I always wanted a Billy Cook saddle, however, I refused to wait the 10 months for the one I wanted.....SO...I tried a Dakota saddle and fell in love with it. I ended up with a Dakota Reiner saddle for pleasure/trail riding. Got the Quarterhorse bars. You can customize the saddle to get the color leather and seat you want, plus any extra's like hoof pick holder, and longer fenders if you have long legs like me, without spending an arm and a leg .
My saddle, which is 2 yrs old, with a chocolate suede seat cost me just under $800 and took 5 weeks to make and arrive.
I ride in a 17.5 - 18" english saddle and purchased a 16" western and have plenty of room. I found that a 15" was just too small. Im 5'-8" and 165lbs.
Good luck on your search and try as many saddles as you can to see which fits your horse best!!
I ride a Bob's Custom Saddlery Doug Millholland Reiner because the stirrups are hung so they stay put when I stand up or post, and the latigo has three splayed holes to loop through so it does not overlap and there is no lump under my knee. http://www.silveradosaddlery.com/ima...w/100_0095.JPG
Any saddle that will pass these tests would suit someone used to hunt seat. Many modern saddles have the skirt cut high under the leg/fender to reduce the lump under the knee with a standard latigo ring.
Also, some saddles have a wider twist than others. Best to sit in one before buying.
Lady Wades are lighter than regular Wades, but they can be dang heavy, IME. Wades are also dang expensive, at least where I'm at. I really wanted a Wade, but where I am I couldn't find a good one in fair condition for under $1000, the ones in good condition were usually close to $3000. They keep their value well, but it means they dont' come cheap.
I have a gaited horse pleasure saddle that I do everything in, but I can't rope in it. Its really well balanced, super comfortable, and puts me in a really good position. Plus, with some extra padding to fill in the hollows behind his withers, it fits my very high withered TBx.
I've ridden in some roping saddles I love and some I hated. I really like ranch ropers, but they do tend to be heavier. There's a lot of different types of ropers, so you may find while you like one roper, you hate another.
I'm not a fan of the barrel saddles I've ridden in. Cutting saddles are nice, but I find them a little slippery. Pleasure saddles tend to be a little more comfortable, and the ones I've sat in seemed to have the stirrups place a little farther back. I've never ridden in a reining saddle, so I can't comment on those. Ones that are cut away underneath the fenders are nice if you want a closer contact, but I've never had a problem getting a close contact in mine.
I'm 5'5", 175lbs and I ride in a 15" or 15.5". 16" feels too big to me.
The best thing you can do is sit in a bunch to find what you like. I'm no expert by any means, so these are just what I've noticed as I was trying saddles and riding in friends saddles.
I just got a Specialized western trail saddle and love it! I tried about 8 different western saddles and liked this one the best because it gave me the best close contact feel, similar to an english saddle. There's not a lot of bulk under the leg and in fact except for the fenders there's really nothing under my leg. Love it, love it, love it!!!!
I rode English all my life and when I got my Buck Happy QH a western saddle was recommended to help keep me in my seat. I lucked out finding a barely used leather trail saddle on CL for $150. It has a low horn (since I still post at the trot), flat fenders and zero ornamentation. I was surprised at what great contact I get through the fenders!
The only downside for me is the bulky leather wrapped stirrups. They put a bit of strain on my ankles and I've gotten my foot caught in them when QH decided to try putting me in orbit. I almost replaced them with lightweight resin or metal ones, but just stuck it out and have broken them (& the QH!) in a bit better. And be careful on your dismount if wearing an open jacket-can get caught on the horn!
And boy, do I love how the shoulders hold my thighs in when she goes down a steep hill on the trail. If it fits you & your horse correctly, your seat/legs will fall exactly as they do in an English saddle. I rarely use my English saddle anymore.
After lifting light english saddles on horses, I found the Billy Cook to be super heavy. I cannot recall which model I have but I think I would take that into consideration. I have a Vic Bennett that is very comfortable and more light weight than the Billy Cook. Both seem to be very durable. The Billy Cook was also more affordable.
