Go to the Yahoo Treeless group. There are lots of "heavy" an unbalanced riders and you can get opinions directly from them. I haven't had any bad experiences with my customers and their treless, and some were new riders, some were heavy. I would want you to at least be a balanced rider though. ..... less stress on the horses back from trying to compensate your weight shifting.
I am not heavy, 120#, my husband is bigger but I don't think he'd be able to use any saddle I fit into anyway. As for balanced... I guess I am ok, I feel unbalanced at times in the Aussie but that is bc the stirrups are a little longer than I would like and my mare has a knack for this horrible trot on the trail, rather than a slower one, so I end up standing in stirrups that are too long. Part of the trot being bad may be the saddle. Yes, when I decide to cough up the money it will be for a better Aussie, a treeless, or a Tucker, I think. I wish I could try them all.
I ride in a Hillason treeless saddle, which is VERY comfortable, not the choice for all horses though. Treeless saddles can be bad for certain horse shapes because of weight distribution....so I'd keep an eye on the sweat patterns and such, especially if you're doing endurance or CTRs. Judging by your picture rider weight wouldn't be an issue, but I've also heard from some people that nobody over 170 should use a treeless??? Not sure how much truth there is to that. Probably again depends on your horse's shape and how the weight would be distributed.
Basically, any endurance saddle, treeless or not, english or western, will be more comfortable than a normal saddle because they're meant for sitting in for hours and hours on end. =)
I absolutely love my australian saddle... If your thinking about getting one, go for it... I have bad knees, and western saddles make them hurt pretty badly if I'm in one for more then an hour, and I like the extra "support" I get from the aussie saddle...
I use a Miller saddle, it is a cross between a Aussi and a western. It has the look of an aussi but with a horn. It has a padded seat. (I also use a gel seat saver). I had been using a orthoflex but even with the stirrup straightners my knees still hurt. I tried a Miller and it was fabulous!
I loved it so much, my hubby got one, he now loves it.!! It is Amish made and very well made.
My first is a Billy Cook Trail Saddle - I ride it with Crooked Stirrups so my knees aren't killing me. It is a very comfortable saddle for me. Unfortunately, it put white marks on my gelding and thank God, Billy Cook is building me a new saddle. That was in November and I still haven't got it back. In the mean time I bought a
Steele Old Timer saddle in December. It fits my boy pretty well and is comfortable for awhile - it is just a tad too wide in the twist for me and after about 30 minutes or so my pelvic bones are not happy so I bought an
Aussie Down Under Wizzard Poley for myself a Christmas present. It is simply fabulous. I have only taken one longish ride in it (about 2.5 hours) and it was simply the most comfortable saddle. I love it.
I will probably sell the Steele or hopefully can trade it for something else. I might sell the Billy Cook when I get it back. I love my Aussie that much! I would like to one day buy a really nice Aussie saddle.