In my limited experience with treeless, I think most (treeless saddles) are very hard to fit on a horse with prominent withers. That might not be the case with Ansur, or some of the more expensive dressage types, though.
You might be able to pad up enough to make it work with some, but I think you'd have to worry about stability.
"I am still under the impression that there is nothing alive quite so beautiful as a thoroughbred horse." -- John Galsworthy
I have a 17H hanoverian, 6 years old, with a MWish back and a decent wither; also an older thoroughbred with a prominent wither.
Most of the theads I've seen on treeless saddles seem to focus on what a great fit they are for friesians, morgans, drafts, and generally round-bodied horses.
They also seem to be more of a choice among lower level and eclectic riders (dressage/trail, dressage/western, etc).
Does anyone used a treeless on their wither'ed horses? Are treeless riders in the second level and above domain?
Not that I'M there, mind you. Just wonderin'
I ride in an Ansur treeless. Not because I am a treeless fanatic - just have more horses then money for well fitting quality regular saddles
I use this saddle on a huge variety of backs. High withers to no withers. I find I play a bit with padding on the thinner horses, or ones really sensitive. But no problems (so far - about 6 years...). Even used this saddle on my 17hh WB horse doing ranch work (8hr days) - mounting from the ground several times a day opening gates etc - and absolutely no trouble. (well, I do get laughed at a lot by the real cowboys... )
As far as level of riding, I don't think the saddle is a hindrance - currently schooling pirouettes, changes and beginnings of piaffe and such... so I would say it works
And I bought it used on Ebay for about $1,200 if I remember right....
I've seen the ads for that and I wonder if anybody's used one, especially for any length of time with serious work. It seems to me like the area it appears to flex, right below the rider, would lead to some pretty serious pressure. I'd be curious to hear about actual experiences with the saddle…
I tried an amulet, rode right up on my horse's shoulder (so his withers are not THAT prominent). :-)
In treed OR treeless saddles, I'm confused about the amount of clearance that is meaningful/needed. I tried a hoop tree saddle with serge panels last night, looked great on his back, and when I rode in it the saddle dropped down quite a bit. Probably still 2-3 fingers at the pommel, but I wondered how much clearance there was where I was sitting. This is a horse that seemssore where the stirrups attach and possibly along the spine.
There was a study at MSU done on treeless vs. treed saddles and the evidence overwhelmingly supported that well fitted treed saddles distribute the rider's weight over a larger area and that pressure was lower with the treed saddle that the treeless. I'm trying to find the link to the full study... Will post it when I do.
While I don't have personal experience with treeless saddles I can say that my body worker has mentioned that her clients who ride in them have significantly more issues when she works on their horses that her clients who ride in well fitted traditional saddles... I've heard this echoed by other bodyworkers as well. I don't know much about treeless saddles so I don't know if this is par for the course with treeless saddles or if they have the potential for the same fit issues as traditional.
Personally I would find a qualified independent saddle fitter (not a brand rep), have them evaluate the horse, and help you find a saddle. I don't know where you are but if you happen to be in the northwest I would HIGHLY recommend Dawn Anderson. She is hands down the best and most knowledgeable fitter I've ever worked with. If she's not in your area see if you can find someone who went through the Society for Master Saddlers program.
If you want to try a treeless for your high-withered horse, check out saddlingsolutions.com. Abby is very helpful and will send you a demo. I just went through this with my TB. I ended up deciding to stick to a treed saddle, but I can tell you that not all treeless fit every horse, and they do make different models for different shapes of horses. You need the help of someone experienced in fitting treeless saddles who knows what kind of pads, etc. to send you with the demo. The StarTrekk has oodles of spine and wither clearance. When dealing with prominent withers and needing spine clearance, you need one with more structure than the softer types like Barefoot, for example. I recommend demo riding in several and see how it goes. Hope this helps.
Just keep in mind depending on the treeless you may have to buy a pad that allows for spinal clearance. A lot of the newer models havepanels but if you buy an older model be ready to spend $$$ on a pad.I have used treeless saddles on all types of backs. As far as back soreness goes with a treeless it all depends on the rider. Was on a trail ride with some friends whom all ride in Bob Marshalls. One hore was slightly sore after 2+ hour trail. However the rider was not used to moving out as much as we did and was a bit bouncey in the saddle.The other horses had no soreness issues.
Britta Ritti with Dynamic Saddle Fitting (has website) specializes in fitting treeless saddles. She doesn't advocate treeless for all horses or all riders. She has been extremely helpful and knowledgeable.
I have been using treeless saddles for 4 years and both the Fhoenix saddles (Heather Moffett) and my current saddles (Sensations from Nickers Saddlery) have fit a wide variety of horses. I like the Sensations best (the Fhoenix saddles are extreme hard in winter...and winter is fairly long where I live!) and use mine for both dressage and jumping (I am an eventer, so I have 2 saddles). I have done up to second level work and jumped 3'6"-3'9". My previous horse was a huge shouldered warmblood with medium withers and she let me know loud and clear (violent bucking) if there was any discomfort - all my treeless saddles fit her great and her body worker was always impressed with her condition.
My current horse is a 17.1hh shark-finned TB with fairly large shoulders and significant atrophy from previous too-small saddles and almost no topline. I do need to use some "fill in" padding while her top line muscles develop, but she is very comfortable in both treeless saddles and my body worker is very pleased with her significant progress in the short 3 months I have owned her.
My treeless saddles are unbelievably comfortable for me, provide plenty of support, and I can mount from the ground without stability issues. Both saddles have a "gullet" for spinal clearance. I don't use a special pad under my dressage saddle, but I do add an Equipedic pad under my jumping saddle as an extra precaution for the concussion of landing with a lot of weight in the stirrups. I love that when I occasionally take lessons on other horses, I have always been able to ride in my own saddle with just the occasional tweak to the padding.