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Saddle help - what do I need?

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  • Saddle help - what do I need?

    I have a honkin' huge western saddle and I want to downsize. I got this thing because it was so comfy, but it's too heavy to hoist up on my horses, and it's too long.

    I like that it has roughout fenders and suede seat - I like the extra grip. I think I need a round skirt for my short-backed horse (and to make it lighter).

    I like barrel racing saddles for their deep seats, but often find that the fenders are hung too far forward. I do mostly dressage these days and like my legs squarely underneath me. I also have found that a lot of saddles have the girth (cinch I guess it the right term) too far forward. I got rid of one saddle because it didn't have a rear cinch, and the front one was too far forward and the saddle rocked.

    I had an australian saddle and sold it because the stirrups were waaaaay too far forward, and the poleys were too trappy - felt like I couldn't get out of the saddle if I tried (it was difficult to even dismount!).

    I rode in a friend's saddle years ago that I liked (it was a gaited or endurance saddle?) but I didn't like the fact that the skirting went way down over the shoulder. Other than that, I liked everything else about the saddle. Shoulder clearance is important to both of my horses.

    What exactly am I looking for based on the above? I know a little about western saddles, but not quite enough I think. I mostly ride in my english saddles, but both my horse and I were quite sore after a long trail ride. I just want another option for the times I do trail ride, or to give my horse's back a break. Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Have you thought about treeless ? I'm going to get a Sensation Ride saddle . But you said Shoulder clearence ,did you mean wither clearence?



    • #3
      If you and your horses' conformation are suitable for treeless than I highly recommend it. I have Sensation Hybrid that I absolutely adore. The saddle is good looking, close contact, secure, stable, comfortable for me and my horse and well manufactured. I have always ridden western but was intriqued by this design. http://www.freedomtreeless.com/G3Hybrid.html
      on my horse:
      Once I demoed the saddle it was love at first sit and my horses approved too. My gelding, who was having issues with my western barrel saddle was obviously much more comfortable which would have sold me on the saddle anyhow but I found it so comfortable and lightweight (around 10 pounds) that I just had to have one and ordered my own saddle very soon after the first demo ride.
      "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."


      • #4
        Treeless are so nice and light. I have a Bob Marshall endurance saddle. But there are many kinds, and you'll need to do your homework to see if one will work and what one you might like best, and then you might want to demo a few.

        I don't find most Western saddles to be very comfrotable for my knees and ankles and seatbones, so I can't help you out much as far as a typical Western saddle. But maybe a synthetic for the lightness.


        • #5
          Depending on your budget....Synergist saddles are custom made and you have the option of a balanced seat or chair seat. At the other end of the spectrum, Fabtron and Abetta both have the stirrups set back in the balanced position and they are synthetic so they're lightweight.


          • #6
            I was going to suggest the Sensatoin Hybrid also. You can have it made with a suede seat, all the Sensations are custom made. Also the stirrup hanger is movable so you can set it to suit yourself. The stirrups can be moved back as far as you like. I just wish. I has a nice wide pommel which is quite secure. These are ver comfortable saddles, more so than many of them.

            Bonnie S.


            • Original Poster

              I had never considered a treeless saddle because both of my horses have prominent withers. since so many suggested it, I've done some research and the claims are all over the board, from they're the best thing since sliced bread to they cause damage to the horse's spine. Wow. What's the truth?

              thanks for all the tips though. I'm definitely looking into all of them. What places offer generous test-rides with the treeless saddles? I would definitely want to put a couple of good rides on one before i decided.


              • #8
                Treeless saddles are a monumentally bad idea as they fail to effectively distribute weight on the back of a horse. That's a key job of the tree.

                There are many lines of light weight Western saddles being made by "heritage" saddle makers. These are designs from the 1840-1870s (prior to the evolution of the heavy "steer roping saddle) that can be very secure and very light.

                There are also some excellent military saddles that are being reproduced and combine comfort, security, and light weight.

                Go here and get some idea of saddle designs:


                Here are a few saddle makers whose products I've seen and who make good quality items:




                That last site has an excellent section on saddle fitting and proper folding of a blanket to make a saddle pad.

                There are a number of other makers out there. Google, here, is your friend.

                Good luck in your search.