I have a Circle Y trail saddle with a Flex tree and their soft leather that pretty much eliminates the problems with stiff leather. It is substantially lighter than typical western saddles, somewhere around 23 lbs. I really like it. The stirrups are in the right place.
One of the dealers I shopped at said english riders tend to prefer the Flex trees because of closer contact. You really can feel the horse. My guy, a Paint, is spooky and I could feel his heart pounding a few times when he was attacked by a chipmunk. I use the sprenger jointed stirrups on my dressage saddle to help alleviate the aches and pains in the knees and hips, but have ridden in this saddle for up to 4 hours without any problems.
Figure on a 2" difference (down) between the english and western seat sizes. I have a (rare) Albion 19" and ride a 17" western both due to my oversized person. Also, I got a saddle with round skirts so it would not interfere with the horses hips.
If you get a chance, stop by Haegle's or that new western/ranch store on North Cliff. They have a bunch of saddles you can sit in and see how they make you feel. The new store seems to have higher end/more expensive saddles, but if you find a brand you like you can price shop!
If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
~ Maya Angelou
Look for a roping, ranch, or all arounder type saddle. These will keep your legs underneath you. The barrel, cutter, and reining saddles have a lot more swing to their stirrups and you will be constantly fighting with them to remain where you want to be.
I have had two Billy Cooks that I really loved. They're older; one is a roper and one was a rancher saddle. Both fit my horse beautifully and I felt like a good rider still when I sat in them .
Lady Wade or any saddle without swells are saddles I would not recommend, especially for someone that is used to an english saddle, unless you add bucking rolls and then, you may as well have a regular saddle.
I also, like Plumcreek, have a Bob's, but the 16" lady reiner model.
It is very light and fits women's anatomy better than most.
Got it from here, that were the only ones you could get Bob's from, now Bob's have diversified and so have they:
I have a Champion Turf show saddle that I really like. It is a 15.5" seat, my english saddles are 16.5" or 17". It fits well and is fairly comfortable. I use it for show, schooling and an occasional trail ride, but I have to keep it constantly covered to keep the leather light. My next western saddle will be either a Blue Ribbon Custom or Bob's Custom when I can afford it.
Proudly Owned By Sierra, 2003 APHA Mare
In Loving Memory of Tally, April 15, 1983 - June 2, 2010
OK, if you really want to go cheap...
I was in the same position and got myself a Big Horn, suede seat synthetic saddle. Only weighs 26 lbs and the stirrups hang like a dressage saddle. I can post with no problem and it doesn't feel like I have a Buick between my legs. I think it also comes in a flex tree. All this for under $400 and it is in great shape after a year of riding 5x/wk. My knees are disaster areas and there is minimal torque. Stay away from all of the "King" saddles, they are garbage.
Sit in as many saddles as you can, until you find one which suits you. If you are purchasing second hand, sellers will often bring the saddle to you, so you can try it on your horse too. If you are buying new, many retailers will accommodate you taking your horse to them.
This place has a lot of drool worthy saddles, and will give you an idea about styles and types available.
I have a second hand custom made ranch saddle, and I love it, so I'd add ranch saddle as to the style of saddles to try. Mine has a slick fork, although it isn't a Wade. I like the slick fork because I have rather womanly thighs, and a swell fork doesn't offer the same space between the fork and the cantle. Also, I found, you can't rely on the size of the saddle (14, 15, 16 or 17 inch) to be a guide as to whether the saddle will fit you, because it fails to describe the "pocket" the saddle maker has created.
As far as fenders, look for a saddle with "Hamley Twist" style fenders, which has the stirrups turned as part of the construction of the saddle.
My favorite all time western saddle was a Circle Y Park and Trail, it had great balance and I used to canter in two point on trails in it no problem... couldn't do that once I got my cutting saddle
I actually had the synthetic one and wish I still did for my boyfriend to ride in! I am not sure that they make them anymore. I traded a friend for her Wintec AP and then sold the AP to buy my current jumping saddle.