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  1. #1
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    Default Interesting Article on Treeless Saddles

    Here is an interesting article on treeless saddles:

    http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle....D=19191&src=RC

    I'm neither pro nor con, but I think this is the first scientific study of treeless saddles that I've seen.
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  2. #2
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    It would be interesting to know what pad they used under the treeless saddles.
    “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” Mark Twain



  3. #3
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    There is no mention of what treeless saddle was used ($99 ebay knockoff?), or whether or not an appropriate pad was used, so I don't think there is any value to the study, or at least how the study is presented in this article.



  4. #4
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    That is stupidity at it's finest. What treeless saddles were used? What pads were used? Sounds like NONE since it only specifies that a pressure sensitive mat was fitted underneath the saddle. Anybody with the capacity to read should know by now that most treeless saddles are to be used as a system WITH the pressure dispersing pad and foam inserts. Never ever alone or with a normal thin saddle pad. The pad becomes the "tree" in a sense.

    Guess what people? I have put a Port Lewis Impression Pad under my Bob Marshall and yeah, it smashes all the material out of the dead center of the pad right under my butt bones. BUT put the PLIP underneath the Toklat with double set of foam and wool inserts, and guess what? The dough inside the pad is perfect dispersed and even throughout the entire pad.

    The Bob Marshall is the #1 popular treeless saddle with endurance riders. Followed by probably the Freeform. Every endurance ride I attend, I take note of how many riders are in Bob Marshalls, and believe me, it is a SIGNIFICANT number. I try to talk to these people ask them why they switched, or how they like their saddles. Almost every person, every time, says that the horses get better back scores from the vets in the Bob Marshall than any other saddle they have ever used.

    For years I have been studying every online video and photo album I can find from Tevis and it is unbelievable the number of Bob Marshall saddles used. If treeless saddles were crippling and maiming backs, do you REALLY think that some of the top riders in the country would be using them on the most rugged and difficult 100 mile trail this county offers? HARDLY. And let's not forget that Freeforms have been on Tevis Cup and Haggin Cup winners.

    My horse has never ever had anything but an A for her back score from an endurance vet. When I do training rides at home I check her back the same as an endurance vet does and she never shows the tiniest bit of soreness. I also have not had another single white hair grow in since switching either.

    Does treeless work for EVERY horse out there? NO. The extreme A-framed backs have the most difficulty. I'm in that boat right now myself. It takes a lot more money and time and experimenting to find a treeless that works on that back style for the long haul. I ordered that one horse a custom fit treed saddle until I can afford a 2,000-3,000 treeless that will work for him.

    Looks like this study does have nearly enough data provided to be of any kind of use whatsoever.



  5. #5
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    I agree. I want to know which treeless was used and if a weight distributing pad was used.

    The article was pretty weak in that respect, although it did acknowledge the need for further study on different makes of treeless saddles.

    What I'd like to see in the article is the images of the pressure readings, which specific saddles were used and with what pads.

    I let my horse tell me which saddles cause her back pain from pressure points and thus far, they've ALL been treed. My Ansur, without an interpad, made her back sore too, but with the interpad.....perfection. When I say her back muscle palpate like butter, I am not exaggerating. They are soft, relaxed and with no knots or tension.

    So, this mare says treeless with interpads produce the most comfortable interface between this particular horse and rider.



  6. #6
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    BRAVO Dr. Clayton.

    The phenomina of excessive pressure has been known for at least a decade and has been regularly denied by the "treeless advocates." Once again we find the the Law of Physics apply to all of us (even if we've never studied Law or Physics).

    I'ts also worth noting that the saddle tree was developed by our acestors about two millenia back and weight distribution was one of the reasons why. Too bad for the horses that we don't study history anymore.

    G.


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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guilherme View Post
    BRAVO Dr. Clayton.

    The phenomina of excessive pressure has been known for at least a decade and has been regularly denied by the "treeless advocates." Once again we find the the Law of Physics apply to all of us (even if we've never studied Law or Physics).

    I'ts also worth noting that the saddle tree was developed by our acestors about two millenia back and weight distribution was one of the reasons why. Too bad for the horses that we don't study history anymore.

    G.
    Of course you're entitled to your strong opinion, but having seen how VERY sore supposedly well fitting treed saddles made my horse and how VERY comfortable she is in a well fitting treeless saddle, I will continue to let my horse tell me what's best for her, as I would hope others would do for their horses.

    To use a product simply based on the fact that it was developed over a millenia ago is the dumbest argument I've heard for selecting a treed saddle over a treeless one.

    I'm not an advocate of "treeless saddles", but I sure am an advocate of my horses comfort and well being. So I use what makes her most comfortable. That happens to be a saddle without a tree.


