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LLong
Mar. 7, 2008, 03:23 PM
I know there have probably been a million threads similar to this. Here's my dilema- I have two saddles I love dearly, a devoucoux xcountry saddle and a county dressage saddle. However i'm going on a really long ride and know it would probably be better to purchase and endurance saddle. I'm trying not to spend too much... Any suggestions? any brands I should stay away from? thanks!

Auventera Two
Mar. 7, 2008, 03:54 PM
Just one really long ride? As long as the saddle fits your horse very well, I don't see any reason to have to buy a new saddle. In fact, it's probably better to stick with what you know works for your horse. Buy yourself a $50 sheepskin cover from Easycare, Inc. for comfort, and maybe some endurance stirrups. Lots of people ride endurance and trail in dressage saddles. World famous John Crandell III rides in a dressage saddle.

matryoshka
Mar. 7, 2008, 06:26 PM
Lots of people do endurance in dressage saddles. If it fits your horse and you are comfortable in it, then you'll be fine. If your horse shows any signs of discomfort from an ill-fitting saddle, it will be compounded during a long ride. I used to do competetive trail (25 miles) in an old, no-name allpurpose saddle and the horse and I were fine.

I hope you enjoy your ride!

twofatponies
Mar. 7, 2008, 07:08 PM
My husband trail rides (up to 10 miles) in an old dressage saddle. It fits the horse, and he finds it comfy, and we can't afford a new saddle...

LLong
Mar. 8, 2008, 12:16 PM
Yeah I guess I should have mentioned how long the long ride is.. around 2,200 miles.. from NM to Wash. DC... As much as I love my other saddles, and they work fine for trails usually.. I think I really need to buy an endurance saddle for this.

Guilherme
Mar. 8, 2008, 03:12 PM
Treeless saddles are a monumentally bad idea for short rides. For long rides they guarantee a crippled horse. And all the anacdote in the world won't make this reality go away.

Try a new direction. Look at the reproduction McClellan, Whitman, Grimsley, or Universal Pattern (a British offering) saddles. Google any one of them for more information. These are all cavalry saddles, have a long history of use in "long riding" and when properly fitted work quite well. They are also lighter in weight than many current "endurance" saddles.

You might want to try the Long Riders Guild website. They may have some guidance for you.

Good luck in your ride. :)

G.

Guilherme
Mar. 8, 2008, 04:45 PM
Opinions are like noses; everyone is entitled to at least one.

I stated mine; you've stated yours. Now the OP has at least two points of view.

I also referred the OP to the Long Rider's Guild where she can get REAL information on real world people who have done what she is considering.

How can anyone argue, intelligently, with such suggestions?

G.

matryoshka
Mar. 8, 2008, 05:22 PM
Sensations are not recommended for high withered horses. :no: Or I'd have one. Now that I've got an Arabian, I'm hoping to get one. I like that the trail model has stirrup straps that are separated to spread the pressure of the rider's weight.

LLong, I have a trimming client who did such a ride. She had custom-made saddles for her horses. The only problem is that the custom-made ones only fit your horse at the time they are measured. Changes in fitness levels will affect the shape of the back and hence, saddle fit. I think that is why endurance riders like treeless so much: they change as the horse's shape changes. You've got to be really careful about wither and backbone clearance, or you will cause more soreness than you save.

The Balance saddle people say that saddles should be wide and padded to fit. If you've got padding options, you can change your padding system if your horse's back changes during the course of the ride. Treeless seems a whole lot easier (and cheaper). As a compromise to expensive Balance saddles, Wintecs with adjustable trees would work (set wide with appropriate padding). Again, you could accomodate the changes in your horse's back that way. I'm not saying I buy their theory, but I wanted to point it out to you.

There are many people who think that treeless do not give the horse's back enough support, and there are anecdotes both ways. It bears further research.

Just more food for thought and things to consider while making your choices. The longest ride I've done is 30 miles in an Abetta western, which hardly qualifies as "long". The horse finished with a good back and little or no soreness. But day after day after day, who knows how it would have been for the horse?

Guilherme
Mar. 8, 2008, 06:14 PM
I referenced the Long Riders Guild. Mr. O'Reilly is a well-spring of information on long riding. The site is a treasure trove of good information.

