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Treed vs Treeless (ie Hilason)

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  • Treed vs Treeless (ie Hilason)

    I have 2 VERY differently shaped horses, one WIDE Appy and one typical OTTB. I have a dedicated english saddle for each horse. But as I've gotten older I've come to realize that I prefer to just trail ride and feel a lot more comfortable in a western saddle (my BO's barrel saddle is what I've been using on the Appy). Since they are both so different in shape (wide vs. medium narrow) I'm contemplating something treeless, mainly for trail riding. Although the saddle would also be used for barrel training for the Appy (son's 4H project ride). So could someone explain what exactly a treeless saddle is? How is it different from a regular "treed" saddle? Do they fit every horse (ie my 2 different boys)? And are they stable on the horse's back (for barrel racing)? Lastly, does anyone know anything about the Hilason treeless saddles that are sold on E-Bay?


  • #2
    A treeless saddle is a saddle without the rigid (such as wooden or fiberglass) tree. Most need a special treeless saddle pad in order to get proper weight distribution and spinal clearance normally provided by the saddle tree.

    There are lots of different kinds of treeless saddles, and not every kind will work for every horse (though they can offer a lot more flexibility - for instance, you might be able to use the same saddle with two very different horses if you use different pads to adjust the fit. It really just depends). Stability also depends on the type of saddle, the type of horse and the other equipment being used (like the girth, the pad). You should check out the Yahoo treeless saddles group, if you haven't already:


    I haven't heard many good things about Hilasons, but I have heard lots and lots of bad things. If you have the $$, I would look into the higher quality brands - you get what you pay for.


    • #3
      I owned a Bob Marshall about 10yrs ago that i LOVED, but hit hard times and had to sell it. So a few years later i bought a Hilason. Biggest waste of $500 ever. The leather was the cheapest cardboard they could have possibly used. It was cut a bit shorter than the normal bob marshalls (more like their youth cut) and it did not have as high of wither clearance either. It had silver corner plates that came pre broken! The screw in part had broke off the plate itself. So then i had holes in the saddle once i removed them.

      It might look pretty in pictures but SOOO not impressed with it in person. Granted, it was cheap... But it would not have held up with regular use. No way!

      We now own two bob marshalls... I bought myself a nice one and after my husband had a few rides in it, he now owns one too. We are the weekend warrior trail riding types, so i dont put in tight turns and such in mine and rarely do we even canter... But i will say that the bob marshall offers much more lateral stability than the Hilason did. Pads used do make a difference and dont come cheap! Skito Pads are great for the bob marshalls, i actually use a reinsman wool barrel pad on my wide girl, my husband uses a pro choice air ride pad on his percheron. Both have no issues with either pad, but again, we aren't spending hours in them every day of the week either.

      I prefer them because i have knee issues and the nylon stirrup straps work well for me. I also have female issues and since i have nothing rigid to sit on, it's much more comfortable for me. Our horses seem to really like them, my mare used to be girthy and a little cold backed, she's never that way with the bob marshall. My husband just likes them because they are lighter and much more comfortable than his old western trail saddle.

      WELL worth the money to get a better quality saddle though. Hilasons will resale for NOTHING. I gave mine away. As apposed to a Bob Marshall that will sell for near retail even years later. There are a few other brands to look at too. We considered a barefoot, which looked nice, but wanted something a little more traditional looking.
      Your Horse's Home On The Road!


      • #4
        Originally posted by horse&pony View Post
        I'm contemplating something treeless, mainly for trail riding.
        Fine. You'd love it. My suggestion: the Barefoot Arizona. You'll never want to ride in a treed saddle again.

        Although the saddle would also be used for barrel training for the Appy (son's 4H project ride).
        Not fine. Stick with a treed saddle. That will equalize the sideways shifting pressure of the rider's weight in their feet as the horse takes those turns around the barrel. A treeless is NOT NOT NOT suitable for barrel racing.

        So could someone explain what exactly a treeless saddle is? How is it different from a regular "treed" saddle?
        Treeless saddles are designed to be a soft flexable saddle that molds to the shape of the horse. To do so they have foam to build up their panels. There is no rigid wooden or synthetic tree.

        Do they fit every horse (ie my 2 different boys)?
        No. Because they tend to have limited wither clearance they work better for the low wither/wide barrel horse. They don't work for a skinny/high withered horse.

        And are they stable on the horse's back (for barrel racing)?
        They are stable, but aren't made to handle the sideway torquing of weight in the stirrups. The saddle will put too much pressure on the horse's back in one concentrated area. You are best to use a treed saddle which distributes the sideways weighting of the stirrups along the entire length of the tree.

        Lastly, does anyone know anything about the Hilason treeless saddles that are sold on E-Bay? Thanks!!!
        Yes. They are crap. For a few hundred more you can get a top quality Barefoot (made in Germany). Talk about a fabulous saddle! Two thumbs up for the Barefoot.


        • #5
          Originally posted by horse&pony View Post
          Since they are both so different in shape (wide vs. medium narrow) I'm contemplating something treeless, mainly for trail riding. Although the saddle would also be used for barrel training ...And are they stable on the horse's back (for barrel racing)?
          I've have a Bob Marshall barrel saddle for over 10 years that I use for trail riding and team penning now and then. It was designed for barrel racing and I've found it to be very stable, especially since I use a crupper and breast collar, which helps keep it in place. I've not had a problem with it slipping side to side, but until I put a crupper on it, I did end up on my horse's neck when going down steep hills. I don't use a special pad, just a regular felt pad.

          I bought it because I'd ridden in the same saddle that two of my friends owned--one a trail rider and the other a barrel racer--and liked them.