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  8. #8
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    Well that study was a big nothing-burger! LOL I think Guilherme has told us all of that at one time or another. I'd be more interested in a study that compared the results with different pads and against an ill-fitting traditional tree and against a well-fitted traditional tree. Hit all the scenarios, not just one.



  9. #9
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    In a couple of months, the farm where I work will be hosting a lecture series with Dr Clayton. If I get a chance, I will ask her some questions about what kind of pads they used, what brand of saddles, etc.
    “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” Mark Twain



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guilherme View Post
    BRAVO Dr. Clayton.

    The phenomina of excessive pressure has been known for at least a decade and has been regularly denied by the "treeless advocates." Once again we find the the Law of Physics apply to all of us (even if we've never studied Law or Physics).

    I'ts also worth noting that the saddle tree was developed by our acestors about two millenia back and weight distribution was one of the reasons why. Too bad for the horses that we don't study history anymore.

    G.
    If a horse is very comfortable and happy in a treed saddle, and works beautifully and never develops any white hairs or atrophy, then GREAT! Keep doing what you're doing. You won't get any argument out of me.

    But when you experience trouble with a particular horse and every damned treed saddle you've ever used was a fitting nightmare, then you might recognize the benefits of treeless.

    I had tried many different treed saddles, and my mare kept growing white hairs. She also got VERY crabby about going down hills. She would pin her ears and tip toe down. Sometimes she would whip her tail around in my face and swing her head around and try to bite my foot. That was a major sign we had big problems.

    The first ride I took her out in a treeless saddle, she was literally 100% better behaved. She went forward down hills very calmly and willingly. That has been around 4 years ago now and we have never had any trouble with her comfort or back health with treeless saddles.

    My Appendix has terrible back conformation (swayed, dipped, downhill) and the only saddles that fit her are treeless with flex and shape to her back, and an X-Wide Australian I have that is shaped like a big banana. Everything else bridges.

    My Paso has the shark finned A-frame back and he absolutely HATES my Bob Marshall paired with the Equipedic pad. He stops and refuses to take a single step. He dips his back and gets freaky and spooky. But he gaits off beautifully with my Bob Marshall and Toklat pad with mega built up inserts inside. However, he hates going downhill in that configuration. At the end of a long ride, he has uneven sweat spots and the saddle creeps backward and jams up behind his withers. Not good! I have been told that there are 2 brands of treeless saddles that work beautifully for these conformation types, but they are ungodly expensive. So for now, he's getting a custom fit CTK and we'll see how he does in that while I save $$$$ to buy the treeless that will hopefully work for him.

    You can not argue with the success of thousands of treeless riders, and especially 100 mile endurance riders going in treeless saddles. You just can't. And nor can I argue with the success of thousands of treed riders competing in all different disciplines. Each type of saddle has benefits and risks. Every horse has to be fitted individually with what works for THAT horse.

    Personally I despise treed saddles. The ONLY thing that convinced me to go ahead and try the CTK for awhile is that they were able to make it with a massively thick memory foam seat so that I won't be able to feel the tree under my butt bones. This horse goes perfectly in my friend's Big Horn Endurance saddle (treed) so hopefully he will go well enough in the CTK to get me through until I can buy the treeless that will work for both of us.



  11. #11
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    what types of treeless are good for the a-frames?



  12. #12
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    If I'm not mistaken, Heather Moffett who developed the Fhoenix line of saddles did test hers and a number of other treeless brands with the same type of impression pad. She also compared them with treed saddles. She found that the treed saddles tested put a lot of pressure under the tree points or stirrup bars where as the treeless saddles distributed the weight more evenly. Totally the opposite results.

    I ride in a Fhoenix and hands down it is the best saddle I've ever sat in. I've owned it for years now and have done dressage in it also...and a dressage saddle can make a horse very sore if it does not fit right. I just test rode the Collegiate Marathon and was surprised at how uncomfortable it is. I felt like I was sitting on a block of wood...wait...I was!!! Perhaps treeless saddles have ruined me in having that exceptional comfort and feel? I don't know but the Marathon was also unstable side to side. I will test ride a Tucker as soon as my friend comes down in a week or so. That will be interesting to compare.

    My Fhoenix, on the other hand, I rode in all summer on trails. I did mountain riding too...not tame stuff...steep banks up and down and jumps over stuff, rock scrambles. Trails like the Mt. Rogers wilderness area (VA Highlands Trail) and the Uwharrie. It never moved...not even a little bit...mounting from the ground also was fine. I had a saddle bag attached to it also. After 3 days of 6 hours in the saddle, my horse was not even a tiny bit sore. I was but that was my lack of fitness and not related to the saddle.