Go to http://www.thelongridersguild.com/LRG.htm For specific information on saddles click on "Equipment" and go from there.

G.

jnel
Mar. 8, 2008, 11:40 PM
25 miles a day, almost every day for several months...this is not about speed its about comfort for horse and rider. I like the new Y rigging that Goesthedistance talked about, that would help with pressure problems and is a new feature that not all treeless saddles have. But people have done these rides in everything from western saddles to homemade rigs (including McCellan type saddles). If you are a heavier rider or plan on packing everything you need in some sort of saddlebag system then a better example of types of saddles might come from the folks that do ranch work or extended pack trips on horseback.

LLong
Mar. 9, 2008, 04:02 AM
Thanks for the advice so far. We've (my mom and I) have been in contact with CuChullaine O'Reilly and other long riders. They've been really helpful. I just thought I should probably get more advice on saddles since I know practically nothing about the quality of different endurance saddles. So anymore input is welome..

bronya
Mar. 9, 2008, 08:45 AM
I've researched this a bit and from the info I found, of all the treeless saddles, the only two that haven't had any pressure problems reported are the Torsion saddles and the Freeform saddles (the proper freeform ones not the copies). From personal experience, my Torsion is fantastic for my TB, who does have reasonable withers. It's stable and she loves it. It's not so great on a rounder horse as it rolls a bit. The Freeform saddles aren't good at all for high withers, but are very stable on a rounder horse. Both were designed with endurance in mind and have been used by endurance riders.

Wintecs are horrid to ride in for a long period of time from the rider's point of view - I only ever manged about 10 miles in one and that was not fun. With treed I would definately get it made too wide and pad. That's what we did for a while and it worked really well.

I haven't ever gone that far, but I put a lot of time into researching saddles when nothing seemed to fit my horse!

Auventera Two
Mar. 9, 2008, 09:15 AM
Treeless saddles are a monumentally bad idea for short rides. For long rides they guarantee a crippled horse. And all the anacdote in the world won't make this reality go away.

This may be your opinion, but you have no facts to back that up, do you?

One of the reasons I switched to treeless was the many many stories I found of endurance riders who do hundreds and thousands of miles treeless. In my research of the saddles though, it's true that not all treeless saddles fit all horses, and the pad, girth, breatcollar, etc. are all a very important part of the setup too. There's more to consider than you might initially think of. ANY badly fitting saddle can damage a horse, whether it's treed or not.

Gothedistance - Thanks for the correction. I was thinking of Stagg Newman, as per this link:

http://www.endurance.net/channels/2007/08/aerc-championship-novice-learning-from.html

He says he rides in used dressage saddles. Still, I think it's a good indiciation since Stagg has been riding since the 80s and has over 6,000 career miles

Guilherme
Mar. 9, 2008, 09:33 AM
I have NEVER seen a so-called "treeless" saddle that effectively distributes rider weight. I've researched many, and ridden or sat in four or five offereings over the years; all were wanting in this critical aspect.

The FIRST saddles were treeless; skins or grass mats thrown over the horse's rump and, later, the back. The Romans (possibly imitating the Partians) developed the first true, rigid tree saddle. They found it enhanced the horse's utility allowing more rider stability and permitting the horse to go for longer distances without soring the back. Roman cavalry also differed from the "barbarian" cavalries in that the Roman soldier typically had one horse on campaign; the barbarian typically had multiple mounts.

No major horse culture I'm aware of ever continued the use of "treeless" saddles once they were introduced to the rigid tree.

So the Laws of Physics and history are enough fact for me. When somebody else comes up with research that puts my fears for the horse's back at rest I'll look at it. Until then I'll maintain my opinion.

Of course I referred the OP to the Long Riders Guild precisely because there IS no hard evidence, only anacdote and exptrapallation. She's done that (sounds like on her own; good on her for that). The Guild people know what they are about. Their opinions should carry weight. Have any of you "treeless" backers read the Equipment section on the Guild website?

G.