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                • #9
                  I highly recommend you join the Treeless Saddles Group on Yahoo! http://groups.yahoo.com/group/treelesssaddles/
                  Senation dealers offer a free demo with their dedicated demo saddles for the price of shipping only. Sensations are not typically recommended for horses with prominent spines for withers....but your prominent withers may be another person's normal withers....you can send pictures of your horse from the side, top and back to several of the dealers for evaluation. I have a horse with what I call "normal withers but someone else said he looks like he has prominent withers. My Sensation Hybrid works perfect on him. All of the dealers on the group are very helpful and will give you an honest assessment. There are other brands of treeless saddles with panels that work well with horses with prominent withers or spines....Startrek comes to mind. Some saddles have much less structure and are more reliant on the saddle pad to provide spinal clearance (Bob Marshalls and Barefoots come to mind) Then there are those that off "some" structure but still require a quality pad made for treeless saddles (Sensations, newer Barefoots with VPS etc). Upload pictures of your horse and ask for suggestions on the group.

                  With so many people sucessfully competing in endurance with treeless saddles, I think that their time has come. With the great advances in technology and materials made in the last 10 years the old arguements that they cause "damage" or "are a bad idea" don't hold water any more. Any saddle, not properly fitted to the horse and rider, will cause damage. I admit that Treeless saddles aren't right for every horse/rider combo but any given treeless saddle will fit a wider range of horses than any given treed saddle. With the wide range of quality treeless saddles being manufactured today there should be one style that will fit almost every horse. Proper padding is an absolute must. Weight of the rider also has some bearing on how well treeless works too as does riding style. Blanket statements that they are "bad" just don't hold water.
                  Last edited by PRS; Mar. 10, 2011, 11:20 AM.
                  "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
                    Originally posted by PRS View Post
                    I admit that Treeless saddles aren't right for every horse/rider combo but any given treeless saddle will fit a wider range of horses than any given treed saddle. With the wide range of quality treeless saddles being manufactured today there should be one style that will fit almost every horse. Proper padding is an absolute must. Weight of the rider also has some bearing on how well treeless works too as does riding style. Blanket statements that they are "bad" just don't hold water.

                    Excellent points. There are a lot of people competing at high levels in endurance with treeless saddles, and they're doing well. The way I have always figured, with the required P&Rs that endurance riders have to pass, if treeless saddles were not effectively distributing weight on a horse's back, and their horse was coming up unable to continue, they wouldn't be riding in them. I've been riding 2 years treeless, and my Haflinger has never been better in his movement. Heck, he wouldn't even canter with a treed saddle (which I admit might have been too long for his back anyway) but he's really happy with his Sensation western. I feel really comfortable too.

                    PRS raises a good point about treeless saddles not being right for every horse, and I think that goes to show that people who ride treeless can be more open-minded about saddles in general than the people who say they are bad ideas. Not every horse suits a treed saddle either. My Haffie certainly didn't, but while treeless saddles don't fit every horse, they fit a lot of horses.


                    That chart might be pretty helpful, it talks about the different kinds of backs that horses have, and as you'll see, they do point out that some horses are better suited to treed saddles. My Morgan/QH mare is getting a treed western saddle because I tried my Sensation on her, and she has no wither clearance, and padding really doesn't help, so I realize what works for the gelding doesn't work for her.
                    "My time here is ended. Take what I have taught you and use it well." -- Revan


                    • Original Poster

                      I have to admit I'm a little afraid of Yahoo groups. Like any board, they can be a wealth of information, but with that often comes information overload, and those who join (or more likely form) the groups are very passionate about the topic. So can't you please just help me here?

                      From what I've read up so far on treeless, it is vital to have spinal clearance, and as stated before, sometimes that is achieved via the "structure" of the saddle, and sometimes you need a special pad. Am I understanding so far?

                      Regardless of anyone's variation on "prominent withers" I can say without reservation that my TB's picture is next to that entry in the dictionary! The other horse has maybe slightly more wither than my "normal" but certainly not anywhere near the TB. Both have very broad shoulders (yay, saddle-fitting's most difficult customer....the withered horse who is not narrow through the shoulders).

                      I do appreciate all the info, links, and suggestions. I'm definitely coming across hybrids and types of saddles I didn't know existed. I'm more confident now that what i want is out there, but now I'm just even more convinced this is going to be a needle-in-the-haystack search!

