Can some folks explain dressage saddle adjustable trees, such as on some schleese, henning, type saddles? What about the tree is adjustable? Can you say how the tree is made, materials, etc? Do these trees hold up the same as a non-adjustable tree? Do they really adjust appropriately?
Saddle shopping for a med/narrow saddle, not easy to find (used at this time) for high withered horse. Not getting a good handle on what will work for us.
Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.
I only know schleese, but it is FULLY adjustable. His saddles are amazing, and when I am back in the market for a horse, a schleese saddle will be factored into the price! I LOVE his saddles for fit and function. He has some YouTube videos that show his saddle fitting and adjusting techniques. His channel is mjpschleese. Lots of amazing information there! He also travels extensively, perhaps you can attend a clinic? He does adjustments on site so you can see how it works!
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
I have several Schleese saddles. The ones with adjustable trees have nylon or carbon fiber trees. I think all the newer ones are carbon fiber. They have a machine that can widen or narrow the trees. When I got a new saddle for my mare, we took her saddle which was really wide and had it adjusted to another horse who is a medium build. We've been using that saddle on the second horse for about 6 years now.
Our horses change a lot as they grow and develop and we've had the trees adjusted many times on two of our saddles.
The adjustable tree saddle that I have is made with a normal wooden tree that has had the head of the tree split. A special piece of hardward is then screwed to both sides of the tree to hold it. The hardward will open or close by using a key at the adjustment point which is at the head of the saddle. The rest of the hardward piece is hidden, so without looking carefully, you will not see that the saddle is adjustable.
However, if the two sides of the piece of hardward are not perfectly alligned with each other on the tree, as you use the key to adjust, you will reach a point that the adjustment cannot be continued. It is as if you have screwed a bottle cap on, but not gotten the threads quite right.
I would say that an adjustable tree is only good for small increments of adjustment within a given size rather than thinking it will adjust a whole size up or down. If you do much in the line of adjusting it, there is also a tendency to get some small cracks across the leather that covers the hardware. Given the choice again, I would not buy an adjustable tree saddle.
With an adjustable saddle, idealy you want to buy one that is close to where you'll need it to go - eg, MW if you need to go M or W, if you start with a W & intend to adjust to N, you may see changes in the leather & shape of the tree as that gullet plate narrows so dramatically (it may also affect the balance of the saddle): even Wintecs are not made to stand frequent adjustment.
I spoke to one saddle fitter (during our still ongoing saddle hunt) that was very disapponted with a very popular adjustable saddle, as the wider gullet plates were put in, she found that the consequent flattening of the rest of the tree often resulted in a saddle that now rocked from side to side - she'll order those saddles in for customers that insist but no longer stocks them in her shop. She also noted that another company that introduced an exchangeable gullet into their fixed tree line, failed to mention that the new adjustable tree fit completely differently! regardless of the installed gullet.
I have a Wintec and a Schleese. The Wintec has metal gullet plates which comprise the points and head of the tree, and you take out the whoe thing and replace it with a different width as needed. This type has limited use as it cannot be fully customized, but it can be handy if the same horse gets narrower or wider. I've never had to change mine, but I've heard they're a bear to do and you can easily strip the screws, at which point you're done.
My Schleese is fully adjustable and is custom fit to my horse. The fitter uses a machine to adjust the width and then also flocks the saddle for an exact fit. I LOVE mine and so does my horse. The downside is that the custom fit limits its use on any horse but mine. On the other hand, I won't need to buy another saddle unless I have two horses at once, because this one can be custom fit to any horse I have in the future. And it is also the most comfortable saddle I've ever ridden in-like riding on a couch.
There are some saddle where the rider can adjust the tree (Wintec I think?) by replacing a piece of metal in the front of the saddle. I believe that's nice but not the final solution since if the tree needs adjusting the padding also usually needs adjusting.
My Verhans are also adjustable in the tree - but the saddler has to take the saddle apart to adjust the tree. Tree is metal and he uses a special setup to widen/shrink the trees then adjusts the stuffing so the saddle sits correctly. My older Verhan has been adjusted MANY times for 2 totally different horses and is still going strong. Not certain but believe there is a lifetime warranty on these trees.
It tells you all about the patent that Jochen has on his tree... also as a side note be careful if you look at older Schleese's as they could be made on a Hennig tree. The serial number will tell you which tree the saddle is made on. The best advise I can give you is to contact Schleese directly, as they are sure able to explain their trees better than any of us on COTH.
I just bought a used Schleese via a private sale and had a very helpful Schleese saddle fitter, Natalie Sauner, taking time to answer all my questions even though I was not buying the saddle directly from Schleese. I of course took the saddle to her to have it fit to my mare and she did a wonderful job!
Adjustable by the user or adjustable by the saddler?
Adjustable by the user are fraught with problems.
-The interchangeable gullet plates on many brands have otherwise plastic trees and really limited adjustability because as has been said, the shape of the plastic tree changes as the wider gullet plates are inserted and may not fit the horse in the back or channel after. As well, higher withered horses do not do as well as the gullet plate does not allow a full cutback head. The changing of the gullet plates is not that difficult on the newer Wintecs, but the older ones did require some elbow grease and it was easier to strip the screws. However, most of those wintecs should now be out of circulation as the tree is really only good for about 10 years, and the newer design is easier.
-the older adjustable like Rembrandts and Lazers, which have a hinge mechanism adjusted by an allen wrench "Key" tended to wear out and become looser with age so that they tend to get wider with each ride after a while and require readjustment and checking frequently. One came into the shop where it was so worn out that you could change the width by pressing with your hands. It was a write off despite being in good shape otherwise- not worth replacing the tree, which the adjustable part is an integral part of.
There is absolutely NOTHING SPECIAL about saddler adjusted trees. Its a crafty maker up to his old marketing tricks again. OH yes, new EXPENSIVE materials like carbon fiber justify the pricing of a $6K saddle, but do nothing to improve its usefulness or fit over a traditional wooden tree saddle at half the cost. Saddlery is not ROCKET SURGERY!
Most quality wooden or laminate trees have a metal arch plate which can be adjusted by the saddler. They are better if adjusted wider, and after two or three adjustments, the metal can suffer "fatigue" and be prone to breaking, which is why it is always better to get a new saddle that fits and have it adjusted rather than trying to get a used one adjusted- who knows how many times the tree has been stretched previously.
There are some trees now made of malleable thermoplastics which certain makers can adjust using infrared (heat). They have been around at least 15 years and have not really caught on. I have heard from folks who have owned them, that left in a hot car or in the sun, the trees on these types can warp or soften out of shape. Perhaps with the marketing and the fascination people have with anything new, they will now become more popular, but since 90% of horses can be well fitted with an off the rack saddle and minor adjustments, one is usually better to stick to traditional materials that have stood the test of time.
It is quite rare, IME, for a change in saddle fit to improve your riding except if the fit is really bad to begin with, but many people have this fantasy. In my book, most of the time, the money is better spent on good instruction than a fancy space age saddle marketed by a big name rider or popular brand.