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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I still have one more saddle to try, but I’m starting to think I’d better start asking questions about treeless saddles, just in case. There was a lot of good information in the thread I posted about Pony being impossible to fit, but some of it led to more questions on my part.

Please feel free to answer any of these questions!

1. In terms of feel, is a treeless saddle about halfway between a bareback pad and a traditional saddle? Or closer to a bareback pad?
2. I see that some people use stirrups with treeless saddles, but at the same time some of the websites I’ve looked at seem to discourage it. And it seems like you couldn’t use the stirrups to ground mount your horse? Is it even safe to use stirrups with a treeless saddle?
3. I’m never going to be a show jumper, but I like to go over very low jumps. Assuming the saddle had stirrups, could I jump in a treeless saddle? I’m just wondering how much the stirrups can do in terms of supporting my weight. Will putting my weight in the stirrups result in pressure points?
4. Along those lines, will I be able to post the trot in one? I guess what I’m asking is how easy it will be to get off Pony’s back in a treeless saddle.
5. It’s not like Pony has any withers to hold a traditional saddle in place, but still, I have to wonder: without a tree, doesn’t a treeless saddle slip around more?
6. I keep reading that I need special pads with a treeless? Is this the case with all treeless saddles? Why do I need a special pad? Why wouldn’t the saddle just have whatever padding it needed already? Or is this just some treeless saddles?
7. I am also reading about changeable seats, which really confuses me. Do all treeless saddles have changeable seats, or just some? What’s the purpose of a changeable seat?
8. How worried should I be about pressure points? I am not a heavy person (I’m about 115 pounds). Pony seems to prefer being ridden bareback to any of the saddles I’ve ridden him in, so I have to think that the treeless saddle wouldn’t bother him, but maybe I’m wrong?
9. Do treeless saddles come in sizes, like traditional saddles, or are they OSFA?
 
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My experiences:

The yard I rode at lot always rode their horses to and from the fields (20min hack). They used treeless saddles for these commutes across multiple horses.

- stirrups were NEVER used to ground mount. It was strictly forbidden. You either vaulted or used a step-up. Some treeless distribute weight better than others but its my understanding that they will always cause pressure points if overused over time. To jump you have to invest in very good brands/custom fit. But I mean to pop over a cross rail every now and depending on the weight/skill on the rider... If you end up slamming all your weight into your stirrups on a cheapo treeless with bad distribution as you land it can only take one incident to hurt/risk the horse blowing up. I would be more fearful of that myself.

- stirrups were only ever used for "security" (plus not allowed to go without stirrups when out in public here). No posting or jumping was allowed.

- at riding yard 1 and current yard PLENTY of the ponies use treeless. At yard 1 however if they are jumping they will switch to a normal saddle. Only one of the ponies has a treeless round the clock and does everything in it even posting. But he's for advanced riders.

- one lady I knew had a very round horse and always rode in a cheapo treeless. She cut the stirrups off. She was resigned to that life lmao! And according to her slippage is very real but her horse would do a shoulder duck spook.

- lastly I've seen ladies go hacking (private property) and schooling just using a numnah and NO GIRTH!!! I remember someone on here (Qtrbel I think?) telling me as well if you're glued properly and in tune with the horse you wont slide off but that aint my experience :p

- plenty brands of treeless just shop around. Get a cheapo and avoid using stirrups for posting/jumping and see how it goes IMO. You'd at least be more secure than bareback for now xD


edit: wanna swap horses for a bit? :p I always wanted to ride bareback but my mare has prominent spine that digs in :< :< Id like some time on a safe mutton!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@Kalraii hah, you think that, but you haven't experienced having your legs pried apart the whole time you ride. I think I'm going to become bowlegged. You also have to have a really good seat, because your legs aren't able to offer as much support, seeing as how they naturally tend to stick straight out because he's so round (think Thelwell cartoon).

