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Treeless saddles....give me the good, bad and ugly

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  • Treeless saddles....give me the good, bad and ugly

    I have had saddle fitting problems with my mare. 6 western saddles and all leave dry marks of some kind.

    There is a treeless saddle in our local CL. Are they secure? I am a *big* girl, would I have slipping problems? I always mount from a block- knee and back surgeries plus my weight have dictated that!


    http://pensacola.craigslist.org/grd/2627144235.html
    What are your thoughts, good bad and otherwise?
    Last edited by Wraper2; Oct. 4, 2011, 12:15 PM. Reason: clarification

  • #2
    You don't want a no-name, cheap treeless. You need a decent brand (Barefoot, Black Forest, Bob Marshall, etc). There is a treeless group on yahoo that is a wonderful source of information.

    I ride treeless and love it, and more importantly, my horse is happy and comfortable. I ride in a Bandos with a Haf pad.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Wraper2 View Post
      I have had saddle fitting problems with my mare. 6 western saddles and all leave dry marks of some kind.

      There is a treeless saddle in our local CL. Are they secure? I am a *big* girl, would I have slipping problems? I always mount from a block- knee and back surgeries plus my weight have dictated that!


      http://pensacola.craigslist.org/grd/2627144235.html
      What are your thoughts, good bad and otherwise?
      That saddle is garbage.

      I ride and compete endurance in a Bob Marshall sport saddle. I use either an Equipedic or a Toklat Woolback underneath it. Both those pads have dense foam inserts to absorb pressure and disperse my weight. My horse always has straight As on her back condition at rides.

      I have tried other varieties of treeless saddles and did not like them at all. Well, that's not quite true - I did loove them at first but they had shortcoming that I could not seem to get over.

      Now I have two Bob Marshalls and absoltuely LOVE them. I couldn't imagine going back to a treed saddle for any reason. My horses are SIGNIFICANTLY more happy and free striding now.

      There will be one or two prolific posters sign on here and tell you that treeless saddles are stupid, dangerous, damaging, and should be outlawed from existence. I would like to point out that none of those people ride or compete long hard miles. Show up at any endurance ride and volunteer for the weekend. You will see MANY treeless saddles, mostly Bob Marshall. My endurance riding partner used to give me a really hard time about my treeless until I started pointing out to him "Bob Marshall.......Bob Marshall......Bob Marshall......Bob Marshall.....etc. etc. etc." at our endurance rides He's now zipped his yap about it.

      Comment


      • #4
        I wouldn't buy that saddle but I do love my treeless saddle. I ride in a Freeform that I bought on the yahoo forum. It's super comfortable for both me and my horse.

        I am 6' tall and not a lightweight. My horse has never had any back problems with it.

        One caveat: I also have treed saddles so it is not the only one I ride in.

        As others have said, by a good quality saddle that dissipates your weight well. Some saddles have gullets; others need you to create the gullet using a pad.

        Do a bit more research and then search eBay and some of the forums to buy a used one at a decent price.

        BTW: here is my review of my Freeform saddle.

        Other good news -- Sensation has just introduced a MUCH safer stirrup attachment for use on the Sensation and Freeform saddles. The e-bar allows the stirrup leather to slip off the saddle if there is a problem. All of the other saddles (except maybe Ansur) have closed stirrup attachments which means you really should use safety stirrups to be safe.
        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

        Comment


        • #5
          Treeless can be great! Get a pad with spinal clearance and don't buy the cheapo no name ones. They tend to be poorly made and balanced.

          I have only ridden in Bob Marshall saddles, which I really liked as long as I wasn't riding too long. They lack a twist which means that your hips are stretched as wide as the horse/pad/saddle combo. Some people are fine with that, but between my couch of a horse and narrower hips, I didn't last too long. I do love the feel of the horse under me though.


          REALLY want to try a freeform though!

          Comment


          • #6
            Get a good one-the brands mentioned.

            I'm no lightweight and I've done really well with my saddle. No slipping at all, I've even mounted from the ground after forgetting to tighten the cinch and it acted like any other saddle. Mine is a circle Y BMSS and I always have a breast collar on it. Last week I was riding my daughter's arab and she spooked sideways about 10 feet as only an arab can do and I never budged. It's a nice comfortable saddle that has held up to hundreds of mountain miles.

            But I have to say-some horses do really well with it and some don't. My horse was impossible to fit a saddle to and he likes this one better than any other. But I've used it on thinner horses or horses that have more prominant spines (my horse is a propane tank) and it didn't do as well for them. Any wide back, fatty, broad well muscled horse though I wouldn't worry about it. The thinner ones I'd be careful about it, fancy pad or not. If *I* were thinner maybe that would make a difference too... but that has been my experience.
            “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

            Comment


            • #7
              As someone else already mentioned....that saddle in your link is garbage, steer clear.