Janet H
Mar. 9, 2008, 09:57 AM
Our family owns and uses two Bob Marshall Sport Tack treeless endurance saddles. We wouldn't consider using anything else. Our horses have completed 50 mile endurance rides with horses in outstanding shape. A friend of ours that is in the AERC Hall of Fame uses the same saddle (many years ago he loaned us one of his which is why we bought our first). This gentleman has received many best condition awards on 100 mile rides, as well as being in the top 10 consistently. I don't know what else to tell you - they work!:)

Guilherme
Mar. 9, 2008, 10:49 AM
Some people obviously have trouble when tresured preconceptions are challenged. I've given the OP another viewpoint. She can take it or leave it as she sees fit. Ditto for everyone else.

G.

If, by any act, error, or omission, I have, intentionally or unintentionally, displayed any breedist, disciplinist, sexist, racist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist, localist, ageist, lookist, ableist, sizeist, speciesist, intellectualist, socioeconomicist, ethnocentrist, phallocentrist, heteropatriarchalist, or other violation of the rules of political correctness, known or unknown, I am not sorry and I encourage you to get over it.

Auventera Two
Mar. 9, 2008, 11:55 AM
Some people obviously have trouble when tresured preconceptions are challenged. I've given the OP another viewpoint. She can take it or leave it as she sees fit. Ditto for everyone else.

G.

If, by any act, error, or omission, I have, intentionally or unintentionally, displayed any breedist, disciplinist, sexist, racist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist, localist, ageist, lookist, ableist, sizeist, speciesist, intellectualist, socioeconomicist, ethnocentrist, phallocentrist, heteropatriarchalist, or other violation of the rules of political correctness, known or unknown, I am not sorry and I encourage you to get over it.

Hey G, whatever you're smokin', I'll take a snort.

saratoga
Mar. 9, 2008, 11:56 AM
I've ridden in several treeless saddles. I currently have a Barefoot and like it. I dont however agree with the blanket statement that treeless saddles are better than treed. It really just depends on the horse and rider, like pretty much everything else.

My favorite saddle however is the DeSoto that I had made for my gelding about 4 years ago when I was having a terrible time with saddle fit. It cost about $1400, closer to $2k when you add up the fees associated with measuring for it, fittings, etc. It is quite heavy, and has a western look to it although it feels like a dressage saddle to sit in. I cant say enough good things about it. It is extremely comfortable for me and my horse never has a sore back, ever. We have probably 900 AERC miles in it, including rides up to 65 miles and a multiday. Even though my horse's condition / weight, etc. changes periodically with more or less riding and as he gets older, it still fits. I use an Equipedic pad with it. I would highly recommend it.

pandorasboxx
Mar. 9, 2008, 07:41 PM
I prefer treeless for distance riding. I've had better back scores with them than with treed. They are infinitely more comfortable for my horse and myself.

That's not to say there aren't plenty of great treed saddles that work for distance. Its a matter of the fit and combination and preference. Different strokes for different folks. I really liked the old OrthoFlex Feather paneled saddle I had and a lovely Black Country Vinici dressage. Ended up selling them due to back issues but they were wonderful saddles.

Usually when I look for opinions, I like to pick the brains of those that have actually walked the walk. Otherwise, I could just ask the opinion of the child on the mechanical horse in front of Wal-mart.

katarine
Mar. 9, 2008, 08:15 PM
A2 aren't you currently pi$$ed off about your own treeless saddle rolling and getting dumped off your Arab of late? I can't quite figure how you're passionate about a saddle that keeps leaving you face first on the precious land of cheese and cow patties?

matryoshka
Mar. 10, 2008, 08:24 AM
A2 got one of the less expensive treeless saddles, I believe. I just attended a treeless saddle demo yesterday, and there are a number of good options to fit all sorts of body types. The dealer told us that not all treeless saddles work for all body types, and she strongly recommended riding at least 25 miles in a demo before buying. Her own mare is picky about the saddle, and the dealer has tried many different manufacturer's and types from each. Right now, she likes to ride in a Sensation. The Bob Marshall Sports Saddle was also highly recommended by endurance riders who were there.

For me, those saddles don't have enough support for me. I did find one (a Ghost) that looks like it would fit my high-withered OTTB, but the seat wasn't wide enough to support my bad hip.

Llong, no matter what you buy, if you can ride in a demo, you can make sure your horse likes it before blowing money on it. The other thing is that on such a long ride, your horse's back is very likely to change shape, so a saddle that fits at the beginning of the journey may not fit him in the middle or the end. I think that is why so many are saying that treeless might be a good option for your horse.

