Good to know about the longer rides...just trying to figure out the best route to go as I've always ridden english and like the closer contact you feel with the saddle as opposed to a western saddle (I have one of those as well) but I do enjoy riding bareback (again, the contact thing). But most of all I want my mare to be comfortable. What's the trooper saddle? Is that like an Aussie saddle? Any thoughts on those??
A Trooper is the modern version of the old universal pattern army saddle. Developed in the first half of the 1800's.
They were really designed more with the horse in mind, but they've made them more comfortable with padded seats today. Although I still get mine unpadded.
Some people dislike that the seat is suspended above the horse's back, but that's one of the features that makes it good for the horse. Never any weight near the spine and it's all even distributed along the bars. Plenty of air flow along the length of the back from withers to rump.
The "tree" is more of a frame. Metal for the pommel and cantle that attach to the bars. Using the metal allows the saddle size to be altered if needed, but you need someone with the proper equipment and that knows how. (e.g. mine is off being altered now, since my mare went from an 8" gullet to about a 9" gullet in the last 6 months). I found it was also easier to get them made the length that I needed. My mare has a short back (appox. 23.5") so the bars are about 23".
But I'm not going to say that a Trooper is for everyone or for every job. If I was still working cattle I would not use my Trooper. I don't work cattle anymore though, so the Trooper fits all my other needs. Some people want a higher pommel so the Trooper might not be a good choice for them. Although there are people who could make it higher. I'd like a slightly higher cantle. You can adjust the seat (there are staps underneath that allow for that).
You can google it and find pictures of them.
Some of the nicer ones that I know of (that don't weigh almost 30lbs or more) are made by:
But you can find others.
The US is the only English speaking country I know of that didn't use them as the primary saddle for the military. Although they have been used in the US. Some officers supposedly prefered them since they could purchase the saddle they wanted and even today you'll find police forces that use them.
First time I used one it did feel different, but I quickly got over that. Today it is my personal saddle of choice for about 90's of what I do. I'd recommend finding someone who has one. If it doesn't fit your horse then see if you can try it on their's, but I'd get a feel for it before I ordered it. My first time on a Trooper was someone elses and it was well used and had a great seat adjustment. A good experience that leat to me riding that type of saddle. The first new one I ever sat on didn't have the same feel, but in time it did.
There are many good saddles out there. The important thing is to have one that you enjoy riding, but even more important make sure it fits your horse. Nothing worse than a sore back for keeping you horse out of action. If you are going to get into long distance or heavy endurance riding I'd recomment the Trooper or some of the petter endurance saddles. But if you just enjoy some nice trail riding with your horse during the week then I'd say just get what really strikes your fancy. There are some nice Plantation saddles out there (of both styles) that are very comfortable. I even know a man who could custom make the old style saddles from pre-1700's for you horse if that's what you wanted, but I don't know if Bill is still doing that. He may have retired.
The biggest problem I've seen with having horses that have 9" or greater gullets (even 8" gullet can be a challange) is getting the saddle you want in the size that your horse needs. Off the shelf has never worked for me with these larger horses no matter what saddle I wanted (except for the treeless I use when training, but even it's not the saddle I want