We bought this bareback pad for Moonshine, who has a prominent spine:

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B008OB451C/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It's the one pictured. It's English, not western. The listing is kind of messed up, but the one that is pictured is the one I got. It is a wonderful pad: cushioned and plush on top, grippy on the bottom, with lots of padding in between. I really recommend it. I am actually using it on Pony now, not because I need the padding, but because I thought it might be nicer for him to not have my bony butt digging into his muscles.

It's funny, he's so cushy and soft that when I rode him in a saddle the other day, I just kept thinking about how hard the darn seat was, compared to him. He's literally like an overstuffed little sofa.

Anyway, thank you for your post, that's a lot of useful information. If you ever come to Texas and want to ride a fat pony bareback, just let me know!
 

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I wrote extensively on your other thread, so won't repeat.

Quality treeless saddles have stirrups, can be mounted from the ground, and do not harm a horse's back.

Most riders can use a regular pad if the treeless saddle (ex Barefoot) has a vertebra protection system (aka soft "tree") if the rider is under 200 pounds. Heavier riders or longer distances should use a treeless pad. Personally I use treeless pads even with my treed saddles! They are NICE and cushiony.

Many, many endurance riders use treeless, for rides up to 100 miles in 24 hours. They ride at all three gaits, with no issues. Winners of the Tevis (one can look up these records) have ridden treeless multiple times.

Would not advise getting a cheap, no name treeless as they are junk.

@phantomhorse13 rode in a treeless saddle during an endurance ride WITHOUT a girth! About 20 miles like that! Yes, she had stirrups on it, how else could she post!

Small jumps are fine with a treeless, but wouldn't try large fences with them.

I ride in the mountains, so use a breast collar, but no crupper as my RMHA gelding doesn't like them (I don't like them either). So far, for the last 6 years, I haven't had any problem with saddle slipping, except the one time my girth was too loose.

Of course treeless saddles need to be fitted to the horse, and rider, but they are much more forgiving and adjustable.

Comfort? Oh my treeless saddles are so much more comfortable that I bring my own saddle when I ride other peoples' horses! I recently purchased a new horse, and carried my own treeless saddle around to do trial rides on horses.

EVERY horse I have ever ridden in my treeless saddle has moved much better, with longer strides and looser shoulder. They love them!


That's all I have to say on the subject.
 

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The answer to your questions in many cases is 'it depends on the specific saddle.' Just like treed saddles, there is a lot of variety to style of treeless. And just like treed saddles, there is a pretty wide variety of quality (or lack thereof).


I don't think any treeless saddle I have ridden in felt much like a bareback pad, but that really depends on the saddle's structure.

Every treeless model I have ridden in had stirrups and I used them. No issues with posting or two point. I generally use a mounting block but have mounted from the ground when there was no other choice. How much the saddle rolls depends on the horse's confo and your mounting style.

Pressure points where the stirrups attach can be an issue depending on the saddle's construction.

How much roll the saddle has depends on the horse's confo, how stable you are as a rider, and to some extent the pad you use.

Most treeless saddles need a special pad to maintain a channel down the spine. There are some newer models that have panels or other modifications to allow for this without necessarily needing a special pad.

Most treeless saddles do not have changeable seats - that is something Freeform started (so wouldn't be surprised if all the knock offs also offer it). Changing the seat allows you to decide what works best for you in terms of seat depth, etc. Could be nice if you ride dressage one day and want to jump the next.

Some treeless come in sizes, some have different size seat options and some are OSFA.


As @AnitaAnne mentioned, I finished the last 18 miles of an endurance ride with no girth on my treeless saddle at all. So while its possible, I would certainly recommend a girth!!
 

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1. In terms of feel, is a treeless saddle about halfway between a bareback pad and a traditional saddle? Or closer to a bareback pad?
A quality treeless saddle feels very little like a bareback pad. Especially ones like the Ghost treeless, which have an actual twist to the seat so you sit narrower.

You can post and two point as I am doing here.

Without the solid tree there is a slightly bouncier feel to posting, but you can rise out of the saddle easily.