Oh, one last thing. If you try treeless, the pad makes a huge difference. Your dealer should be able to help you find the right pad or modify an existing pad to suit you and your horse. There are many padding options out there!

Auventera Two
Mar. 10, 2008, 09:08 AM
A2 aren't you currently pi$$ed off about your own treeless saddle rolling and getting dumped off your Arab of late? I can't quite figure how you're passionate about a saddle that keeps leaving you face first on the precious land of cheese and cow patties?

What's with the attitude? It must suck to be in such a crappy mood all the time. Perhaps spring can't come fast enough for you? Go sit in front of the SAD light and have a drink.

In any case - I never said I am "passionate" about treeless saddles. I said I am having a terrible time on my mutton withered, flat backed horses. I also said things have improved since putting the fiberglass pommels back into both saddles. I also said that the padding is part of the problem because I am not using what the Mfg. recommended.

The fact is - whatever works for you and your horse is what you should use. Treed, half tree, treeless. There is never only one solution that works for all horses and all riders. I love the Abetta saddle, which is treed. I own one of those, and still use it from time to time, depending on how the fancy strikes me for the day.

Maty - I have one cheap treeless, and one Bandos, which yes was inexpensive, but isn't cheap. The price on those will probably go up as they leave the "introductory" phase and go into full production. Or at least that's what I've been told.

chicamuxen1
Mar. 11, 2008, 08:14 AM
Oh, lord are there opinions and attitudes flying around. Heck, I rolled a saddle several times on my round, mutton withered horse. It was a very well fitted dressage saddle and that type of horse can really be hard to keep a saddle centered 100% of the time. And I don't fall or dump easily!

i've got around 2000 miles total between endurance and CTRs in treeless saddles. Almost all of my endurance friends ride in treeless saddles and many of them are heavy weight riders and regularly do 100 mile rides. No back issues, no white hairs. there is a big range of treeless saddles and pads made for them. My neighbor, a heavy weight rider, went to a saddle fitting clinic with Dr. Joyce Harmon. She used a computerized saddle pad under his saddle that has pressure sensors that give feed back to the laptop PC it connects to. He rode his horse with his BMSS at a walk and trot while she recorded the fit info. Dr. Harmon told him she was pleasantly suprised at the excellent fit and weight distribution of the saddle. She has now included info about treeless saddles in her saddle fit book.

Personally, I think you may get some of the best weight distribution with the BMSS but I also have a Sensation treeless saddle that has three options for stirrup attachment to the saddle. Two the attachment methods do really help spread the riders weight across the entire saddle. I'm going to try competing in this saddle this year after riding this winter in it. I've yet to find a dry spot of sore spot on my horse yet. He has been ridden for 5 years so far in exclusively treeless saddles. In fact, on the east coast you will see more BMSS on endurance and CTR horses than any other brand. Can only speak for this area but I'd bet that this is also the case thru the rest of the country.

Bonnie

jnel
Mar. 11, 2008, 05:49 PM
Chicamuxen, when you say "heavy weight" rider what kind of weight are you talking about? I've read posts here where people think 150lb is "heavy". I'm a fair bit more than that (yes I confess sz 18) and have stayed away from treeless because of that. Just curious.

Bogie
Mar. 11, 2008, 07:40 PM
The other thing is that on such a long ride, your horse's back is very likely to change shape, so a saddle that fits at the beginning of the journey may not fit him in the middle or the end. I think that is why so many are saying that treeless might be a good option for your horse.

Oh, one last thing. If you try treeless, the pad makes a huge difference. Your dealer should be able to help you find the right pad or modify an existing pad to suit you and your horse. There are many padding options out there!

Those are the same two points that I thought when reading your post. I have both treeless and treed saddles (which I use depending on my mood). I'm not a light weight rider (190). I haven't had any problem with my horses' backs being sore. I ride with either a Saddleright pad or a skito pad. I had my saddle fitter check their backs and he saw no problem with the set up I was using.

