Haley W asked in PetsHorses · 10 years ago

**Treeless Saddles**?

I was just wondering what your opinions are on treeless saddles. You know like the pros and cons.

Because I have a very stocky horse that I ride on trail rides (but not for to long and also not every day). So I was wondering if a treeless saddle would be ok to use?


Also I was wondering if they tend to cause pressure points or if they distribute wheight pretty nicely

Update 2:

Yeah I'm having problems because right now i have full qh bars and my saddle still doesnt fit her

4 Answers

  • 10 years ago
    Best Answer

    I disagree with the first poster who says that you will never see treeless saddles in real competition. There are several models, among them the Ansur, that are used by many riders in competition, and the winner of the Tevis 2009 endurance ride, which is 100 miles long, rode in a FreeForm treeless. The RIGHT treeless saddle with the RIGHT padding can really work well for a horse, as long as they have a conscientious rider who does her research to find something that works for her. Because really, anyone who says that treeless saddles can't be used for competition hasn't talked to endurance riders. Treeless saddles are immensely popular with them, and because of the standards of the competition where the horse must be "fit to continue" after each vet check, if they were causing horses pain and problems, the riders wouldn't be using them. But like I said, with the proper saddle pad (like a Skito or an Equipedic memory foam pad) a horse should have no problems with weight distribution.

    I use a treeless saddle. My Haflinger is quite wide, and flat, and the Abetta endurance saddle I was using with him two years ago actually caused muscle atrophy and made him look like he had withers and made his backbone stick out. I did my research, talked to people and eventually got a Barefoot treeless saddle with a Skito pad. I trail ride, by the way. We didn't get to go out as much as I used to over the last year or so, but I did go on one four hour ride with my Haffie in our treeless, and he was perfectly fine. In fact, I was more comfortable in that saddle than I ever was in a treed saddle. My Haffie has great shoulder movement because it's not restricting his shoulder, and he wouldn't canter in a treed saddle. Now, he moves out smartly at a trot, and his canter is very flowing and free. His back looks wonderful. This hollows by his withers filled in with muscle, and his back is once more nice and flat with plenty of muscle. Makes for a comfortable bareback ride too. So I think we're a definite point in disagreeing with anyone who says that treeless is bad. I disagree that there is nothing positive about a treeless saddle for a horse -- for my Haflinger, he moves out better and has better shoulder freedom in a treeless. Even though his Abetta endurance saddle had full quarter horse bars, it still didn't fit him right, but he's got a much better work ethic and attitude in his treeless saddle.

    I've since switched from a Barefoot to a Sensation western, which is another treeless saddle (albeit of a higher price and quality) My biggest concern with the Barefoot was the lack of a twist, which is addressed better in a Sensation. In fact, the Sensation puts me in the best position I've ever been in while riding this pony, and that includes treed and treeless saddles. Both the Barefoot and Sensation have thick foam panels for weight distribution and spinal clearance (in fact, I'd think of them more as soft tree saddles rather than treeless saddles) and have a Skito pad. I've never had a problem with a treeless saddle because I did my research. Here's my pony and me:


    Do your research. Head over to the treeless saddle yahoo group, and read up on some of what's being said. Avoid the junk cheapo saddle off eBay, like the $150 ones and the Hilasons which are ripoffs of better treeless saddles. Barefoots are good economy saddles, but remember, you get what you pay for. My Sensation cost me $1300, but it was so so so worth it. I'm looking forward to some of the trail rides I might be able to go on this spring and summer. And if you can, please please please demo a saddle. I demoed my Sensation from Freedom Treeless, and all it cost me was the shipping to me, and the return shipping to see if this saddle worked. They're not for every horse and rider, so that's why demoing is so important. But do your homework, read up and make your own informed decision. Don't just take my word that they are useful saddles under the right conditions, but don't take the word of people who say they are bad either. Make up your own mind.

    Here's some links that might come in handy:






    Edit: Haley, with the right kind of saddle pad (Skito, Equipedic etc.) the memory foam inserts inside the pad help distribute weight. Also, if you buy a saddle with foam panels like a Barefoot or a Sensation, the panels create a gullet channel that gives spinal clearance. I've never had pressure points with either treeless saddle that I've had. Do your research and read up. Try and demo if you can. It really helps.