This is in contrast to the "treeless" which are cheap, glorified bareback pads.
Here I am riding in a "treeless" which although it has stirrups they could never be used for mounting and it will slide to one side (notice the breast collar for safety). The underside is flat. Hopefully you can notice the lack of structure. These are the ones people say it is unsafe to use stirrups with, because you could get the weight in one stirrup and pull the pad over.


5. It’s not like Pony has any withers to hold a traditional saddle in place, but still, I have to wonder: without a tree, doesn’t a treeless saddle slip around more?
6. I keep reading that I need special pads with a treeless? Is this the case with all treeless saddles? Why do I need a special pad? Why wouldn’t the saddle just have whatever padding it needed already? Or is this just some treeless saddles?
To see if you need a treeless pad, what you do is check to see if you can pull a lead rope through the channel of the saddle when you are on the horse. If you can do so easily, there is spinal clearance and you don't need a pad. It is doubtful you would need one on a real treeless with a channel. Especially not on a round horse. A person would need one if they were heavy enough to squash the center of the channel down onto the spine, or if the horse's spine protruded high off the back into the channel.


Treeless saddles are not one size fits all. That's the main reason why they have the changeable seats, because you can extend the seat to make the base fit a larger person.

I have not had any issues with pressure points, because I make sure the saddle clears the spine. The structure of a quality treeless will not cause issues even if you post or two point extensively like I do.

Some things I have noted:
They are as secure as a saddle if a horse bucks or spooks, and I have stayed on through some crazy moves.

One way they feel more like a bareback pad is that they don't "clamp down" on a horse's body so for example if a strong horse is galloping and pulling, you do not have as much support - the treeless will want to give toward the horse slightly, which means your core strength feels a little less powerful for the horse. I did not notice this effect except for on a strong horse when going very fast. My solution was to use a little more leverage with her bit.

When I used too much padding (a thick treeless pad, thinking it would be kinder), on my round horse it did cause the saddle to be less stable and want to slip a little to the side. It also made my legs sit wide, which made me less balanced. I weight 125 lbs so I just used regular english pads under my Ghost saddles.

They are not like a bareback pad. On a bareback pad I sit wide and my legs get tired from squeezing and trying to stabilize at faster gaits. Treeless have enough structure to allow you to ride much longer without using too much muscle strength.
 

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1. In terms of feel, is a treeless saddle about halfway between a bareback pad and a traditional saddle? Or closer to a bareback pad?

Depends on the saddle. Some of the more high-end saddles and the way they're put together can give you a much more 'traditional' feel of a treed saddle. eBay knock offs or the Cashel soft saddles are more like a bareback pad.Barefoots are definitely "in-between" (but it's been years since I've ridden in one, so your mileage may vary). If you're trying to look at a more traditional feel to a saddle (i.e. twist, etc.) then you'd have to be looking at saddles like Freeform or Sensation (or maybe Bob Marshall ... which I rode on once in my life at a Haflinger farm in Kentucky and I've never been in that type of saddle again so can't really give much of an opinion on that)

2. I see that some people use stirrups with treeless saddles, but at the same time some of the websites I’ve looked at seem to discourage it. And it seems like you couldn’t use the stirrups to ground mount your horse? Is it even safe to use stirrups with a treeless saddle?

As @AnitaAnne and @phantomhorse13 said, you totally can use stirrups with treeless saddles. I use stirrups with treeless saddles, and I could mount from the ground in my Sensation treeless (haven't tried with with the Freeform yet). In my Barefoot, I could mount from the ground, but it was harder because the stirrup panel was sewn into the saddle itself, although that's since changed and the last Barefoot rep I talked to says the plate is moveable now. I don't often mount from the ground though, even in a treed saddle. I try to use whatever I can find (mounting block, log, stump ... that little step stool I keep in my trailer) because it's easier on my knee if I mount from some height.

3. I’m never going to be a show jumper, but I like to go over very low jumps. Assuming the saddle had stirrups, could I jump in a treeless saddle? I’m just wondering how much the stirrups can do in terms of supporting my weight. Will putting my weight in the stirrups result in pressure points?