          The only thing I can't use this saddle for is ponying other horses by dallying on the horn--that will cause the saddle to slip.

          I've used this saddle successfully on a variety of horses: high withered, low withered, wide backed, narrow backed. The only horse it might not fit is the very sway-backed horse.

          I wouldn't recommend a treeless for a weighty person either since there is little/no weight distribution.

          I bought mine as a interim saddle until my then young horse matured. I was planning on buying a saddle to fit her once she turned 6, but she is 15 this year and I've been so pleased with the treeless that I never felt compelled to get anything else. Love it!

          I cruise through eBay now and then, and I notice from the saddles like mine that have sold that I could sell mine now for more than I paid for it brand new.


          • #6
            Lastly, does anyone know anything about the Hilason treeless saddles that are sold on E-Bay?
            "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"

            Do they fit every horse (ie my 2 different boys)?
            I have a Sensation treeless for my Haflinger. He fits the profile very well. Mutton-withered, flat backed... you name it. I looked long and hard to find him the right treeless saddle, and I'm pretty much sold on the Sensations as far as treeless saddles go. I've got the western sport because I don't really like saddle horns (although as I'm considering western for my mare, I need to get over that ) Great saddle for him.

            Not so great for my mare though. She's more of a B type back, not quite A-framed, but she does have more prominent withers than the Haffie who's got none at all. I tried both my Sensation western and my Sensation G3 dressage on her, and there's not enough wither clearance with my current Skito pad. I could try shims, but I'm not certain how it would work. It'll be something you'll need to consider. I'm probably going to end up riding her in an Abetta because I know that's a saddle that fit her well in the past. I'd kind of prefer a treed saddle for her anyway because she's a gentle enough mare that I could let friends ride, and most friends I have aren't very well balanced, and I wouldn't think they'd do well in a treeless saddle.
            "My time here is ended. Take what I have taught you and use it well." -- Revan


            • #7
              I ride in a Bandos treeless Trail saddle and love it. My mare has a pretty typical thoroughbred build - prominent withers, muscular shoulders, short back, and it works really great for us. I'm comfortable, she is comfortable, it is very, very stable. Of course, they are hard to find now, since I guess they have been out of production for 2-3 years. My son has a Black Forest western saddle and loves it. It is also very stable, and fits out younger TB mare (built like her mom) and our QH mare (round, with the weirdest withers) equally well. I like that the Bandos has a fully adjustable stirrup attachment, while the BF does not. We use Haf pads for weight distribution. I have additional inserts in mine, as a heavier rider.

              The Hilasson is junk. Don't waste your money. The yahoo treeless group has a database of used saddles for sale, and any of them would be a better investment.

              Lots of barrel racers use treeless saddles, so I'm not sure where that assessment came from - the Bob Marshall treeless barrel saddle is a favorite of all the barrel people I know.


              • #8
                I have been very happy with my Freeform saddle. I have used it on my old Trakehener (no withers) and my TB (more prominent withers).

                It is not my only saddle, though. I use it for hacking and for schooling dressage but I also have treed saddles.

                I wouldn't recommend a treeless saddle for barrel racing for the reasons that others have said.

                I too tried a hilason early on. It was rubbish. I suspect that some are okay. I've read they are made in job shops in India and the quality varies significantly from piece to piece.

                The used saddle market is very soft right now and you can likely find a much higher quality saddle for the same cost as a new hilason.

                In addition to the Freeform, I've heard good things about the Sensation saddles.
                Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                • #9
                  I too "just trail ride" and preferred a western saddle. When my younger gelding started showing signs of discomfort in my western saddle though I started looking for alternatives. I started out looking at the Bob Marshalls since that was literally the only treeless saddle that I knew of or had actually seen in person. I spent a lot of time on the Hilason website....this was before Bob Marshalls sued them for copying their styles so there were a lot of Bob Marsall look alikes on there. On someone's recommendation I joined the treeless saddles group on Yahoo! groups and googled every saddle mentioned. I found the Sensation Hybrid and was so intrigued by the design that I demoed one and eventually purchased it. It works perfect for my gelding, my senior mare and several of my friends' horses that I've used it on. This is literally the MOST comfortable saddle I've ever put between me and my horse. It is also suprisingly stable and secure for the rider. Unlike most of the other treeless saddles the Sensations have absolutely NO hard parts in them. The Sensations also tend to have more of a twist than many of the other treeless also, which is of concern to me since I have bad hips. They are built out foam, leather and velcroe. The quality is apparent as soon as you touch the saddle. These saddles are made to order so you are getting a custom made saddle just for you. The pricing is very reasonable for a custom made saddle. I know that I will have this saddle for a very long time. I demoed and purchased mine from Melissa at Freedom Treeless

                  RE: Hilason....stay away, stay far far away from them. They are crap, their customer service is nearly non existent and they are so poorly made that they can be considered dangerous.
                  "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                  • #10
                    NEW - FREEFORM BARREL SN & BARREL LW

                    Hpolyi Everyone,
                    I was reading this conversation when I realized you most likely don't know about the new Freeform western barrel saddles. Not only are they gorgeous, they are great to ride secure and comfortable. Julie and I both have take the Barrel SN out to test of our wide barreled roly-poley arabs. This saddle stays put, it's a saddle you can sit in for miles and miles and remain comfortable. It's going to be great for barrel racing. It has adjustable western rigging, removable adjustable fenders (put them in the perfect place just for you) AND the cantle can be moved forward and back. This is ideal for a family with children. One saddle can fit one or more children through their growing years. Check it out. www.FreeformSaddles.com

                    With Warm Regards,
                    Candace Kahn BE ONE WITH YOUR HORSE