Quite the contrary - I've found them to be significantly better than a traditionally flocked saddle. I have had discussions with people in the Bates family in AUS and know a lot about their saddles primarily b/c of my late eventer Bobby. He had shark fin withers and stood 16.1h at the withers and 15.3h at the back, with base wide top narrow conformation. I spent over a year extensively researching saddle fit, coupled with what I had learned in college, and contacted numerous saddlers all over the world - ranging from Stubben, to Passier, Devoucoux, CWD, and many many many more. When all was said and done my best options were a custom saddle (numerous brands would work b/c obv a custom will be made to the horse’s and your specifications), a semi-custom Passier, or a Bates. Because of Bobby’s age, I chose the Bates and was glad I did (he was in his 20s at the time). Once his back was better, I found out he had Lymes, and Cushings, and he was retired shortly after. Fortunately the Bates has the changeable gullets and I was able to adjust to fit my new horses - Sky and Lucky - and because of the CAIR panels, no permanent molding to the horse’s back had taken place like with a traditional wool flocked saddle. In addition, because of the CAIR, the saddle was able to be successfully used on multiple horses without having to worry that it would mold to my horses. At the time both Lucky and Sky were off the track recently, due to different issues, and while they had the same gullet size, they had very different conformation and muscle strengths and weaknesses in their backs and I was concerned that a trad flocked saddle would form to one or the other - or worse never properly to either. I didn’t have that problem with CAIR and as the horses changed shape as they lost track weight from "let down" and then muscled up over time, I was able to always adjust the saddle to fit the horse’s immediate needs without the need for extra or special padding. I ride in as thin a pad as possible.
Please note - I am well aware of the benefits and options of a custom saddle, I am just not able to afford one. If you CAN afford a custom saddle that will be used primarily on one horse, I feel that it is absolutely the way to go, because while I’ve found that Bates Saddles offer superior technology than most, they do not fit *every* horse, and customs offer many many benefits that a non-custom can not. All that aside, I’ve found that (in my experience) a traditionally flocked saddle with wool or foam will form to a horse’s back and using that saddle on multiple horses regardless of tree fit can and will eventually cause issues by creating pressure points on the horse’s back that the saddle was not molded to. Often I’ve seen one saddle used on multiple horses where you can see as a later horse uses that same saddle, there will be pressure points that have developed that can cause muscle soreness or chiropractic issues. I try to think of it this way - just because you and me wear the same size cocs, which stretch and mold to the wearer’s feet, would I want to wear your crocs after you broke them in with the same assumption that just because we are the same foot size, that the foam would fit us the same?