  • Bliss
    Lv 6
    10 years ago

    The first answerer made a few good points, but I think missed a lot too. First, there are dozens if not hundreds of treeless saddles out there, They offer all sorts of levels of comfort, fit, rigidity, stability. Some are no more than a glorified bareback pad, some are quite high-tech and offer good protection to horse and stability to rider. Some could allow pressure on the spine, but whether that is a probem depends on the horse's conformation. I've ridden obese drafters that NO treed saddle would fit, but the spine is actually lower than the muscles/fat along each side, so the chance of spinal pressure is zero. I rode them bareback, but if one wanted to use a saddle, a treeless would be best.

    Some horse's backs are just very difficult to fit - too wide or too narrow, too short, oddly shaped, etc. Also, a young or unfit or badly ridden horse in rehab or training will have a changing back shape, and not everyone can afford to buy a series of saddles to fit a changing back. Sometimes a treeless is a good choice for interim riding, until the horse is more fit with a better musculature, and likely to maintain that muscling for some time.

    There's a yahoo group for treeless saddles. I think it's called treelesssaddles... Another one for saddle fitting. Joining those will be a great way to learn more about all the options out there.

    As far as providing protection to the horse's back, the best way to do that is to ride in balance, and the best way to learn that is to ride bareback, especially without stirrups. Also be aware of whether you're *riding* or *sitting*. Sitting means just that, your butt bones are holding you up and poking into your horse's back. Riding means you are carrying your weight down through your thighs. Your inner thigh muscles should complain loudly for a day or two after you start riding bareback, if you ride for more than 15-20 minutes. This tells you that you are using new muscles, muscles that have no other use in the world (or so it seems, because there's no way to condition for barebacking)

    2 safety issues - don't use stirrups on a bareback pad, or a saddle that doesn't have some sort of stability in it. If you step down on one stirrup, the whole shebang is likely to spin around the horse's barrel, and you're suddenly on the muddy side instead of the shiny side. The other thing is that a breastcollar and/or a crupper is good for stabilizing a treeless if going on challenging terrain, or using stirrups. I still wouldn't use my stirrups to mount from the ground, but it would make it more stable whan without the breast collar.

  • 4 years ago

    Hi, yes, this is definitely an option. The best treeless saddle I have ever seen is an Ansur saddle and I would buy one tomorrow if I could afford it. When I first saw it it cost around £1000.00, but if you consider that you might have to buy several different saddles for a young horse while its shape is changing it's not so bad, and unlike a conventional saddle it will fit other horses. The next time I have a youngster I will definitely buy one as I will have saved enough by then! There is a website - google it! Other treeless saddles have to be used with all sorts of pads and things to get them to fit, and they look awful. PS I like that one a few down from here about the thumbs down fairies! I like Ideal saddles too. Mine is called a Highlander I think it's made by Ideal for my local saddler It's what I can afford and it fits my horse just great, but I had to keep changing while she was developing - a treeless would have saved a lot of hassle.

  • Finley
    Lv 7
    10 years ago

    the trouble with treeless saddles is that they offer Zero protection to the horse's back.

    the tree is there to distribute the weight of the saddle and of the rider, so that the weight is even at the front sides and back sides and along the horse's spine (along the spine, not on the spine or too close to it).

    the lack of a tree means that your saddle pressure can sit directly on the spine and there's nothing to really protect your horse's back.

    treeless saddles were made for women. to be light and easy to carry. and for riding very very short rides.

    they are not meant for real trail riding, not meant for real work. the reason why you will not ever see treeless saddles in real competition. the horse's back must be able to stand up to the rigors of training. if the horse breaks down, the rider is out of the competition.

    competitors instead go for either the traditional rawhide (heavy) or the flex-tree.

    The pluses of the treeless? For the rider: comfort and lightness. For the horse? nothing.

    The Cons: No support for the horse's back. which is THE most important thing (or should be).

    If you go treeless. Then consider it a bareback pad, or get a bareback pad. It's the same thing.

    If you want a real saddle that's going to stand up to rigors of riding (and so your horse can handle it, too) then get a saddle that's got a flex-tree or a rawhide. I wouldn't go for fiberglass either.

    A stocky horse simply needs a wide tree. I'd get something that might fit a Haflinger or the like. Get a full quarter horse bars wide tree saddle.

    Also measure your horse's back by going to this saddle shop website where there's info:


    I've bought my saddle and stuff from them. It's a safe site.

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