              The good....A good quality treeless saddle that fits your horse's unique shape and is properly padded to provide good spinal clearance can be a God send for many hard to fit horses out there. Recent technological advances in the last 10 years or so has made today's treeless saddles possible. Foam materials and modern designs have improved the weight distribution properties of well designed treeless saddles. My treeless saddle (Sensation Hybrid) is very comfortable and secure. I can mount from the ground if I need to and it has never slipped. My horse moves out better than ever and I can ride for longer periods. I always check for soreness and haven't found any evidence whatsoever. Not like I did when we were using a treed saddle. This is a high quality saddle, well designed and made with quality materials.

              The Bad....The rather new popularity of these new and improved treeless designs has inspired cheap, look alike knock offs. The market has been flooded with these cheap saddles that may "look" like the original designs but you can bet that short cuts were made in the construction and the quality of the materials. Most treeless saddles, even the high quality ones, require a special pad made for treeless saddles, these alone can be expensive but you shouldn't cheap out as the quality of the pad is as important as the quality of the saddle. I too am a "heavier" rider and find that getting and keeping good spinal clearance is a little more challengeing. Right now I'm around 175-178 and have felt the need to make additional inserts for my Skito pad.

              The Ugly....Many people are of the mistaken assumption that treeless saddles are one size fits all and that can't be further from the truth. For instance, Sensation saddles are not recommended for horses with A frame conformations or very high withers. They have not been tested and are not warranteed for riders over 200 pounds. I is very important to remember that poorly fitted or poorly constructed saddles can cause injury to your horse or yourself no matter whether it's treeless or treed. Quality is or can be expensive. Especially when you add in a quality pad too (they start around $250).

              It's important that you work with a person who is knowlegeable in treeless saddle fit or at least join the treeless saddles group on Yahoo groups to learn more. If budget is a consideration then I highly recommend buying a better quality name brand used rather than buying a cheapie off E-bay or Craigslist brand new. You will be much happier with your purchase and will be able to resell it fairly easily if it doesn't fit you or your horse. Many dealers have demo programs for cheap or free(you will most likely be responsible for shipping. I know for sure Sensation dealers will send you a demo for free, you just pay shipping.

              ETA: If you define "big girl" as heavier than 200 pounds you need to be absolutely honest about your weight with which ever dealer you work with. It is important because treeless saddles rely on flexible foam bars or special treeless saddle pads to provide the all important spinal clearance. Your weight and your horses conformation will directly impact whether or not a treeless saddle will even work for you and if so which model or brand would be best suited.
              Last edited by PRS; Oct. 4, 2011, 02:37 PM.
              "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."

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by acoustic View Post
                Treeless can be great! Get a pad with spinal clearance and don't buy the cheapo no name ones. They tend to be poorly made and balanced.

                I have only ridden in Bob Marshall saddles, which I really liked as long as I wasn't riding too long. They lack a twist which means that your hips are stretched as wide as the horse/pad/saddle combo. Some people are fine with that, but between my couch of a horse and narrower hips, I didn't last too long. I do love the feel of the horse under me though.


                REALLY want to try a freeform though!
                AGREED on the lack of a twist-I have started getting sore now with the lack of a twist on my wide horse. I'm short and have narrow hips too. I never used to get sore with this horse/saddle combo but I do now. We usually ride around 20 miles a day so it's starting to get to me!
                “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                Comment


                • #9
                  Among the treeless saddles I tried, the Freeform has the most feel of a "twist". It does make for a very comfortable ride.

                  For other saddles, Heather Moffett sells a seat saver type attachment that creates more of the twist feeling.

                  FWIW, I believe I paid $700 for my Freeform used and about $100 for my Skito pad. The quality of the Freeform is very good. I've ridden in mine now for at about 5 years and it's held up quite well.
                  Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                  EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You quote yourself as a *big* girl. I'm taking that to mean around 200 lbs or thereabouts. For that reason alone, I would say no to a treeless simply because treeless saddles really are designed for the light-to-medium weight rider - one that doesn't need to spread their weight across the length of a horse's back in order to be carried well without overwhelming one section of the horse's back.

                    Saddles with trees were designed for the heavy rider (think "knight") in order to disburse the weight so that it doesn't reside in one small area and risk too much pressure in that one spot.

                    Sorry to say this (because I adore my 3 treeless and would never want to set my buns in a treed saddle again) but...you -and more importantly your horse- would best continue to look into a better fitting treed saddle so that your horse can better support your weight.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have only ridden in Ansurs, but I don't think I'd ever go back to a treed saddle.
                      www.specialhorses.org
                      a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Rigid saddle trees were developed to effectively distribute weight on a horse's back. They might be a Roman invention, but might also have their roots in one of the "barbarian" cultures the Romans hired as mercinaries.

