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What about treeless saddles?

What about treeless saddles?

Welcome back to our series on saddle trees! Before delving further into tree shapes I thought I would briefly talk about treeless saddles and where they fit in? 🤔🤔

Whilst I’m not a huge fan of treeless saddles I have had clients use them successfully on certain horse types. The biggest issue I have found is the distribution of weight/pressure. Without a tree to spread the rider’s weight we risk excessive pressures under the rider and this is exasperated when the girth and stirrup leather attachments are located in this same area. Having done some pressure test with my Medilogic pad I have seen this first hand and there are several studies that have concluded that a conventional saddle does distribute a rider’s weight more effectively giving lower mean & maximal pressure.

Of course there are advancements all the time and there are treeless saddles around that claim to address these issues and I’d be keen to pressure test some of these too! 😊

So when is a treeless saddle okay? They can work well on round or well muscled horses with a lighter rider. Some horses just like them and work well in them and they can give you a bit of leeway in regards to the shape/angles of the horse as they perhaps don’t need to match as well as they need to in a treed saddle.

When are they not okay? I would never recommend them for a horse who has severe muscle atrophy and a raised spine. With no tree it is almost impossible to prevent pressure on the spine although as said before, not all treeless saddles are made equal and with the right pads there may be instances where this might work okay. I would also not recommend them for a heavy rider. The heavier the rider the greater the risk of localised pressure under the rider. Some treeless saddles come with a recommended maximum weight limit.

If you look at the horses in this photo - the 'round' horse on the left would probably suit a treeless whereas the skinny thoroughbred on the right would not. The palomino which sits in the middle could be a possible candidate with the right padding to ensure he has clearance over the wither.

At the end of the day – it’s an individual choice based on the horse, the saddle and the rider. A skinny thoroughbred with a heavy, unbalanced rider and a cheap poorly made treeless saddle is a recipe for disaster but a round or well muscled horse with a light, balanced rider and a well made treeless saddle may be perfectly fine. Please always use the recommended padding and seek the help of a knowledgeable saddle fitter if considering using a treeless.

Please note that I no longer sell saddles and therefore am totally independent of any brand/type of saddle and my views have been formed from many years of saddle fitting, study of horse anatomy/biomechanics and pressure testing with my Medilogic pad.

Next time we’ll look at tree profiles vs your horse’s back shape which is probably the most important part of your saddle fit because if you start with the wrong tree then nothing else about the saddle will be right!! 🤨🤨

See you then. 😊