i'm looking at a roping saddle for my high/sloping withered thoroughbred... they seem to have the higher gullets that i need... i currently have a barrel saddle, that i love but it's too low on my horse's withers... any opinions on the roping saddles for high withers and for the trail??
I already posted on general saddle design, but I wanted to provide you with a general guide of saddle brands vs. quality. There is a lot of information provided on this site and they are not trying to point you toward one maker over another. They are putting forth the idea and emphasizing the old saying that "You get what you pay for." http://www.western-saddle-guide.com/western-saddle-brands.html
I want to share what I have learned during my search for a saddle. Cheaply made saddles quite often have inferior trees that are supposed to be the strength on which a saddle depends to deliver years and years of dependable service. I should have said decades of service, because a quality saddle will often outlast the horse. You might replace the fleece and certainly the latigo, the leather will wear and become scratched, but as long as a horse hasn't fallen over and broken the tree, it should stay straight and strong. If you purchase a low end saddle, I would question the quality and worry that the tree will warp and twist within the first couple of years. Some might not, but many certainly do fall apart. Do some research online and find out how dissatified people are with cheaper made saddles. How a warped and twisted tree had made their horse's back swollen and sore. I did and it wasn't long before I could look at a saddle and tell by the thickness of the underskirt leather, whether the seat was stitched in a nice curved line around the cantle, or that real care had been taken to make the saddle.
If you don't have the money for a new quality saddle, well, I certainly understand having to budget and that is why my first quality made saddle was purchased used. I was able to find a handmade custom saddle for just over $900 that had sold new for $2500. It hurt to pay it, because I had to cut corners and do without extras to save for it. It didn't look new - not with scrapes into the tooling and faded seat. I knew the original cost and that I had gotten a really good deal, not because it was in a catalog from a factory saddlery, but because I looked up the maker's name online and called the guy. I described the saddle and he told me exactly who had ordered the saddle, particulars about the guy working as an undertrainer for a well-known reining horse trainer, that the guy had special ordered the silver conchos, and when he had made it. You don't get any kind of personal history about a saddle that is made by mass production in a factory. You get that kind of service from Marty Byrd in Ada, OK. I kept doing without, saving, and eventually sold that used saddle for more than I paid for it so I could have Marty build me a new custom saddle.
A lot of people think a Billy Cook is a quality saddle and if you want to pay for their most expensive line, its okay. But, when Billy Cook was still making his own saddles - that's one you want to try and get your hands on - those are quality saddles. Not now. They are now production saddles from a factory, because he sold his name with the business. His originals are still out there, I found a couple of his, but either the seat size or tree width was wrong for what I needed. If you search hard enough, you may find Billy's son-in-laws saddle shop - Billy taught him how to make saddles, and they're really nice.
Before you consider buying new from a factory, shop online, check at local feed stores that take in used saddles for trade or on consignment, or search out local saddle makers because they are putting their name on something they have personally worked on for weeks! Its a major investment and you and your horse deserve a saddle that fits properly for every ride.