                        Before the rigid tree everybody rode "treeless." An animal skin or woven mat was thrown over the horse's back and that was it. When these folks regularly got their butts whipped by guys riding in rigid tree saddles they shifted over. The U.S. appears to be the first "horse culture" in history to ever shift back in numbers. That, alone, should make you cautious in approaching the "treeless" saddle.

                        When weight is not effectively distributed it will create "pressure points." Pressure points will ultimately mean a sore back for the horse.

                        If you want to try one of these rigs get one and put in on your horse. Now have another rider, same size as you, mount up. WATCH THE HORSE!!!!! If you see sagging, shifting, or hear a "groan" then you'll have a very strong clue that this saddle is not for you.

                        G.
                        Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 5chestnuts View Post
                          You quote yourself as a *big* girl. I'm taking that to mean around 200 lbs or thereabouts. For that reason alone, I would say no to a treeless simply because treeless saddles really are designed for the light-to-medium weight rider - one that doesn't need to spread their weight across the length of a horse's back in order to be carried well without overwhelming one section of the horse's back.

                          Saddles with trees were designed for the heavy rider (think "knight") in order to disburse the weight so that it doesn't reside in one small area and risk too much pressure in that one spot.

                          Sorry to say this (because I adore my 3 treeless and would never want to set my buns in a treed saddle again) but...you -and more importantly your horse- would best continue to look into a better fitting treed saddle so that your horse can better support your weight.
                          I don't know where you got your info from, but it is not correct. There are plenty of heavyweights doing endurance - even 100 milers in treeless saddles. It all goes back to the PAD. A heavier rider can use a lexan shim inside the pad, on top of the foam inserts, to further disperse weight. There are plenty of heavyweights competing and doing lots of miles in treeless saddles. I SEE them go through vet checks and their horse's backs are FINE, even at the completion of 50 mile rides. You just have to get the right pad combination and configuration figured out. For instance, the Equipedic foam is denser and able to disperse more weight than the ultracell inserts of a Toklat pad. So a heavyweight should not use the Toklat, but rather go with the Equipedic, and then maybe add additional shims as well. And Skito has insert options for larger riders as well.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
                            Rigid saddle trees were developed to effectively distribute weight on a horse's back. They might be a Roman invention, but might also have their roots in one of the "barbarian" cultures the Romans hired as mercinaries.

                            Before the rigid tree everybody rode "treeless." An animal skin or woven mat was thrown over the horse's back and that was it. When these folks regularly got their butts whipped by guys riding in rigid tree saddles they shifted over. The U.S. appears to be the first "horse culture" in history to ever shift back in numbers. That, alone, should make you cautious in approaching the "treeless" saddle.

                            When weight is not effectively distributed it will create "pressure points." Pressure points will ultimately mean a sore back for the horse.

                            If you want to try one of these rigs get one and put in on your horse. Now have another rider, same size as you, mount up. WATCH THE HORSE!!!!! If you see sagging, shifting, or hear a "groan" then you'll have a very strong clue that this saddle is not for you.

                            G.
                            Just because it lacks a "rigid tree" doesn't mean a treeless saddle cannot effectively disperse a rider's weight. The newer modern designs and technological advances in foam materials used in saddle construction in addition to a quality pad designed for treeless saddles can do a pretty good job of dispersing weight without the high pressure points you can see in many treed saddles.

                            And just why should your, mistaken, assumption that since the "horse culture" in the US seems to be leading the way be a cause for concern? I'm not so sure I shouldn't be insulted by that comment. Just so you know...many of these new, successful treeless saddle designs are coming out of Canada, Germany and Italy.

                            I did watch my horse when I mounted....what I saw was the difference from when he had his treed saddle on: Pissy expression, pinned ears, swishy tail....then with his treeless saddle, a relaxed, happy expression, more relaxation and attentiveness at walk, trot and canter. I now have a willing, happy partner rather than pissed off, painful horse. Seems pretty clear to me that my horse is happy. All those folks riding treeless saddles successfully in endurance races (50 and 100 miles)wouldn't be doing so well if their horses were have back problems. I guess you'd just have to see it to believe it.
                            Last edited by PRS; Oct. 4, 2011, 05:31 PM.
                            "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."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Trees were developed to keep riders and loads on horses. they didn't care about pressure points or sore backs or much of anything except staying on their horses in war or hunting or keeping their loads on horses or roping with their horses. Nobody gave a toot about "saddle fitting" until lately in the saddle development. People had ONE saddle and they put it on EVERY horse they rode, regardless of fit or the horse's comfort. If the horse got sore or bucked they got a different HORSE, not a different saddle.

