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Treeless: Not for everyone?

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  • Treeless: Not for everyone?

    I'm not trying to open up a can of worms here, just wanting some thoughts and opinions . A few months ago, after I started bringing my mare back into work after a several-month layoff (she was living the Pasture Princess life while I graduated from college and got settled), I realized that my trusty, beloved Wintec Pro Dressage wasn't fitting her properly anymore due to her back and barrel being comprised entirely of lard (I'm exaggerating a little, but not much).

    I used my Cashel Soft Saddle in the early stages of de-fat-ifying her and then bought a treeless endurance saddle once we started really conditioning (a popular brand, though I'm not sure I should say since I'm not bashing the saddle, just the saddle in our case). From all the literature/advice on it, it seemed like the answer to our problems. But a month into using it, as much as it pains me to admit it, I HATE the stupid thing . Even with the extra-wide pommel insert, the pommel points dug into her back (left dry marks under the saddle pad), and I've removed the insert and stuffed the pommel with wool, but now it's not giving her quite enough wither clearance. I'm not thrilled with the spine clearance either, although she hasn't shown any signs of back pain (yet). And I am using the special treeless saddle pad. It flings me backwards when I'm posting at higher speeds, and I've had to make a special place for my chiropractor in my heart and my checkbook because of what sitting so wide (without a twist) has done to my back and hips. It makes me wonder how much actual back benefit she's getting from the saddle if I'm getting slung around like a sack of potatoes in it.

    Anyway, I feel like maybe I should re-fit the Wintec now that she has an actual topline and not just a shelf of fat with a spine somewhere under it, but it seems like the general sentiment in terms of endurance saddles is that treeless is best. Has anyone else found that treeless might not actually be the best choice for a particular horse and rider? I'm new to the sport--my background is h/j and dressage--so I don't know whether I should forge ahead with the treeless thing or just go back to the old-fashioned treed saddle (although it does have CAIR, not sure if that's a consideration or not).

    Also, we're in the early stages of conditioning and will only be doing a few LDs and maybe a couple of 50s in the next couple of years, so I'm not sure I can justify plunking down thousands of dollars for a top-of-the-line treeless endurance saddle right now, particularly of the lowly old Wintec still fits her.

  • #2
    First off, there are only a few treeless saddles that would cost "thousands of dollars." Most/many are under a thousand. I also loved my wintec, but switched to treeless when my horse filled out more, and have no regrets. Of course, nothing is right for everyone. You might benefit by checking out the treeless saddle forum on yahoo. Lotsa picks, good discussion, very educational! Good luck!

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    • #3
      Just like anything else -- nothing works for "everyone." I've got a training buddy that has a Bob Marshall that she has used on her horse for several years. I started riding him in my extra wide Albion Dressage saddle to school some flatwork, and when hers went off for repair, she tried it for a ride.

      He went much freer and happier in it and she is happier in it as well. Some treeless saddles don't sit on some horses correctly and some are just plain more comfortable in a more rigid tree. My retired QH preferred a treed saddle -- he didn't want you sitting on his back, though it is shaped like a barcalounger.

      If you aren't comfortable, your horse will be uncomfortable, as your balance will be off. A treeless endurance style saddle is not required for the sport or even expected == I do LD in a pretty flat, County Extreme jumping saddle.

      My horse's back is good in it, I'm ok in it <shrug>. Would I prefer my lovely dressage saddle with the big honkin' knee blocks? You betcha! But this horse is NOT an Extra Wide and my saddle is. <sigh> But, at least my friend is getting some use out of it until my Shagya filly grows up enough to see if it will fit her!

      Your mileage will always vary with saddles, so find whatever works for you and for your horse and go with it!

      Libby
      I have Higher Standards ...do you? Find us on FB!
      Higher Standards Custom Leather Care -- Handcrafted Saddle Soap

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      • #4
        So many people rave about treeless being the best thing on earth, but to me, it really depends on the particular saddle and how well it works for the horse. My favorite saddle has a tree but I do currently have a Barefoot, which I also like. I do find in general, that I am more balanced in a good treed saddle and it is kinder to my body during endurance rides, though the treeless saddle cant be beat for being comfortable when you are just going along for an easy walk. SO just go with what works for you and your horse and dont worry about the latest fads.

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        • #5
          Treeless has worked well for me. I like the Freeform Classic. It's a lovely, hand made Italian calfskin with more structure and a narrower twist than many other brands. Most importantly, it is very comfortable for both my horse and myself. I've suffered from terrible knee and back pain for years and this saddle alleviates much of it especially on 50's.

          That being said, just liked treed saddles, there are a wide range of styles, brands, fits, price points etc. They don't work for everyone. Just as flex panel saddles weren't the be all and end all, so goes the treeless.

          Most dealers have a generous demo period and it's worth it to take advantage of that. Try different brands, styles before choosing. IMO you get what you pay for so avoid the cheap Ebay knockoffs. And don't forget to ride hard and often during that trial time.