    My only beef with it is the straight flap and large thigh roll which is removable. I am going to see if I can get a smaller insert for it and see if that makes it a bit easier for me to bring my leg forward if needed on steep slopes.

    If I don't like the Tucker, I'm going to save my pennies and shop for an endurance style treeless...a top brand like Freeform or even the all-purpose model of Fhoenix soft tree saddles. All I need is a more forward flap and I'd be happy in it. Until, then I'll ride in my Fhoenix.



  13. #13
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    At the risk of engaging in "dueling saddle pressure analysis" Ray Miller, a farrier and saddle fitter from WI, did the same thing a decade or more ago. Dr. Clayton's findings square with this. Neither Miller nor Dr. Clayton are selling anything (except services).

    Was the Phoenix lady selling anything? Or making anything? Or advocating anything?

    Pressure analysis is a process that requires a strict protocol to get useful results. So we need to know about the protocol to make an insightful analysis.

    Can saddle trees fit poorly? Of course they can. But when fitted correctly WILL effetively distribute weight. That's a the Physics of it.

    It's not just poor fit that can cause pressure points with a tree, it's equitation also. Watch a bunch of gaited types riding for a flashy gait and you'll see most are riding "a la brida" (with feet on the dashboard and butt on the cantle), actively hollowing out the horse. For a ribbon winning gait this is essential. Some saddles even have portrusions added to the underside to assist the rider in getting that hollow frame. While I'd consider this barbaric it's common. These people may be brutes but they understand Physics and equine biomechanics.

    I stand upon my assertions that treeless saddles are a very bad solution to a real problem. That some folks can make them work is theoretically possible under perfect circumstances, but at the end of the day they violate the KISS Principle (as well as the Laws of Physics and Equine Biomechanics).

    G.


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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guilherme View Post
    At the risk of engaging in "dueling saddle pressure analysis" Ray Miller, a farrier and saddle fitter from WI, did the same thing a decade or more ago. Dr. Clayton's findings square with this. Neither Miller nor Dr. Clayton are selling anything (except services).
    I live in WI and I've never heard of him. Do you have any links or references? I'd be interested to read.

    Can saddle trees fit poorly? Of course they can. But when fitted correctly WILL effetively distribute weight. That's a the Physics of it.
    And so can a well fitting treeless with appropriate pads and inserts.

    It's not just poor fit that can cause pressure points with a tree, it's equitation also. Watch a bunch of gaited types riding for a flashy gait and you'll see most are riding "a la brida" (with feet on the dashboard and butt on the cantle), actively hollowing out the horse. For a ribbon winning gait this is essential. Some saddles even have portrusions added to the underside to assist the rider in getting that hollow frame. While I'd consider this barbaric it's common. These people may be brutes but they understand Physics and equine biomechanics.
    I'm unclear how hollowed backs and sore horses from poor fitting treed saddles proves that treeless saddles are damaging to horses.

    I stand upon my assertions that treeless saddles are a very bad solution to a real problem. That some folks can make them work is theoretically possible under perfect circumstances, but at the end of the day they violate the KISS Principle (as well as the Laws of Physics and Equine Biomechanics).

    G.
    You can stand on whatever you want but you're likely to be standing alone. There are many endurance competitors who have ridden more miles than you could wrap your brain around, who ride treeless. You aren't going to convince me that these people are all idiots who couldn't recognize a lame and sore backed horse if it kicked them in the face.

    And what about all the endurance vets - some of them world class - who are examining these horses and declaring them sound and fit to continue? Lame and sore backed horses aren't allowed to continue. Especially at the tougher rides where the stakes are higher.

    One of the highest mileage riders in the AERC rides in Bob Marshalls - Karen Chaton. She was the only one to complete all 40 days of the XP ride this year. That is 40 days of endurance riding, folks. She used 2 different horses. Not a walk in the park. She also rides only barefoot and in hoof boots but that's a fight for a different thread. As far as I know she has completed Tevis with all her endurance horses now. That's no easy task either. And what about April Battles - she has over 22,000 competition miles logged in Bob Marshalls.

    If "you" don't feel comfortable with treeless saddles then fine. I don't think anyone will argue with that. But do not attempt to convince anyone that everyone else successfully riding thousands of miles in treeless saddles are creating lame and back sore horses from all this pressure that isn't dispersed.

    And KISS? Seriously? You're really stretching now. What is more simple than throwing a pad and a saddle on a horse's back? I had significantly more stress, money, and worry tied up in treed saddles. Buying, riding in them, selling when they don't work, worrying when the white hairs will disapear. Yes I've had trouble with treeless along the way too. But that trouble has been much less than with the treed saddles I kept trying to make work.



