shorter in the seat and tighter in the gullet. Horses back then tended to be narrower in the back and withers, as opposed to the more muscled and broader horses we have today. The average man was a bit smaller as well. I stand 5'9" and weigh around 180 (I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds easily) and conventional wisdom says I should be in a 16" saddle, but that Hamley is the most comfortable saddle I have ever ridden.
I also have a 15" Circle Y saddle I bought for my daughter. It is an all-around saddle. I paid $150 for it. It's at the lower end of the saddle quality range. It is a decent saddle with a Ralide (plastic) tree, and it works well for riding around on short trail rides, but I wouldn't want to spend all day in it. It's just not that comfortable. Fits the horse nicely though.
For a decent saddle, you can find used ones on ebay in the $500-$1500 range. A man of average height and weight, say, pretty close to my size, should probably be looking at a 16" seat. That is the measurement from the seam on the top of the cantle to the pommel at the base of the horn. There are other considerations as well, though, like the width of the swells, height and angle of the cantle, etc., that might make one saddle more comfortable than another for a particular person. In general, while sitting in the saddle, with your feet in the stirrups, you want to have about 1.5-2" between your thigh and the swell. Rod and Denise Nikkel are saddle tree makers and have a great website that addresses a lot of this pretty well.
As for pommel shape, I have always preferred the rounded pommel, like a "Bowman" style. My dad prefers a wide pommel, like a "form-fitter" style the best. That was the style when he was a boy. Great for riding questionable horses, where you might need to hang on for dear life. His current saddle is on an "Association" tree, which is a good all-around saddle, with broad enough swells to give your knees good purchase in an emergency.
Saddles built on a "bullhide" tree (wood tree covered in rawhide) are considered to be higher quality than synthetic trees, but not always so. A good bullhide tree is almost indestructible.
You might also consider a Australian saddle. Good ones are very comfortable, and they are quite a bit lighter and narrower than a conventional western saddle. I have put some miles in on one and liked the way it rides. They don't have much in the way of skirts, though, so they aren't as good for hanging stuff like canteens, saddle bags, and tying on a bedroll or coat on behind the cantle, in my opinion, for long rides. Note that Aussie saddles measure like English saddles. A 16" Aussie is equivalent to about a 14" western.
For your needs, I would suggest a good used saddle, such as a Circle Y, Big Tex, Colorado Saddlery, or Simco, or any number of decent older production saddles, on an "Association" tree. I wouldn't spend the money on a custom-built saddle yet, until you are sure this is going to be "your thing". You should be able to come up with one in the $350-500 range if you keep your eyes open. Then, later, you can figure out just what you like and go for a better saddle and keep the first one as a backup. I would stay away from NEW western saddles in the $3-700 range. They are made in SE Asia and India on poorly constructed trees with cheap leather that is essentially painted to look like quality leather. They are not comfortable and they will not last.
Hope that answers some of your questions. Craigslist and ebay are great places to watch for saddles, just make sure you include the shipping charges in your bid calculations. Some sellers get pretty abusive with shipping charges to increase their bottom-line.
Last edited by thenrie; 02-05-2013 at 07:00 AM.