Some brands of saddles are going to be more geared towards jumping than others, and it will depend on the models they make.

4. Along those lines, will I be able to post the trot in one? I guess what I’m asking is how easy it will be to get off Pony’s back in a treeless saddle.

Suuuuuuuuure. I post the trot alll the time. I rarely sit the trot in any saddle because my first horse was a TB with a choppy trot (gorgeous canter though) and I just learned to post every time out of habit. Posting isn't throwing yourself out of the saddle (seen way too many people do that) but letting the horse's motion carry you, and I actually find I have an easier time of that in a treeless saddle.


5. It’s not like Pony has any withers to hold a traditional saddle in place, but still, I have to wonder: without a tree, doesn’t a treeless saddle slip around more?

I've never had trouble with saddle slip. Quality pad, and a breastcollar keeps the thing pretty secure. I like having a wide mohair girth too, because it's a good anchor on the bottom side.Haven't had to use a crupper much, if at all, and that as with a treed saddle. Never used one for any of my treeless.


6. I keep reading that I need special pads with a treeless? Is this the case with all treeless saddles? Why do I need a special pad? Why wouldn’t the saddle just have whatever padding it needed already? Or is this just some treeless saddles?

I'd invest in a quality pad, just to have it. I know I've read that with some brands of saddles you can use regular pads, but a good pad with foam inserts and a spine channel is always a good investment for a treeless saddle. Freeform has these removable panels which are probably next on my saddle upgrade bucket list, but I'd still use a good pad like a Skito or an Equipedic. That being said, I know people who use Skito and Equipedics on their treed saddles because they're just that good.


7. I am also reading about changeable seats, which really confuses me. Do all treeless saddles have changeable seats, or just some? What’s the purpose of a changeable seat?

As was pointed out, it's really a Freeform thing, across all their models. The whole seat comes off and you can swap it for a smaller one, for instance, so someone else could use the same saddle. Or a different style. Right now, my Freeform has a ClassicX seat, so there's itty bitty poleys on the pommel. Eventually, I want to get a ultimate trail seat since it's got this awesome cantle, and would be nice for longer more technical rides.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Thanks, this is all great. Definitely lots of information here.

Good to know that the point of the pads is for spinal clearance. Some of you have seen pictures of Pony. Spinal clearance may not be a concern for him. At least with his current body shape.
 

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What a beautiful butt! I actually bought the same bareback pad as you... it still bridged and although I tried breaking it in but it cut so badly that I couldn't even keep my finger under the seam by the wither for even a minute... alas I ended up selling it even though I really really loved it :< I'm thinking I might just end up altering one. She's 17hh so while not fat defo a large girl so I know that feeling. I end up sitting on her like a peg on a washing line to avoid her spine haha (NOT safe at alllllllll). Luckily I got a well muscled bottom to offset any other pain. I was very fortunate in regards to saddles BUT my pain was in finding bridles. Find one and hold it tight!
 

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What a beautiful butt! I actually bought the same bareback pad as you... it still bridged and although I tried breaking it in but it cut so badly that I couldn't even keep my finger under the seam by the wither for even a minute... alas I ended up selling it even though I really really loved it :< I'm thinking I might just end up altering one. She's 17hh so while not fat defo a large girl so I know that feeling. I end up sitting on her like a peg on a washing line to avoid her spine haha (NOT safe at alllllllll). Luckily I got a well muscled bottom to offset any other pain. I was very fortunate in regards to saddles BUT my pain was in finding bridles. Find one and hold it tight!
Just put a treeless saddle pad under the bareback pad, and you should be fine!
 

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I have a Barefoot Tahoe treeless saddle. I love mine. It's super comfortable! Especially on long trails. :D I do use a really nice pad with it though, for extra support for my horse's back.

1. In terms of feel, is a treeless saddle about halfway between a bareback pad and a traditional saddle? Or closer to a bareback pad?
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For me, it feels more like a regular saddle. I do feel like I can feel the horse more, but it doesn't feel like a bareback pad, no.

