treeless saddles for drafts? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 16 Old 02-26-2012, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by TheLastUnicorn View Post
Just in case you didn't know... The Sensation was made by (and for) Endurance Riders... So not quite "just a bareback pad on steroids" as some are. The designer and maker of them is an Endurance rider, as is her Husband and there is something about the rigging and balance of the saddles, along with the materials they have used which is supposed to make them different. Listening to them at the trade show was really interesting, and I really loved all their photos of them doing their thing, using their tack. (the designer is also a saddle fitter, if memory serves she was also doing saddle fit demonstrations for all saddle types). Mine has yet to cause any soreness in the horse (I happen to find the pommel a bit wide for long periods of riding) and she has gone out for whole days on the trail, I have also used it on another of my very wide table top style horses for gaming (gymkhanna type... Poles, barrels, obstacles, etc.) because I thought it was better than using a treed saddle that wasn't fitting right (he suddenly got broader when he hit 6 and I didn't have another saddle for him yet)

Both were checked part way into the day, and after the day was over... Absolutely no soreness. (for anyone curious, I use a Skito Dryback pad with mine... Has real wool against the horse, foam shims to give spine clearance, and a sticky "dry back" material on top against the saddle)

The Heather Moffat Phoenix saddles are different again, they are actually called "soft tree" saddles and from the bottom resemble a traditional treed saddle to some extent - they have two pannels and a gullet... But the whole "tree" is flexible, both in width and shape. (They are also expensive unless you can find one used, sometimes they come up for decent deals then) I believe, for most horses, you can use a normal pad with them. I sat in one at a trade show, on the rack, but would have to ride in one on a horse to actually know if I liked it. It LOOKS like you would be perched high above the horse... But maybe I'm wrong. I know a few people who LOVE theirs, and say it feels close to the horse to ride in.
Ride 200 miles in 7 days and see what you get.

Treeless saddles had been tried by virtually every Cav in history at some point. Result is pretty much the same. In the long run, riding long distances over many days resulted in sore backs and horses out of action.

Historically sore backs have resulted in more horses being out of action than any single cause. To date, the best track record (and still not perfect, but you have to measure it as a % of horses unfit for duty) has been the universal pattern military saddle (today it's more commonly known as a trooper). Endurance riders, with the exception of the possibly Tevis Cup which is the mother of all runs at 100 miles in one day, typically ride between 50 - 150 over 1 - 3 days (depending on the race). Then they horse and rider can go home and take a break. Long distance riders ride typically 20-40 miles for 3-7 days, take a 1 or 2 day break and continue on again. Having dealt with both treeless, framed and treed, all things being equal (meaning the trees and frames were proper fits) the treeless gave more back problems for long distance. Horses don't lie. Treeless gave me the shortest number of continues miles without the horse having an issue. Troopers gave me the longest distance.

Probably why the majority of distance and endurance riders in the world do not ride treeless.
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post #12 of 16 Old 02-26-2012, 02:03 PM
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Fair enough... Let's face it though, not many riders do that kind of saddle time. Taking that into consideration, treeless is certainly a fine choice for many hard to fit horses.
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post #13 of 16 Old 02-28-2012, 03:41 PM Thread Starter
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thanks you guys for all the helpful info. My quest continues but at least have a few more references in my pocket now :)
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post #14 of 16 Old 02-28-2012, 11:40 PM
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I'd never say that treeless saddles aren't useful. My horses start out with them and will likely continue to unless something better comes along. As I said earlier they have some nice features. Mainly they're light and one size can fit different size backs that are reasonablyl close to the same size. Certainly better than using a tree or framed saddle that doesn't fit (even for short time). And it's a LOT cheaper than buying custom saddles for a horse your training that may go through 3 different sizes between 4.5 and 6 years old (although I do get them their own saddle at about 5)
In fact I'm using my treeless on my mare again while her trooper gets widened a little, but I'm only riding short distances.
As I already noted. The only drawbacks I've noticed with treeless saddle (and they usually aren't major issues if you just ride a few miles a few days week) are:
Lack of weight distribution across the back. It's more concentrated in the area you're sitting (remember horses were not designed by nature to carry loads on there back...humans are designed better for that..., so distributing the weight makes it easier on them)
Part of the weight will be on part of their spine since there's nothing to distribute the weight away from it.
And they don't get any air flow along center of the back (but I know some treed saddles don't really do well for that either)
None of these items should exclude it from being ok for a nice Saturday afternoon trail ride. And I'd certainly say it's a good choice for a first saddle when training, since training tends to be done in short sessions. I'd rate it as being better for the horses back than riding bareback (and heaven knows that most of us have probably done enough of that for morning or afternoon ride) :))
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post #15 of 16 Old 02-29-2012, 07:20 PM Thread Starter
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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??
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post #16 of 16 Old 03-01-2012, 12:51 AM
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Originally Posted by ponyxpress View Post
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:
Haggis
Heskett
The Saddleguy
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 ).
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