Saddles: Traditional solid trees, flex tree, or treeless

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Saddles: Traditional solid trees, flex tree, or treeless

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    11-07-2012, 07:06 PM
Question Saddles: Traditional solid trees, flex tree, or treeless

I'm thinking about getting a new saddle. I've been reading and researching all the different trees and styles available. Since my old saddle fits my appy (mutton withered), I need a new saddle for my mare (high narrow withers). I've looked at so many I really don't know what to think anymore. I have a few styles picked out, but they have tree options. I now ride in a traditional solid treed saddle, I like it and i'm used to it. I wanted to know thoughts about flex trees and treeless saddles. How do you like them, and what are their flaws. Would it be a good option for a barrel saddle, or strictly a trail saddle? Do they move about as much as i've heard? Do they cause pressure points on the horse? Your thoughts and advice are greatly appreciated!! It will also help me make a decision.
Thanks all!!
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    11-07-2012, 07:57 PM

Solid Trees are the way to go, they are tried and true.

Flex Trees and Treeless are marketing gimmicks IMO, while for certain Horses and Certain people they have their place and provide a small benefit, but it is very limited. A proper fit and good pad provide the same comfort level for the Horse as the advertising promises for treeless and Flex Trees.

A common misconception is that treeless and flex trees fit a variety of different sized Horses, they do not.
If this was true and you could buy 1 Saddle to fit 4 or 5 different Horses then Solid Tree Saddles would become obsolete, unfortunately there is no Utopia

Barrel Saddle and Trail Saddle are closer than most people think, the main difference is many Barrel Saddles have rawhide wrapped Horns which make them smaller in diameter, some are actually an inch taller than a Trail Horn also, most Barrel saddle have a Higher Cantle and many have rough out jockies and fenders. The actual bars and fit to the Horse are the same.

Hope that helps.

Elizabeth Bowers and AnrewPL like this.
    11-08-2012, 08:54 AM
Thank you SouthernTrailsGA! This explains a lot. So how would I go about figuring the bar size for my mare 'full QH compared to semi QH' I always get confused on how to do this. Then I shall stick to tried and true solid treed saddles. I'll also be getting special saddle pads like gel orthopedic to help ease any pressure points. Would you have any recommendations?? Thanks again!!
    11-08-2012, 09:08 AM

Here is a link to some templates that will give you an idea of what size tree to use

If you have a good fitting Saddle, I prefer a solid Wool pad, either 3/4" thick or 1" think.

I am not a fan of all those gel or air pads either

bsms and Elizabeth Bowers like this.
    11-08-2012, 10:47 AM
I think treeless is mostly a gimmick. I think flex trees have their place, if you understand what they do. I'll offer my THEORY on what they do, although I'm not a saddle maker:

50 years ago, a tree was made of wood and leather. The wood was pine because pine flexed a little with the movement of the horse. Not a lot, but it wasn't as heavy and rigid as oak would have been. The leather also had some give, but it wasn't as strong and weather proof as fiberglass.

When fiberglass wrapping became the norm, the trees became more rigid. Again, we aren't talking about inches of movement, just a little, small fraction of an inch give under the pressure of riding. That is strong, and it works fine for most horses & riders. But with time, there has been increasing emphasis on horse 'sports'. Instead of trail riding being the norm, it is becoming the norm to ride in an arena and to repeat the same movements hundreds of times in an hour to train the horse for a sport. And a saddle that fits OK for 4 hours of trail riding may not work so well for a horse training in 'western dressage' or doing a barrel pattern again & again, or using dressage to get the horse in shape for something else.

I think the tiny flex allowed by the new flex saddles is an attempt to get back to what the saddle would do when it was pine & leather. It allows a manufacturer to use a ralide tree or a wood & fiberglass tree that performs like the old saddles made by hand did. At least, in theory.

Unless someone is competing in sports and riding the horse all the time (as in 6 times/week in intensive training), I think it is overrated. I feel like I do when I see the constant response to 'get a saddle fitter'. Hmm...what did folks do for the hundreds of years before there were saddle fitters, or those of us who live hundreds of miles from the nearest saddle fitter? A poor fitting saddle can screw up a horse. My Appy has white spots on his shoulders and a scar on his withers where a ranch used him with a too wide saddle. But it isn't rocket science. By breeding he is 3/4 Arabian and has high withers, and a wide full QH bar saddle didn't fit...golly! That would take about 5 seconds to figure out!