                      I do sort of like the endurance type of saddles, some of which have a more english flap. One of the things I loathe about my bohemoth western saddle is that I can't feel a thing when I'm riding. To complicate matters, there is nowhere within reasonable driving distance that I can look at any endurance type of saddles. I'm relatively close to a large western warehouse of saddles, so I could try those easily.

                      Like most, I'm on a budget, so considering buying used in order to get decent quality, but with that often comes sacrificing a trial. fortunately, I have owned many, many saddles (I'm a tackaholic. I was in recovery but I've fallen off the wagon again. Please don't try to help me, just enable! ) so I have a good idea by just sitting in one at the store if it's going to work for me or not. The horse is not always quite so easy.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by dreamswept View Post

                        That chart might be pretty helpful, it talks about the different kinds of backs that horses have, and as you'll see, they do point out that some horses are better suited to treed saddles. My Morgan/QH mare is getting a treed western saddle because I tried my Sensation on her, and she has no wither clearance, and padding really doesn't help, so I realize what works for the gelding doesn't work for her.
                        thank you! That page was pretty informative for someone who doesn't know a lot about the options. My horses are a hybrid of A & C. I think many, many people have this issue. Modern breeding has moved away from the slab-sided TB and the totally round barrelled QH, and with the infusion of warmbloods and all the mixing, I think we are seeing more and more horses with a very well-sprung rib, a big, muscular shoulder AND a high wither. Saddlemakers, are you listening!?! anyway, I'm stepping off my soapbox on that.

                        I'm still intrigued by treeless but it's not going to be the top of my list due to the research I've done so far, but it is at least on the page now. I have found that what fits my horses best are the saddles of the 80s - half panel that doesn't extend down over the shoulder, and a "real" cutback head to accomodate the withers. Problems with saddles of that era are that they don't often have the wide channel through the gullet, and the panels were often a little on the narrow side. some of the close contact western saddles seem like they would give the proper clearance and weigh distribution, IF i can make sure they don't inhibit the shoulder, and they aren't too long. Kind of points back to an endurance saddle.

                        The more I learn the less I know.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post
                          From what I've read up so far on treeless, it is vital to have spinal clearance, and as stated before, sometimes that is achieved via the "structure" of the saddle, and sometimes you need a special pad. Am I understanding so far? .
                          yes, proper padding is essential on many of the models to create spinal clearance.

                          I only have personal experience with the Senations and Bandos

                          Sensation (some structure but with no hard parts not recommended for horses with prominent spines or high withers) http://www.freedomtreeless.com/

                          Torsion some hard parts, works for many different conformation types needs excellent padding http://www.mossrockendurance.com/vie...19&prod_ID=405

                          Ansur http://www.ansursaddle.com/ (drooling over the Endeavor)

                          Bob Marshall (many different models with different sized pomels not much in the way of stucture, padding is essential to create spinal chanel - most models are looooong)

                          Trekker http://www.genuinetrekkersaddles.com/shop.html

                          Barefoot new with VPS panels (has hard pommel and cantle but can be changed out for diffent size or materials
                          StarTrekk (some of the best structure out there with movable panels, expensive)
                          Abby is one of the most knowlegeable dealers I know of, she can offer a suggestion as to which saddle with work best for your horse: http://www.saddlingsolutions.com/ She sells Barefoot and StarTrekk but won't hesitate to suggest another brand if neither of hers will work for you.

                          Fheonix (great if you want a traditional looking dressage saddle)

                          Freeform http://www.actionridertack.com/catal....php?cPath=148

                          Treefree http://www.treefree-saddles.co.uk/in...p?page=Saddles

                          Ghost: Probably wouldn't work for your guy: http://www.ghostsaddles.co.uk/

                          Black Forest: http://www.blackforestsaddles.com/

                          Kuda Saddles

                          Rebecca Treeless (Softride) Almost never come up for sale used...seems people like them so much they keep them. http://www.rebeccatreelesssaddles.com/

                          Sharon Patterson: has gotten high reveiws from users: http://www.treeless.webs.com/

                          Ez Fit: http://ezfittreelesssaddles.com/


                          Bill Huston: got VERY high reviews. Perfect if you want a traditional looking western saddle http://www.saddleuphuston.com/

                          Bandos: No structure, hard pommel and cantle I found it very uncomfortable but my mare liked it. I don't think they are manufactured anymore, when you can find them they are really inexpensive.