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  16. #16
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    Ray has branched out some. Looks like he's no longer shoeing (not a surprise given that he and I are close to age contemporaries ). Here is his website:

    http://www.raymiller.cc/Equiscansaddlefitting

    Simple and simplistic are not synonyms.

    The advocates of treeless have yet to demonstrate that any system of soft saddle and pad can effectively distribute weight. Unless and until that happens they are putting the health of their horse's back at risk. That's the reality of the situations. I have no problems standing alone 'cause I'm not. Reality makes a pretty good companion.

    G.



  17. #17
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    I'm with Daatje on this one. Until you have had a horse that is very difficult to fit, you cannot imagine the difference a treeless will make. I tried both English and Western saddles, fixed trees, flex trees, and finally, reluctantly tried a Bob Marshall.

    I cannot believe the difference in this mare! When we cantered last week, it was the best canter I've ever had on her, in the 6 years that I've owned her. She moves freely, eagerly, and is a joy to ride. Before, she tried, but certainly had her cranky moments.

    I'm just sorry I waited so long to try them, and my mare had to suffer from my stubborn reluctance.

    Studies of any kind can be so skewed by the people performing them (which Guilherme alluded to), by the people paying for them, and our own personal experiences certainly color our opinions as well.

    I don't think bringing up history is a valid argument. As little as 20 years ago, no one cared how the horse felt about much of anything. the Majority used the same saddle, on multiple horses, just padding more or less. And we all know there are still people who feel that way about their horses, they are just a tool to use, no more, nor less. While the Mongols were pretty spectacular horsemen, I think the horses of that time had very short life spans, and probably pretty brutal lives.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guilherme View Post
    The advocates of treeless have yet to demonstrate that any system of soft saddle and pad can effectively distribute weight.

    Mare demonstrates to me how much better her "soft saddle" distributes weight than her treed saddles every single ride.

    Unless and until that happens they are putting the health of their horse's back at risk.

    That's right. By choosing the saddle that my horse has told me through body language is the most comfortable for her, I have put her back totally at risk.

    That's the reality of the situations.

    G.
    Until you have first hand, personal experience with a high quality and well-fit treeless saddle, who are you to judge the reality of whether they help or harm?



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guilherme View Post
    The advocates of treeless have yet to demonstrate that any system of soft saddle and pad can effectively distribute weight.
    Judging by the actual real world results of high mileage, top AERC competitors successfully training and competing in treeless saddles, I'd say you don't have a clue what you're talking about.

    Unless and until that happens they are putting the health of their horse's back at risk.
    Everything puts the horse at risk. Horse trailers, grain, blankets, vaccinations.........the list is endless of the risks we expose our horses to every day. Treed saddles! Heck how many saddle sores, galls, fistulous withers, white patches, and atrophied backs are out there as a result of treed saddles?

    That's the reality of the situations. I have no problems standing alone 'cause I'm not. Reality makes a pretty good companion.

    G.
    I find your attitude rather pretentious and rude. Suggesting that those who ride treeless are risking the horses' backs and have no foot planted in reality is ignorant. There is substantial evidence that treeless saddles, if well fitted and properly padded, can and do keep horses comfortable and sound for thousands of miles of training and competition.

    Jeremy Reynolds, who has won the Tevis Cup at least twice that I know of, competes in Freeform saddles. He won Tevis in 2007 and 2010 in a Freeform. He has to be doing something right.

    Oh yeah - and how about Chris Martin? Developer of the Bandos treeless? He works for Freeform and sells Freeform treeless saddles. His horse MONK just broke a North American endurance record for a 100 mile ride with 6 hours, 53 minutes. Oh yeah - he mostly competes in hoof boots too....Most of his blog is devoted to the barefoot and booted horse.

    You also might want to check out Christoph Schork's incredible record, including Quilty Gold Cup Winner, over 22,000 completed competition miles, and over 80 Best Condition awards. He rides treeless and he is one of the top endurance competitors in the world. He is a distributor for Sensation and Freeform Treeless Saddles. He is also a big advocate for hoof boots though he does use shoes also.

    But yeah you're right. These people know nothing about back health and how to keep a horse sound for the long haul.....they should probably call you up for a consultation.



  20. #20
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    Is a treeless saddle just like a puffy bareback pad? The Bob Marshall saddles kind of look normal, but others I see seem so thick and puffy. I am just curious what keeps them in place especially if you are using a lot of inserts and padding? How would they be any different than just riding bareback as far as the horse is concerned?



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