To purchase The Best Bareback Pad
the Natural Horse World Store
- What to look for:
by Cynthia Cooper
I rode in my first treeless saddle
back in 2003 at a hoof trimming clinic - it was a beautiful black
leather Tuend Saddle - the original Italian Treeless.
From that day on, I was determined to look further into this new
type of saddle and its benefits for horses.
with the Tuend Treeless Saddle on.
After hundreds of hours of research
and design, I made my own protoypes for a saddle (which is yet to
be manufactured) because I could see some design improvements that
could be made on the many types of treeless saddles I'd tried out.
I have been testing and riding in these saddles for 2 years now
and am very happy with their performance so now all I need is to
find someone to make me more prototypes for other riders to test.
In the process of my research I tried
and tested many of the available treeless saddles and found a huge
variety of designs ranging from those that were not much more than
glorified bareback pads with stirrups (dangerous to use as they
slip around the horse too easily and more importantly, put far too
much pressure on the backbone) to beautifully made quality leather
saddles that hardly looked different to regular english or western
The main thing to look for in any
treeless design is that the stirrup attatchment which goes over
the back, is broad enough to spread the weight so it doesn't concentrate
too much on one part of the backbone. The same goes for the girth
The second thing is to always use a saddle pad that has a channel
down the centre - they commonly have high density foam inserts either
side of the backbone to give some relief for the backbone. These
pads vary in thickness, according to the musculature of the horse's
back. They also help the saddle stay in place for mounting, although
most treeless saddles will cope with mounting from the ground, they
can slide if you have a very round or wide horse so mounting from
a block is preferable.
The third thing to be aware of is
that treeless saddles are mostly designed for close contact with
the horse and therefore you do tend to sit a bit wider than on a
regular saddle. This can be uncomfortable for people with hip or
back problems after a while. Also, the stirrup attatchments are
usually solid rings on the saddle so safety stirrups or toe cages
must be used.
And finally, most treeless saddles
can only cope with a rider weight of less than 80kg as above this,
the weight compacts the saddle pad and saddle materials, putting
pressure on the backbone of the horse. Also the pressure compounds
when a heavier rider stands in the stirrups.
Treeless saddles are getting easier
to find which is good for the consumer and hard to fit horses. They
once were only available through agents or the saddle designers
(and many still are) but now brands like Commanche are available
from saddlery stores like Horseland. Prices range from $495 unmounted
for the Commanche treeless to upwards of $1,000 for various other
models such as the Barefoot.
The Saddle pads that go with them range from $80- $200 and short
anatomical girths (like a dressage girth) start from $80 as well.
Treeless saddle designs range from the softer style padded saddles
like the Barefoot, to more dressage style models such as the Ansur.
Then there are western styles such as the Bob Marshall treeless
(shown here) or the Barefoot Nevada.
If you would like more information
on Treeless saddles here are some web sites I found useful.
Alternative Horse - Saddles page
Tree Saddles - by Cynthia Cooper
Flexible saddle trees are becoming
increasingly popular, reflecting the growing awareness and concern
of today's riders for their horses' well-being. Why a flexible
As with many consumer products in general, technology has evolved
products throughout the years. We watch flat screen color tv's and
no longer 10" black and white tv's - we drive technically advanced
cars, the same goes for the saddle tree - it has evolved into a
new, advanced generation of saddle tree that is quite different
from conventional trees being used for centuries made out of wood
and covered with hide or fiberglass.
Riders, trainers, and constructors of equipment developed the flexible
tree saddle after becoming dissatisfied with traditional saddles.
They kept encountering poor performance saddles that caused sore
muscles, white hairs, muscle wastage or a "deadened" communication
between horse and rider.
Building a saddle with a flexible tree that can adjust to the conformation
of the horse significantly widens the range of horses that the saddle
will fit. Perhaps an even greater benefit to a flexible tree is
the fact that the tree will move with the horse instead of against
it. When a horse turns or bends his body the tree will "get
out of the way" of the horse's shoulders and hips. Close contact,
lightweight and relief from pressure points to the horse's back
are primary benefits to the flex tree, achieved by using materials
that result in a thinner, lighter tree bar.
Do I need a saddle with a flexible tree ?
Of course if you use a western saddle for heavy duty ranch work
or steer roping a felxible tree is not for you, but most other horse
sports such as reining, dressage, jumping and even endurance are
based on 'feel' and being felt by your horse.
Bridging and pressure points are virtually eliminated by the saddle's
ability to conform to the horse's back as compared to a 'rigid'
piece of wood placed on a horse's back.
Borderline fitting problems can be solved by the ability of the
bars of the tree to conform and 'give' just enough to avoid pinching
of the commonly used saddle trees for flexible western style saddles
is the Equi-Fit. Equi-Fit saddle trees are made up of separate components.
They retain a traditional rigid fork and cantle in order to avoid
wither pinching and spine irritation caused by tree spread or flattening.
The traditional rigid bars, however, are replaced by bars molded
of a specially developed elastomer, a material similar to a rubber-like
work boot sole.
Equi-Fit Flexible bars are molded to shape, not cut from a flat
The flexibility 'enhances' an already proper fit, it doesn't attempt
to create it.
Another USA made flexible tree has
been designed by Boz Saddlery who have a range of western style
saddles and bareback pads. They are also available in Europe and
the web site (below) hass a long list of design features apparently
not available in any other saddle.
In Australia the Mackinder Flex Ride saddle is used by many endurance
riders and is built on a flexible foam tree, allowing both medial
and lateral flexing.
In the UK the Wow saddle features
a laterally flexing tree by the use of a "Y" bar made
from rigid Carbon Fibre that is as strong as steel embedded in the
body of the tree so the head of the tree swings from side to side
as the alternate shoulders rotate back under the tree.
There are also several brands of
saddles that have flexible bars rather than felxible trees that
aim to give a better fit, especially for wider horses. Orthoflex,
Amera-Flex and Reactor Panel saddles are some examples made in the
USA who all have a variety of designs to accommodate most equestrian
sports. If you search on these names you will spend hours reading
and drooling over saddle designs, wondering if you can afford them
and how to get them shipped to you when you live in another country!
From many hours of reading rider
testimonials on these web sites it seems their horses definately
prefer a flexible tree that accommodates movement but also supports
the rider, girthing and stirrup systems. Most flexible treed saddles
are not limited to lightweight riders (unlike many treeless saddles)
so it seems this is where the future of saddle making is heading
- comfort for the horse and support for the rider.
if I can just find a way to manufacture my flexible tree saddle
in synthetics, this will give riders even more choice. I'll keep
you posted on my progress with this project.
The Freeform Saddle is made with
a molded base so falls into the category of flexible trees despite
the fact that is has no traditional tree as such.
To buy a treeless saddle in Australia,
go to Horse