2. I see that some people use stirrups with treeless saddles, but at the same time some of the websites I’ve looked at seem to discourage it. And it seems like you couldn’t use the stirrups to ground mount your horse? Is it even safe to use stirrups with a treeless saddle?
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You can use them with or without stirrups - depends on the brand though. I never mount from the ground, treeless saddle or not. :lol: Too short! Mine didn't come with stirrups, but they can be attached to it, absolutely. I always ride with stirrups.

3. I’m never going to be a show jumper, but I like to go over very low jumps. Assuming the saddle had stirrups, could I jump in a treeless saddle? I’m just wondering how much the stirrups can do in terms of supporting my weight. Will putting my weight in the stirrups result in pressure points?
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Definitely depends on the model of treeless.

4. Along those lines, will I be able to post the trot in one? I guess what I’m asking is how easy it will be to get off Pony’s back in a treeless saddle.
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Yes, I always post or sit in mine with no issues.

5. It’s not like Pony has any withers to hold a traditional saddle in place, but still, I have to wonder: without a tree, doesn’t a treeless saddle slip around more?
It shouldn't slip, but you can always buy a non-slip pad to be safe!

6. I keep reading that I need special pads with a treeless? Is this the case with all treeless saddles? Why do I need a special pad? Why wouldn’t the saddle just have whatever padding it needed already? Or is this just some treeless saddles?
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Any saddle needs padding, for extra support. I have a HAF 8300 Enduro trail saddle pad I use with mine. It has removable shims too, so I can shim it up as needed. :)

Here's a picture of it at the bottom. :D


7. I am also reading about changeable seats, which really confuses me. Do all treeless saddles have changeable seats, or just some? What’s the purpose of a changeable seat?
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Freeform has that option. It's so different people can use it (if they need a smaller or bigger seat).

8. How worried should I be about pressure points? I am not a heavy person (I’m about 115 pounds). Pony seems to prefer being ridden bareback to any of the saddles I’ve ridden him in, so I have to think that the treeless saddle wouldn’t bother him, but maybe I’m wrong?
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Just like any saddle, you do have to make sure it fits. Working with padding/shims helps as well. Just make sure there's spinal clearance too. Very important.

9. Do treeless saddles come in sizes, like traditional saddles, or are they OSFA?
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They come in different sizes. For example, the one I have comes in 2 sizes (they have sizing on the website, for English & Western).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
What a beautiful butt!
Why, thank you! My daughter says I'm obsessed, because I always tell Pony what a nice big fat pony butt he has (I believe he takes it as a compliment). Nice to see someone agrees.

It's a bummer that pad didn't work for you. I guess it just goes to show that even bareback pads aren't one-size-fits-all.
 
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Some of you have seen pictures of Pony. Spinal clearance may not be a concern for him. At least with his current body shape.
Being chubby may help, but it still may not give you enough clearance depending on what type of saddle you buy.


I ride Musubi in a Bob Marshall Sports Saddle, which we jokingly call the 'amoeba' because its very soft and flexible. Mu is *ahem* not super fit yet and I still need a pad with inserts to keep the saddle from being too close to his spine even with his own natural padding..



 

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All the treeless I have been looking at are more like traditional saddles and have stirrups. You can mount from the ground, but I think ease of mounting depends on a lot of things like previously mentioned.

Heck, my mare is so round that I had a hard time mounting from the ground in a treed saddle, as it would still want to roll off her back.

On a side note, I did see a video the other day of a guy mounting from the ground - into his saddle with the cinch undone. It was amazing.

Anyway, I have ridden in a couple models of Barefoot as well as a Freeform. I did NOT care for the freeform at all. I felt very tippy in that saddle. The Barefoot still makes me feel like I tip forward, but not nearly as bad. It doesn't help that my mare is built downhill.

