Traditionally, leather has been the standard in both English and Western saddle construction. However, with technology has come change – today, nearly every saddle type is available in a synthetic model.
Leather naturally provides strength, durability and flexibility in saddles. A well-cared for leather saddle can last for many years, even generations, but you need to regularly clean and condition the leather ensure it stays strong and pliable. Regardless of the amount of care required, if you are one who appreciates the beauty and durability of a finely crafted, tooled leather saddle, it is worth the extra effort.
On the other hand, there are many quality saddles available today that are being made with Cordura or other synthetic materials. Over the last two decades these models have been proven to be a sturdy, comfortable, and easy care alternative to leather saddles. Some of the synthetic materials being used are designed to look similar to leather, while others are made of Cordura fabric (manufactured by Dupont), which is 3 times more durable then standard polyester. In addition to greatly decreased care requirements, synthetic saddles are lightweight and available in a wide variety of colors.
Whatever route you decide to go, spend the extra money and go with a good brand. Cheaper models may be uncomfortable for horse and rider, pinching, distributing weight unevenly or providing the wrong positioning.