I wouldn't pay more for a flex tree saddle, but I wouldn't reject one, either. I doubt most horses ridden by most riders can tell the difference. I would NOT buy a treeless saddle, because I've carried backpacks with frames, and some without, and MY back prefers a frame to support and distribute the weight!

All just IMHO. I took up riding 4 years ago, and spent too much time trying to find the "Magic Saddle" that would improve my riding. I'm also still looking for the "Magic Bit"! I settled on an Aussie-style saddle and a single joint snaffle as best for me & my horse. How I ride has far more effect than my saddle, and since your horse is doing fine, I'd guess your riding is OK too.

Although if I could find a barrel racing saddle that fit her short back, I wouldn't mind switching to a western saddle...but it isn't in my budget right now. It seems the best saddle is the one you want to buy next!
Elizabeth Bowers likes this.
    11-08-2012, 10:57 AM
Thank you BSMS. I never thought of it that way before.
    11-08-2012, 11:19 AM
I ride only in treeless saddles on my horse. He prefers them. So do I. Treed saddles are VERY uncomfortable to me - all I feel is the tree. My horse will not walk on under saddle in a treed saddle and in hand he pins his ears and takes short stabby steps. This is with various brands of treed saddles with a saddle fitter present who each time said the saddles were excellent fits.

People have a hard time turning away from things that seem normal. It doesn't mean that treeless saddles are awful.

Yes they certainly can cause sore backs - but so can treed saddles. You have to consider your padding a little more with a treed saddle but otherwise, what's to dislike? They're comfy and secure and well...they're comfy!
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Elizabeth Bowers likes this.
    11-08-2012, 01:55 PM
Thank you DA. I heard that treeless saddles slip around a lot even when tight. My mare prefers I ride her bareback, so I considered a treeless saddle for her. I'm all about change, I like new and different things. I'm just so used to a treed saddle, that its hard to change from one.
    11-08-2012, 02:19 PM
It's one of those "it depends" things. I know a LOT of treeless riders. Some can't mount from the ground, some can. Some of those riders can't mount from the ground regardless of the type of saddle! I can mount from the ground mostly fine (I've got short legs) but the saddle doesn't slip. You can also modify the way you mount to reduce or prevent slippage - I have the link on my home computer if you're curious.

Personally, I find that slippage is more affected or caused by the pad than the saddle. There's only two horses that I know of with extreme saddle pad slippage and its literally just the pad. They have so much shoulder action the pad gets shoved out from under the saddle. Slippage is also affected by how you ride. You don't have a tree to save you and to brace against, so you must have a good seat. If you don't, it's actually not that the saddle is slipping but that you're pushing it out of place. It takes a few rides to get used to it but if you have a weakness in your balance it will be known in short order!

Some saddles are more structured and fit like a treed saddle such that you don't need a special pad. Some saddles are less structured and ride closer to a bareback pad in feel so need a "special" pad that provides spinal clearance. I have one of both at the moment and I'm leaning towards the less structured one the more I ride in it.

This is one of those things were you simply can't say blanket statements. People even bash the eBay saddles and frankly, my cheapie eBay saddle has held up very well. I didn't get a second saddle from the same place because I wanted to own a "nice" saddle.

If you're curious, I do all kinds of things in a treeless saddle. In a cheap eBay saddle at that. I have a demo saddle on trial for a few more days but up until last week, it's been el cheapo eBay saddle for over a year and a half.

Sorry for the book! Feel free to ask more questions.
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Elizabeth Bowers likes this.
    11-08-2012, 02:37 PM
DA have you barrel raced in a treeless saddle?? I found one in a catalog, and I really like even though its on the $$$$ side. I would love to see the site to help eliminate slippage! Does it feel different with a saddle pad underneath? I rode my old horse one time with a blanket tied down, and talk about major slippage, I fell right off and he walked right into the barn. LOL The blanket even came off!! I've never tried a bareback pad. I've heard a few interesting stories about them too.
Thank you!

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