          A well fitting saddle is a treasure regardless if its treed, treeless or the countless variations in between. Best of luck.
          Last edited by pandorasboxx; Sep. 21, 2007, 03:08 PM. Reason: clarity is gold

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            I did like the look of the Freeform--I just can't spend $1500 on a saddle right now (if my High Maintenence Mare watch is right, one of the horses will be coming up with a reason for a big pre-winter vet bill any second now). But I'll see if I can do a demo program to figure out whether it would be worth saving up for. I never met a big set of thigh blocks I didn't like .

            I have noticed, like saratoga said, that my treeless is great when we're just having a nice slow liesurely ride. It's when we're moving along at a working trot or canter that I feel like I'm flailing around and she's bracing against the flailing--not a good thing overall.

            Mainly I don't think I've seen many distance riders with dressage saddles...so I didn't know if there was a reason behind that which would make it a bad idea to go back to the drawing board with my Wintec PD, or if it was just a product of other types of saddles being more en vogue.

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            • #7
              It's like anything else I guess, they work for some and not for others. There are several "treeless riders" in my trail club that would NEVER hear of riding in anything else. I ride in a Tucker endurance. It has a "flex tree" but definitely a tree. I have tried a couple of treeless saddles on Jake and he really doesn't seem to like them. His foxtrot is GONE in a treeless. He just kind of flops around--it's terrible.

              So...to each their own...

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              • #8
                I have noticed, like saratoga said, that my treeless is great when we're just having a nice slow liesurely ride. It's when we're moving along at a working trot or canter that I feel like I'm flailing around and she's bracing against the flailing--not a good thing overall.

                Mainly I don't think I've seen many distance riders with dressage saddles...so I didn't know if there was a reason behind that which would make it a bad idea to go back to the drawing board with my Wintec PD, or if it was just a product of other types of saddles being more en vogue.
                I started off in a Wintec Isabel. At the time I needed the security offered by the deep seat and kneerolls. It worked well on relatively flat rides but in the mts my horse was getting loin soreness.

                However, I find myself as secure if not more in my Freeform even with the occasional spook. I think it's because my back doesn't hurt like it used to so I've stopped bracing and am actually more relaxed and balanced. And I def. don't do much slow and leisurely riding.

                I wouldn't be concerned about what other distance riders use. You'll see the whole gamut of saddles at competitions incl. dressage. Go w/what works for you. If your Wintec PD worked for you before then I'd use that.

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                • #9
                  I can't speak for treeless endurance saddles. I have a friend who is a serious dressge rider. She purchased a very nice treeless dressage for about $1800 and experienced nothing but frustration when riding her horse in it. Never felt she could get into the position she needed to to clearly communicate with her horse, so the training was slowed and fuzzy, causing more frustration. After 8 months she called it quits, got a treed saddle from England, and put the treeless model up for sale.
                  Do what works best for you and your horse.
                  "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein

                  http://s1098.photobucket.com/albums/...2011%20Photos/

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                  • #10
                    I've tried several treeless saddles -- they offer differing levels of support and they fit quite differently. Some, at least for my build, have the stirrups placed too far forward. That puts you in a perpetual chair seat (flailing to keep up!).

                    Treed saddles certainly offer more rider support and if they fit well, are going to be comfy for the horse. I have both treed and treeless and don't see any need to have just one kind.
                    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Bogie View Post
                      Some, at least for my build, have the stirrups placed too far forward. That puts you in a perpetual chair seat (flailing to keep up!).
                      I'm not sure about other brands but I know that my Freeform leathers can be moved to wherever you'd like your leg.

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                      • #12
                        Mainly I don't think I've seen many distance riders with dressage saddles...so I didn't know if there was a reason behind that which would make it a bad idea to go back to the drawing board with my Wintec PD
                        I ride 25's in my Wintec dressage and get A's on his back at the end, so its done

                        Friend rides in a Wintec Pro and does 75's
                        I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pandorasboxx View Post
                          I'm not sure about other brands but I know that my Freeform leathers can be moved to wherever you'd like your leg.
                          Yup! I have one and really like that feature.

                          As for the Wintecs, I find that my horses go very well in them. I have the Wintec XC, which is a jumping saddle with a very forward flap. My horses jump extremely well in them. My theory is that the light weight and flexible nature of the saddle is comfortable for them.
                          Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                          EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I rode in an Ansur saddle for a while on a trail horse I used to lease. After an hour or two riding in the darned thing, my knees and hips would be killing me! I could definitely feel the horse better in the saddle, but I doubt he liked me squirming all over the place trying to get comfortable.

                            This saddle put the rider's weight directly on the horse's spine which isn't a good idea IMHO. The horse seemed OK with it, but it can take a long time for soreness from a saddle to show up.

                            Even if a certain saddle is popular, each horse and rider combination is different. I think you have to try different saddles to see what works for you. I've noticed that when I use my saddle on other horses, it can feel very different.

                            On a side note, I read Dr. Joyce Harman's saddle fitting book and found it to be very helpful when I was trying to find a new saddle. Good luck!

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