define "high quality".
With this budget you might have to compromise on something: Either go with a high quality used saddle, or with a new synthetic off-the-rack saddle...
$1.5 K can buy you a used Antares or Devoucoux but it will take some time to find it. If you're looking for a new one, Bates or Wintec will work for your budget.
Good luck saddle shopping!
Depends what fits your horse, and how diligent you are in checking used saddle websites and eBay. You can find French saddles for that price range, as well as really nice English saddles....County, Ideal, Stubben, Butet, Antares, Devoucoux, Stackhouse, etc.
"On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."
A little more about what you need, please? Seat and tree size? Is this your budget for a new saddle, or would you be happy with something used? What kind of back does your horse have (flat, short, dippy, high withers, hollows behind shoulders, etc.)?
I would not call a new (Vietnam made) Bates a high quality saddle.
"Quality" has several aspects-- materials will be the most obvious. Cut corners on leather, and you'll know it every day with your saddle. Poor workmanship shows up later. Poor design-- in the panels and tree or in the balance of the saddle for the rider-- will also bite you in the butt every single day.
OP, the best you can do is figure out what saddle fits your and your horse, and then look for that one new or used. Saddles that start at a $2.5K price new will come down to your range faster. So if one of these fits, start looking for gently used ones there. Otherwise, the higher-end brands that come new at $5K do eventually get down to the $1.5K level. You may end up really liking one of these for the way it fits you and your horse.
Otherwise, as another poster suggested, it can help to tell us more about what you are looking for in terms of saddle fit. Then folks can send you in the right direction, helping you narrow down your search while still staying within your budget.
My horse has low withers, too, and I ride him in a B.T. Crump Tomboy. I've seen several lightly used ones for sale at around $700, and I'd consider it "quality," especially for the price. It does have a pretty deep seat and a large kneeroll, though, so if you want a pancake saddle, you might not like it, haha.
You may want to check out the Pessoa Gen X natural. That was my first saddle and honestly once oiled twice it was beautiful and grippy and you really couldn't tell it from an Antares unless you were close up. 
Last edited by Moderator 1; Apr. 5, 2013 at 02:14 PM.
I second looking into the BT Crump saddles(Zaldi's are by them also). They are really nice saddles, for the cost.
We have a few Tomboys & Stars in our barn. Our saddle fit lady is able to semi-customize them, as she can order them with specific panes(shape,size) tree size, flaps, etc. as needed to fit the horses.
It's getting a custom fit saddle for both horse & rider at a small fraction of the cost "most" custom saddles cost.
Forget it all and get a Colbert Brothers (Argentina) saddle! I posted this on another thread too, I just bought one of these saddles and I. Love. It. It is just as nice feeling as any $3-$4k saddle I've sat in and it cost me $1200 new. The leather is soft and takes oil well. Their website is in spanish, but most browsers will translate it, but it is distinguishable enough. If you use the "contact us" page to send them an email, they will respond in english www.colbertbrothers.net I bought mine through Eduardo Braun, an international showjumper from Argentina. The only way I know how to get ahold of him is through Facebook!
I 2d Far North's rec for St Lourdes. I did a lot of searching and read some bad reviews, but I think that was on their low end and earlier models. I bought the 2011 Eventer model second hand for a STEAL. It is amazing quality; supple leather that has a great patina to it after the 2 years previous owner had it. It recovered great after our water hazard splash down and takes oil well. I am much happier with this than the Bates Caprilli I had. Only saddle I've liked better in this $ range was my Barnsby Whitaker.
FWIW, I'm 5'7 120# with freakishly long femur bones. My saddle is an 18", has a deepish seat, narrow twist, forward leg. Aftermarket thigh blocks but the knee ones are perfect on their own. The channel is wide, offering plenty of spine clearance when the little devil cracks his back.
Some of the St. Lourdes saddles are absolutely gorgeous - they're argentinian, and mostly under your budget.
I ride in a St. Lourdes Joaquin Larrain. Definitely worth every penny and more. Craftsmanship is superb, leather is first rate, and their design very balanced and comfortable. I would recommend St. Lourdes any day! They are very fluent in english, respond to their mails quickly and export all over the world. In fact, they go to a very important trade show in Germany every year. Here's their website, so you can check out their catalog: http://www.saintlourdes.com
Over what hill? Where? When? I don\'t remember any hill....