Thanks Tony and lbs.
I know the horse won't care haha! I have always avoided non-leather tack also, I have leather or wool everything. That was my big hesitation on the synthetic saddle it just didn't seam right to me (can't explain it). Also we do anything from one or two hours on the weekdays to 6+ on the weekends in a lot of different terrain. So I wasn't sure a synthetic would keep up with us.
No my mom is actually on the small side which is why she has trouble lifting the saddle "all the way up."
I ALLWAYS buy a used saddle. First so I don't have to break it in myself and two because someone has all ready taken the price hit on it. Besides if it is a good saddle then it doesn't matter if it was ridden in before. I will have my saddle til the day I die, its just that good. If you know what to look for there is always GOOD CHEAP stuff at flea markets and craigslist, most people don't know what they have and just sell for a hundred bucks or less.
I get most of my tack that way and I buy very little new and spend almost nothing - more for hay!
Do date I've had good luck with everything that's synthetic holding up. All my gear is a hodge podge of leather and synthetic. I've had leather stirrup straps break on me (sort of POed me since they weren't very old and I'd oiled them and kept them up, but you can't control poor quality) but have never had the nylon ones fail. All my halters are synthetic (and look better have a few years than my old leather ones did after a few months
). But it's great when you can rinse all the dirt off or even run them through the washing machine if you want. Nylon cinch straps are a lot less bulky too.
I use to use only leather for decades, but found that the synthetics worked great for helping me reduce weight (Important when a horse might cover up to 400 miles a month with maybe 8 days off), were easier to keep clean and maintenance is so much simpler. My next saddle will have little or no leather. Goal is to get it down to 15 lbs or less.
You don't have that headache though
so just get something that fits the horse, fits the rider and the rider can handle.
For the horse I'd say a UP military saddle AKA: Trooper (pretty light and easy to make lighter), but like the McClellan it's not the most comfortable ride
. There are plenty of styles that will serve what you want to do if you can find that fits, at a weight that's easy to swing onto the horse.