                          Low end saddles to avoid: Hilason, Maya and most no name saddles on Ebay
                          "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."


                          • #14
                            LOL, I think "most" high year-end and lifetime mileage endurance riders are riding treeless, they're certainly very prominent at the Tevis 100 mile ride as well as the pioneer multi-day rides, 50 miles day after day after day...Yes, it takes some tweaking to find the right one for your horse, the right pad combo, etc, but they are so great comfort and weight wise, and the horses do love them. I've had a Freeform, but keep going back to my Bob Marshall endurance, which is just heaven. I also use Tucker saddles, they're heavier, but great weight distribution for unbalanced riders, and a little more security for the greenies (horse and rider) Great wither clearance and a pretty forgiving shape, flared front end for the shoulders and come in regular, wide and extra wide
                            Windwalker Ridge: Gaited horses, lessons, training, sales


                            • #15
                              Tuckers have lots of different options. Rounded skirts & close contact. The website has good info on rigging and saddle fit,too.
                              "Looked bigger when I couldn't see him."~ Jayne Cobb


                              • Original Poster

                                OMG PRS (sounds like we're playing wheel of fortune doesn't it? )
                                I had no idea that many options were available. Now my head is swimming. You see, this is why I can't go to the yahoo group!


                                • #17
                                  LOL! Yeah, it can be overwhelming. I was lucky in that the very first saddle that I liked enough to demo was perfect for me and my horses. Also, even luckier, the dealer lives just minutes from me and has since become a dear friend. My point was, with all the options (some way expensive and some more reasonable) there is bound to be one that you like enough to try. There are also used endurance type saddles (treed and treeless) available for sale on endurance.net classifieds.
                                  "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."


                                  • #18
                                    Crestridge Saddlery may interest you- lots of good designs to round the skirts and many offer the three way /enduro balanced rigging.
                                    http://www.crestridgesaddlery.com/Sentry.html she's very good about assisting with saddle fit, too. The high cantles are good to your lower back on long rides.

                                    I had a Tucker River Plantation I really liked- but the suspended seat does get you up off the horse some, perhaps more than you are at ease with...

                                    I love my husband's Eli Miller/Henry Miller Old Timer. It's a deep seat but feels easy to get out of, and puts his leg right where it should be. It weighs nothing, btw, maybe 20 lbs? http://highcottonsaddles.com/henry-m...r-gallery.html


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Every time I check back in and follow the links I am amazed at all the various options available. I'm feeling more and more overwhelmed.

                                      I really like the price of the abetta's, and these are the ones I'd most likely be able to find within driving distance to check out. What are peoples' reviews on these? biggest complaints with them? I like the looks of the cushy memory foam seat models, I like the idea of the wide, cushioned stirrups, and I also like all the rings for attachments. I'm also liking the idea of an endurance or no-horn option for the times with MiniMO wants to hop on with me (which is rare). Does the no-horn make it easier to get out of the saddle? I am a total klutz when getting out of my western saddle. I don't know exactly why, but I think the high cantle and the horn are probably part of the problem.

                                      I'm also a fan of synthetic because it's light, and I already neglect the cleaning and oiling on my other leather saddles.

                                      I do prefer a grippier jockey/seat (like roughout) because when I trail or pleasure ride I like to hop on in my yoga pants or whatever I've got on. When I ride in my english saddles I'm nearly always in full seats of some sort because I can't stand a slippery saddle.

                                      You guys may have created a monster here. While following all these cool saddle links, I've found all sorts of neat biothane tack in cool color combinations that I would love to have. I would have no use for it, but man you guys have some cool looking stuff over here. I even saw a pair of full leather seat jeans with fringe. Do you all think I'm horrible now because I'd secretly love to have a pair?! What has gotten into me!?

                                      Still not ruling out treeless 100% but some of them look downright space-age.


                                      • #20
                                        I don't love the Abettas, they feel hard to the hand and don't soften. The Fabtrons are better in that regard, all have a bad angle on the stirrup leathers. I suppose you could replace them with english leathers, maybe?

                                        Cushioned stirrups can be put on anything, they are sold separately. I have a no name hornless western saddle I left in MT with my friends: I use it when we visit there in the summer. Every time it's easy to get in and out, sure, and if I want to tie off a halter for a long ride it's not hard to thread it through the gullet.