                              My horse doesn't moan and groan with pain when I get on him with my treeless, good lord.

                              Now- with the combined efforts for good saddles AND good fit to the horse, odds are better than not that you can find a treed saddle to fit any given horse. But that doesn't mean that a horse can't do well in a quality treeless saddle as well.

                              G- you usually have good info but I think on this topic you have shut down your brain.
                              “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by cowboymom View Post
                                Trees were developed to keep riders and loads on horses. they didn't care about pressure points or sore backs or much of anything except staying on their horses in war or hunting or keeping their loads on horses or roping with their horses. Nobody gave a toot about "saddle fitting" until lately in the saddle development. People had ONE saddle and they put it on EVERY horse they rode, regardless of fit or the horse's comfort. If the horse got sore or bucked they got a different HORSE, not a different saddle.

                                My horse doesn't moan and groan with pain when I get on him with my treeless, good lord.

                                Now- with the combined efforts for good saddles AND good fit to the horse, odds are better than not that you can find a treed saddle to fit any given horse. But that doesn't mean that a horse can't do well in a quality treeless saddle as well.

                                G- you usually have good info but I think on this topic you have shut down your brain.
                                I agree with this...it is a fairly modern development to give any thought at all to the horses' comfort. Trees were not developed for the horses' benefit for sure.

                                http://www.localriding.com/history-of-the-saddle.html
                                "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."

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Auventera Two View Post
                                  I don't know where you got your info from, but it is not correct. There are plenty of heavyweights doing endurance - even 100 milers in treeless saddles. It all goes back to the PAD. A heavier rider can use a lexan shim inside the pad, on top of the foam inserts, to further disperse weight. There are plenty of heavyweights competing and doing lots of miles in treeless saddles. I SEE them go through vet checks and their horse's backs are FINE, even at the completion of 50 mile rides. You just have to get the right pad combination and configuration figured out. For instance, the Equipedic foam is denser and able to disperse more weight than the ultracell inserts of a Toklat pad. So a heavyweight should not use the Toklat, but rather go with the Equipedic, and then maybe add additional shims as well. And Skito has insert options for larger riders as well.
                                  I got my information from doing well over a decade in Endurance, with quite a few top tens, and top threes.

                                  And my comment is correct - the treeless is not designed for the heavy rider. Pads don't do squat for distributing weight. They merely provide cushioning, and add a layer of lift to help provide spine clearance/relief.

                                  I don't care that some heavyweight Endurance riders are using treeless - they are a different kettle of fish from the OP. Endurance riders are both fit and *rising* in the saddle during the ride. They aren't plunked down on the back for those 100 mile rides (most of which have WAY too many checks and the time in the saddle isn't as long as some people suspect), and if they are walking, they better sure as heck better be walking on the ground, not sitting like a sack of potatoes on the horse's back.
                                  '
                                  The OP has medical issues, including her very heavy weight, knee, a back issues, needs a mounting block to get on, and her use of a western saddle already tells me that she will be SITTING IN THE SADDLE the entire time she's on the horse, and not rising to give her horse back relief.

                                  She's a poor candidate for a treeless, and thus I would, in all honestly, steer her away from that idea.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have an older Ansur dressage saddle -- pre-gullet. I would love to have one of the newer ones but it's not a priority right now & not in the budget.

                                    Is there a pad that I could use with it that effectively creates a gullet? I use this saddle for ring riding, not out on the trail -- for that I use either a Tucker trail saddle or a heavier but slightly better fitting "About the Horse" trail saddle.

                                    As much as I like my Ansur & feel secure in it, I would be happier if there were a gullet, so I'd love ideas if such a thing is possible short of replacing the saddle!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My info is based upon my experience and knowledge. Not being the Pope I'm not infallible. The OP asked for "the good, the bad, and the ugly." I gave her some "ugly." It's accurate to the best of my knowledge. The rest is up to them.

                                      G.
                                      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        I want to thank everyone for their input. I have read and studied EVERY opinion posted.

                                        I think I am going to hold off on saddle buying for a bit. I see that I need to get the *name brand* saddle, no matter what tree (or lack of) I choose.... and $$ is scarce right now.

                                        I have not ridden since may, and it was a year or so before that little 3 month stint. My back just does not stand up to it for long rides, or for any *hard* work and unfortunately the only not-green horse I have is the hard to fit one. These are stock type APHA horses so not *quite* as apt to get squirrley, but not taking many risks for now. I need to loose the extra weight (to the tune of 125 to 150 pounds). A course of action has been put in motion to achieve this goal, but it will be a long painful journey.

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