I have found that on my warmblood (no withers and round) I have some problems with stability. I ride in either a Torsion EL or a Freeform. The Torsion will slip on him unless I use a thinline pad.

chicamuxen1
Mar. 12, 2008, 06:55 AM
Jnel,
AERC has four weight categories. HWT is 211 lbs and up. This is rider and tack combined. At the beginning of the year you have to declare which category you are in. As I get older I just keep getting shorter and shorter horses and lighter saddles. Now I'm reduced to stripping more tack off my horse! Hah, the joys of middle age! Actually my young horse keeps growing, darn him. Even my farrier (who's family raises those Irish Draughts) remarked last night that he's gotten taller. Gotta laugh, he seems huge to me at 15.1 + because my Mighty Mouse is 14.3. gone are my days of lightly hopping onto a 16.2 hand horse.

bonnie

matryoshka
Mar. 12, 2008, 09:25 AM
Hey Bonnie, I sat on a Bob Marshal Sport Saddle (BMSS) after hearing your recommendations at the clinic. Unfortunately, the seat doesn't offer me enough support. Neither did the Ghost. Luckily, I took a lesson on Monday and the instructor checked the Arabian tree Abetta for me--said it is good for my horse for right now. I can continue to save money for a while. I'm hankering for one of those Skito Dry Back pads, though.

A2, I didn't mean to knock your saddle. I've been riding a mutton-withered horse for a friend, and the Sensation stays pretty centered. I can even mount from the ground with it. However, your horse could be totally different. I don't think a tree helps much on those superwide backs with no withers. I've got the opposite problem with my guy.

Llong, we'd love to hear an update about how your plans for the ride are going. Can we live vicariously through you? I don't see myself ever doing such a long ride, but one never knows. I've got a neat pony-yearling in my field that seems sturdy enough to make such a trip. Maybe by the time she's 10 or so my husband and I could plan a long ride. I'd truly love to ride as much of the Appalachian trail as possible. I don't think my OTTB would be up for such a looooong ride. He's a hard keeper, is very emotional, and his feet are soft. I'd think that an easy keeper with a stoic disposition might be a better choice (as long as the stoicism doesn't mean he'll hide pain until he's broken down).

chicamuxen1
Mar. 12, 2008, 10:53 AM
Matryoshka, don't forget that most saddles have variations available. The BMSS have a variety of pommels and cantles available, They have a western style cantle that offers far more support. Then there are bigger or wider pommels. In fact this is importent for everyone to remember.
1. If it is different from what you are used to it will probably feel wrong. That's normal, it is different. It still may be better for you and your horse and it takes time for your body to make that change.
2. Just because you don't like something about a saddle doesn't mean there isn't a fix. The mfgr may make a slightly different model that is what you want/need. Or a different saddle pad or shims added to a saddle pad may be the fix. Get creative. You may not be able to buy the perfect saddle off the rack but you may be able to make a saddle perfect with a little creativity.

Bonnie

matryoshka
Mar. 12, 2008, 03:30 PM
Thanks Bonnie, I'll keep looking and checking into the options available. :)

gabz
Mar. 13, 2008, 12:53 PM
Well... probably in a different price range/ quality category - but I recently had to shop for a very round, mutton-withered gaited Missouri Fox Trotter. The shop that I trust explicitly for fit is West 20 in Wisconsin.

After sending photos and wither tracing... The store owner brought me a Fabtron endurance, special contoured tree to try. I had to wait almost 4 months for the saddle with that tree.
I like Fabtrons because they use the Equi-fit, Steele tree and their upper saddle is ALL leather, providing a solid support; while the skirting and fenders are cordura. Stirrup "leathers" are leather-reinforced web.
I am also ordering a pair of SA Walls slant stirrups with 3" tread.

I have not had a chance to ride this saddle but several friends have sat it and like it over several others we all tried during a recent horse expo.
The retail price on this saddle is $719.00

I also have a friend who recommends switching saddles for long rides or week-long rides. Using 1 for a few days then a different one for a few days - of course, it all depends on the ride's rules and accommodations.

I have ridden in a BMSS - I really, really liked it and considered it for this MW, MFT... however, between the trainer and myself - we were worried about front-to-back pinching due to the shape of the horse, since the BM's have a solid pommel and cantle and because this was a gaited horse with their particular movement.

Good Luck with your saddle search and with your upcoming ride!!

ETA: This saddle allows for "straight" cinch/girthing or centerfire rigging.

Kyzteke
Mar. 13, 2008, 01:17 PM
Last year AERC endurance riders logged over 870,000 competition miles -- the vast majority doing so in treeless saddles.

