Do a quick Google on "Saddles Ider Alabama" and you will see that this may very well be the saddle capital of the world. There are some very well known saddle makers in Yoakum, TX. We'll call these the tier 1 manufactured saddle makers. Stop by Ider, AL and you can find a town full of talented tier 2 saddle manufacturers. This is where we found Dakota Saddlery, one of the better know saddle makers in Ider, Alabama.
It's the inside that matters. When comparing saddles, I think it is best to start at the tree. This is what determines the ultimate comfort to the horse and rider. Many trees manufactured in India and Mexico will often leave you with a horse that is sore and many times injured. So, with the Dakota saddle you need to know that the tree comes from the Steele Tree Co. Notice that often times the same tree you find in Crates, Reinsman, Big Horn, Gaits of Gold and others are also found in the Dakota saddle. I just named off some saddles that sell nearly twice the amount as a Dakota will sell. Dakota saddles have the insides of a well made saddle, so we know the foundation is solid.
The leather used in the Dakota saddle is a thick American cow hide. I would not call the leather supple, but given a little use and regular treatments of Lexol, you'll have a leather nice and soft to the touch. I would say the major difference between a Dakota and a higher priced saddle such as a Reinsman is the tooling detail. The Dakota tooling is not as deep and intricate as the higher price saddles and the difference of patterns is limited. I would not think this would justify the cost difference, but it is a difference that does save Dakota money in the building process.
The Dakota after sales support is excellent. Whenever we have a warranty issue, Dakota is quick to resolve it to the satisfaction of the customer. Trust me, all saddle manufacturers have warranty issues, but not all of them are nearly as amiable as Dakota is.
Another advantage to purchasing a Dakota is the ability to to make changes to your saddle. If you would like a thicker seat, not problem. Want saddle strings? Coming right up. Larger fenders? Easy to do. Their changes do not incur an immediate 25% price increase such as Circle Y often does, but are very affordable. I would say the average change is $5 to $10.
To sum up the Dakota saddle, I would describe them as cost efficient. They are a bargain for their price - so much so, that we have one sitting on a saddle rack in our barn.