Everyone has their own experiences, but from all the posts I've read on FB and forums, the most recommended saddles were Barefoot, Sensation and Ghost. I also heard good things about EZ Fit and Bob Marshall.

If you are looking into a treeless option, just ensure it is a good quality and brand. I think there are a lot out there that are junk and will be more like a glorified bareback pad.

My opinion is a treeless saddle should ride similar to a treed saddle - and you should be able to do anything you can do in a treed saddle (well, with the exception of roping cattle...haha).
 

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I have owned quite a few treeless saddles over the years - Freeform Classic and Enduro models, a Ghost Quilty, an older Trekker and a Barefoot Cheyenne. Twist is very important (especially when riding a chunky monkey like my Morgan). The Ghost saddles have the best twist of them all. Twist with the Freeforms depend on what seat you use - I found that the best twist came with the dressage seat. I once went on a four hour trail ride using the Barefoot on a regular sized TB and it took a week before my hips recovered - a rather painful week!

You can use panels that attach with velcro on the Ghost, Freeform and Trekker saddles. Panels for the Freeforms and Ghost saddles can be stuffed with any number of inserts - either bought from the company or put together by the rider. The Trekker panels didn't have that option but perhaps they do now.

Treeless pads are uber expensive and are recommended to be used under most treeless saddles. Openings for inserts should be through the front of the pad and not down the spine. Barefoot is the only maker that has a pad with openings in the front and back making the positioning of inserts much easier. Ghost makes pads with sympanova, wool or sheepskin to fit their saddles. The sympanova bottom helps to keep the saddle in place but many horses do not like the feel of it against their skin.

Freeform saddles and seats do not hold their value when it's time to list them for sale. Ghost saddles do, maybe Barefoot too.
 

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@ACinATX are you still considering treeless as an option?

I did have my treeless demo last week and I actually ended up ordering a custom made EZ Fit. And I also spontaneously just bought a Specialized saddle through a FB group (I am hoping my saddle shopping days are over now!)

I tried out a Barefoot Cheyenne, a Sensation as well as the EZ Fit. I will say that they ALL felt very comfortable to ride in, although i was not thrilled with the way the stirrups were attached to the Sensation saddle.

All of them sat very securely on my mare's back (and it's not like we had really reefed on the cinches either).

I think if you decide to try treeless, that any of the main brands would work for you & your pony. Your pony is built very similar to Amber (she has a heart shaped butt too!!) Spinal clearance would never be an issue with your horse. The thing I liked about the EZ fit over the other two is the cross fire rigging - it made that saddle sit so securely on her back.

I did order the EZ Fit pad with my saddle - it was not that expensive, although I may end up using a Skito pad eventually anyway.

My only concern is the twist in the saddle as it could be painful on long rides. But most treeless you can add inserts to create a twist (some people even just roll up socks and put them under the seat).
 

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I can't answer all of your questions, because I literally just got my EZ Fit in the mail on saturday. I have ridden in it twice and I haven't had it out on a long trail yet. I have always had treed saddles.

My first impressions are:

It seems more stable than the treed saddle that "fits" my mare "well" (she has giant shoulders and while the treed saddle looked ok-I always felt like the treed saddle didn't give her shoulders enough swing room and it tended to shift depending on what we were doing).

I didn't mount from the ground because I have a hard time with that regularly and generally use a block or rock/stump/etc on the trail.

The moveable pads on the bottom of the EZ Fit that provide spinal clearance are substantial enough that I wouldn't necessarily need a pad with it. I shined a flashlight down the gullet while i was sitting in it and there was plenty of clearance.

The seat seemed kind of hard and wide upon first look- but was very comfortable with a sheepskin. My seatbones are uncomfortable in many types of saddles- but this one was good.

I had no trouble posting. Didn't try to jump anything.

Horse seemed comfortable.

I did have a hard time with the centerfire rigging- but once I practice with that a little, I think I will like it. Everything is adjustable on it and I really like that.

I am looking forward to trying it out more. Our weather here has not been ideal for riding the last few days so hopefully soon.
 
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