As a kid I always rode bareback. I knew nothing about saddles. When I joined pony club they said no saddle, no ride. So i borrowed a saddle, and started competing in local shows and gymkhanas. I still knew nothing about saddles. When I got my own horse and moved away, I bought my first saddle. It was a Wintec dressage saddle, and it was the most comfortable thing i had ever ridden in. The problem was, I still knew nothing about saddles, and every horse I ever rode with this saddle, used to stumble.
I called a chiropractor who said "sounds like an equipment problem love". The saddle was so light, I couldn't believe it could be hurting my horse's back. It wasn't the weight of the saddle, but the narrowness of it, which put pressure in the wrong places on my horse's spine, and didn't distribute the weight evenly.
So over a long learning curve, I discovered that horses and saddles are different sizes, and they need to match up. My very first saddle was narrow and didn't touch my horse's back everywhere,meaning there was not an even distribution of weight on his back, only at the front and back putting pressure on those places when my weight went in the saddle. It doesn't matter how light, good quality, or expensive a saddle is, if it doesn't fit the horse properly, your horse will end up with back problems.
There is a HUGE amount of information out there now, on how to fit a saddle properly. I feel so bad that i did not know this information when i was younger, and the pain I caused my horses. But I believe you should do the best you can with what you know, and when you know better you should do better. I also learned that your horse changes shape throughout the year, as he gains and loses weight and condition, and gains and loses fitness and muscle tone, meaning that the saddle you bought in January, might fit differently in July.
After looking into various types of saddles, i was sold on the Wintec saddles. Wintecs are a synthetic saddle, and are made by Bates Australia, a quality maker of saddles. These saddles have a range of channel sizes to fit wide or narrow horses. They also have an adjustable and easy to change gullet system -which are metal plates inside the front that can easily be swapped by undoing a few screws. My wintec saddles all came with a black plate as standard, and i have used red, white, and black at different times. They can also come with what they call the CAIR system, which is basically air bags instead of flocking, and the air doesn't get lumps and bumps like flocking can.
I bought a wintec pony saddle for our very fat little pony, which has an extra wide channel, as well as a range of gullet plates to suit a variety of size ponies. I have a Wintec stock saddle for my quarter horse, and I alternate between red and black plates in the gullet. I also have an all purpose saddle for my thoroughbred. I still use my old dressage saddle with the narrow gullet for my donkeys if someone small enough is around to ride them.
I also love the wintec stirrup leathers which are very slim fitting, and can be placed under the side flap rather than over it, to reduce chafing.
Wintec saddles are made by Bates Australia, a well renowned quality maker of saddles, and I give them 5 stars for fit, quality, durability, and diversity.