Curious how you came up with this figure. Please quote your sources.

I don't believe AERC asks riders to name what kind of saddle they ride in, so how do you come up with "the vast majority?"

It's like a recent magazine article saying a "vast majority" of endurance riders were riding barefoot...totally NOT true. The last time I was at an endurance ride "the vast majority" were riding in treed saddles on shod horses.

saratoga
Mar. 13, 2008, 03:29 PM
I dont see the vast majority of riders with treeless saddles either. Certainly they are popular though. I pretty much see every kind of saddle represented- Abettas, orthoflexes, dressage saddles, even western, you name it.

I dont see as many Bob Marshalls anymore (BTW, I had one and hated it- slid up my horse's neck and was incredibly uncomfortable for me). Barefoots and Freeforms seem to be getting very popular.

halla
Mar. 13, 2008, 03:45 PM
I think the treeless idea is pretty interesting, and the owner of the horse I half-lease said both he and her previous horse really liked the treeless dressage saddle she got. I tried it a while back and thought it felt fine but didn't want to ride in a dressage seat; horse has since lost weight, and in desperation (me and her Wintec do not get along) tried it again recently. I was one for all of two minutes. Now that Bob is not just a TB but a skinny TB, it was like having his spine for a thong. I imagine it would very comfy on a nice round Arab, but ooo, not this guy :) Nor can I imagine he enjoyed the sensation all that much.

Auventera Two
Mar. 13, 2008, 04:08 PM
How does anyone see the "vast majority" of endurance riders in the AERC at any one ride, or even in any one region? :confused: I think region has a lot to do with what equipment you see.

I think if a person lived near, say, April Battles, and used her as a role model and saw that she rides treeless, they might be more inclined to ride treeless. But if you lived near some other big name mileage person who rode in a particular brand of treed saddle, the people who look up to that person in that region may use that particular kind of saddle.

At the rides I did last year, I tried to pay attention to tack and I saw stuff absolutely all over the board from treeless to every kind of treed saddle you can imagine. Also in terms of foot wear too. I saw horses who were shod, horses in boots, and one horse who was totally barefoot. It all varies from ride to ride, the terrain, the region, etc.

gypsymare
Mar. 31, 2008, 03:56 PM
I'm 190lbs, 5'9", size 14 jeans, so I'm no lightweight and looking at the size of my butt and thighs that contact area is far larger than the panels on my all purpose hunt seat saddle. Which, although being a great fit for my horse, does make her back sore on longer rides.

So I started searching for a saddle to start trail riding in and conditioning for a clinic and I bought a Reinsman Flex Tree Trail saddle. Nice huge bearing panels, comfy fit, flexible tree. The horse was happy after a 12-15 mile ride, although she picked her way down hills I thought that was normal. Just being careful, right? Then I tried a friend's Torsion saddle and while wholly uncomfortable for me, all of sudden my horse was going downhill ears forward and booking. Wow. Obviously she'd been having shoulder pain that I knew nothing about. I knew I had to make a change.

Then I rode in a Freeform and I loved it, horse loves it, no more sore backs or shoulders, better stride, all in all much happier. I've tried other traditional saddles on her, a Benz dressage saddle, a Passier, and several other western saddles and a couple other all purpose saddles with every pad known to mankind. Some were altogether rotten, some fit just fine for regular working arena rides, but none have been comfortable for long rides except the treeless Freeform. So if you're so terribly against treeless saddles please, I would LOVE to find a nice treed saddle that my mare would be happy in and my less than stellar riding friends could amble down the trail on her in but frankly, I don't think one exists! And please tell me why she's so happy and comfortable in a treeless and so miserable in any of the other traditional saddles I've tried. Each horse and rider is an individual and a team and what works fantastically for one pair might be abuse for another. I would not recommend going treeless on a horse with a ton of spook or for a rider with less than ideal balance.

So saddles evolved over time with trees. What drove the innovation? Bigger weapons, more armor and basically the need for a more stable fighting platform. Sorry, but I don't plan to joust in my saddle anytime soon. If I can mount from the ground it's stable enough for me. My primary concern in the choice of my saddle is my horse's comfort, not how far over I can lean to decapitate a fellow competitor with a broadsword. :D It just wouldn't be sporting.