From what many others have told me over the years, these are the recommended brands :
Stay away from Hilason
Skito Pads are highly recommend, regular saddle pads do not work well with treeless.
I know people from 100 to 250lbs that ride in a treeless saddles, properly fitted they should not hurt your Horse, but this is what others who own them say, I have no real personal experience with a treeless.
I've ridden in a couple different treeless saddles. I don't personally like the feel of them It's like riding on a large, thick bareback pad.
I ride with a lady who really likes them, however. She says that you do have to have pretty good balance, because they slide side to side. She rides with a breast collar to keep her saddle from sliding back, but some other people I know also add a crupper.
She says she rides treeless because they move with your horse. Because a saddle that fits a horse standing still doesn't necessarily fit a horse in motion.
I have had personal experience with Torsions and Bob Marshalls.
Like any saddle, so much of which saddle you like depends on your own preferences. I find the Bob Marshall put me in a horrendous chair seat (a fault I have all on my own, don't need the tack to assist!) and I was constantly falling back behind the motion. I couldn't find my balance point to 2-point, therefore didn't feel I was helping the horse when traveling uphill, etc.
My DH rode exclusively in a Bob Marshall Sports Saddle for many years. The first few years the boys tolerated it, but eventually Sultan started having soundness issues. After some trial and error with shoeing changes, girth changes, stretching, and Lyme treatment (his lameness was showing as intermittent offness - never the same leg, couldn't pinpoint, etc and random girthiness), he came up very lame during the 60-some mile hold in Vermont last year. Came into the check and passed the vetting fine, but by the end of the 45 min hold he was grade 3 lame on his RF, up high. In palpating around his shoulder, I realized his back muscles were rock-solid - the poor horse had been bracing his back so long, the muscles had basically locked that way. That meant no natural movement or shock absorption any more. The ride vets confirmed they could find no other reason for his lameness at that point.
Our next call was to a professional saddle fitter. To say she was adamant the Bob Marshall had caused the problem was an understatement. She showed us several places where Sultan had tried to compensate for the saddle by building muscles in places they normally wouldn't be so heavy (like down his shoulders) because instead of being able to raise/use his back and push from behind, he was having to pull himself along with the front legs with a hollowed back.
Since riding Sultan in the (properly fitted) treed saddle, ALL of the random, roving lameness issues have resolved. And the difference in the way he moves was startling. His muscling has changed since using the treed saddle, with those overly developed muscles thinning and the muscling on his back improving. He has also never had another girthy episode.
We currently ride George in my Torsion. I am now hyper-aware of any sort of tension in his back after a ride, but I think the fact that the Torsion supports the rider in a proper position makes all the difference. It doesn't have the weight distribution that a treed saddle does, but not having the rider flopping all over has got to help! We always use a skito pad with the inserts, but DH used those under the Bob Marshall too.
I have ridden several 50s in the Torsion on a couple different horses with no back problems (least none immediately apparent). It will be what I ride George in for the Vermont 100 in a couple weeks.. so hopefully I will be able to say I have done a successful 100 in it too!
I have never ridden in a treeless saddle. I know that some people love them. I know that they are lightweight. What else can you guys tell me about them?
-- Are they easy or hard on the horse's back?
-- Do they tend to rotate sideways since there is no tree?
-- Is there a purpose in using a treeless other than it being light weight?
-- Will and old fat woman most likely just fall off of one or do they have a relatively secure feeling?
-- What brands are good and what ones are bad?
Yes, they can be hard on the horse's back. The purpose of a tree is to dispace the weight acrosss the widest possible area (which is why the UP military saddle - grandfather of todays Trooper saddle - was developed for the British Cav to replace the Hungarian/German saddle - AKA the "English" saddle which doesn't displace as much weight)
Treeless saddles do not displace weight. Spreading out a lot of leather over the back of the horse is not going spread out the weight of the rider.
