I must agree with the Collegiate as a nice in between saddle. A step up from the wintec for sure (I can't do non-leather, sorry!) but less than the Bates. My Alumni fits me great, and I can use it on a variety of horses & ponies from shark-finned OTTBs to WBs to DD's pony.
OMG how overwhelming is it to buy a saddle! I just want something that fits my horse and is affordable. I do ride alot, I ride my own horse 4 times a week plus I ride our barn horses four times a week as well. So that's a ton of time for my rear to be in a saddle.
So what is the most comfortable? I'm tall and I need a long flap. I ride nothing over 3' anymore so I don't need something really crazy but something that will stand up to lots of riding.
Saddle buying sucks!
You are in EXACTLY the same position I was in. I now own a Collegiate CC and a Wintec dressage -- both adjustable gullets. Both wool-flocked (a must for me). The Collegiate is way comfier, but the Wintec works just fine, it certainly isn't painful. Since I paid 2x as much for the CC, no shockers there.
But yes, I would vote for the Wintec as an interim saddle. Mine sits nicely on my horse, they have good balance, and with the equisuede, grip your bum. Affordable, easy to care for, durable.
ETA -- for jumping, the Wintecs did not fit my freaky long thigh, but the long flap option on the Collegiate works like a dream. Now if only I could hose off that CC the way I can the Wintec, it WOULD be perfect!
I did just what you did - I bought a wintec until I could afford "THE" saddle. Now that I have my favorite all time saddle (Wexford from Trumbull Mtn), I have a Wintec pro jump to sell (17", as new condition). PM me if you're interested!
I bought a wintec CC brand new about a year ago. I was attracted to the lower price, but now I wish I had either a) saved up for a while longer & got the leather version, or b) bought a 2nd hand leather saddle. It's not very comfortable, I really hate riding in it. I much prefer the leather version.
Just MHO of course