There is a reason that most people who ride endurance don't use them even though they are light. They can light weight saddles that have trees which are better for the horse's back. I know of no long distance riders (e.g. 500 miles over 5 weeks) that use them, because you end up hold up somewhere while your horse's sore back recovers. Just like riding with an ill fitting tree will give you horse a sore back. I've known people who got a treeless because it was so difficult for them to find a proper fitting tree. I'll applaud them for caring enough to not want to use an ill fitting saddle, but they didn't solve the problem by going treeless. The horse was still dealing with weight not be distributed properly.
Think of carrying a 200lb backpack. Do you want the pack on a frame to spread the weight out or just have it hanging down your back by the straps over your shoulders with no frame.
I've ridden a treeless and I'll take a proper fitting tree every time. Even if it weighs more, because at the end of a month and lot of miles my horse will still have a sound back.
They're always going to be bigger and stronger so you better always be smarter. (One of my grandfather's many pearls of wisdom)
I have a Torsion here and it seems to be fairly well padded. I've checked it over. There is a pad the rider sits on so as not to feel the metal stirrup attachments. A fair amount of padding in the "skirts" and then the saddle pad. A treeless should be ridden with a long dressage leg otherwise the weight of the legs in the stirrups could make the horse sore, By moving around in the saddle some the horse's back gets relief but not from heavy hanging legs in a shorter stirrup.
Celeste I was glad to see this thread, because I have been thinking of a treeless saddle because of fit problems on Chivas. The saddle I use has a horn (which I hate!) but fits better than any other saddle I have tried on him.
That being said, it still doesn't fit him completely. It is just a bit low over his whithers, and I have to use a 1" thick pad and a breast collar to keep it in place.
Amazingly, I have two of these saddles, one a bit older, same brand, same style. However, only the older one fits! The newer one doesn't fit right and Chivas won't move out in it as willingly. Weird right? I called Fabtron, the saddle company, and the representative informed me that they have used the same tree ever since they started making that model. The were both purchased used, so I don't know the history.
I even had a custom saddle made for Chivas, sent the company wither & back tracings, yet it doesn't fit. I sent it back, they made some changes, but still it doesn't fit. It's sitting on my sale rack, along with the one Fabtron, a Wintec Pro 2000 and a Wintec Pro Dressage.
Anyway, I have never riden in a treeless, and I have heard bad things about how they hurt the horse's back over the years.
However, in my research, I have read that several Tevis winners and/or finishers rode in treeless saddles. Also I discovered that some of the saddle brands have placed more support in the saddle, and of course the special pads have also been developed to support the backs better.
I am still a bit wary of them, but after discovering several had demo saddle programs for reasonable fees, I have decided to give the Barefoot Tahoe model a try. Hopefully, it will work on Chivas and my other horses, who have way different conformations. The other reason I want one is so I can try Chivas in one of the little local shows in flat-shod racking and I can't ride in a western saddle.
Treeless saddles need to be fitted, just like a treed saddle. They also need correct padding to make sure there's spinal clearance. Not all horses go well with treeless. Weight dispersion is something you address with fit and padding.
For what it's worth, I ride exclusively treeless. My horse has never bad any kind of back issues or girthyness since switching. Last time I tried a treed saddle on him (with the help of a fitter), well...it wasnt pretty! Let's just say that my horse said NO very loudly.
Anyone looking for more info on treeless is welcome to PM me for info on a group that is exclusively treeless. They can help get you going. Posted via Mobile Device
I have ridden in a Bob Marshall SS for 12 years(the same one, and it was old when I got it), and never had an unhappy horse. I am heavy for my size.....I loved the saddle the moment I sat in it, and everything else(except my good dressage saddle) feels like I am perched OVER my horse, instead of riding it. I use a sheepskin cover on it.
You do have to have good balance, or even weight distribution from side to side, and I cannot get on without a mounting block, or at least a good slope, but I am old AND fat!