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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have been thinking about treeless saddles since I do long trail rides (yeah, I know that treeless can hurt the horse like a treed).

I was wondering what the "good" and "bad" brands are? I know that many people like Freeforms, Ghosts, Barefoot, Black Forest, Bob Marshalls. And many people say to avoid Hilasons like the plague. How are Torsions?

What about saddle pads? I know that some treeless brands offer pads, but many people say to get a Skito or Equipedic. I know the pad for treeless is very important, but are they really worth the $300?

What are the twists? I prefer a narrow twist. The western saddle I have now has a large/wide twist. It is okay for, like, the first hour then it hurts. lol
 

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No idea what a twist is and have never needed to know, so no info from me there.

But I happen to own a Bob Marshall. After years of struggling to find a saddle that fit my horse, I caved and bought a used BM for $800. Contrary to popular belief, they're NOT a "one size fits all", but a treeless WILL fit a wider variety of horses than a treed. You're lucky if you find them for that cheap. But I love mine. It's a personal preference. They aren't as stable as a treed saddle but if you have good balance you should be fine. I run barrels in it with no issues.

That being said, you DO need a pad that offers spine relief. Skitos, Equipedics, and 5 Stars are going to be the best, but really any spine relief pad should work so long as it stays in place under the saddle. Check sweat markings for where the saddle is sitting. Check the horse for soreness. I've known some to be more sensitive than others in the back, usually because of other medical issues. But providing your critter is perfectly healthy, there's no reason why you can't use a treeless with a good pad on long rides.

Hilason saddles are generally garbage. Like, I've heard people do alright with them, but any Hilason leather I've gotten was like cardboard pressed into the shape of a spur strap and painted brown. Terrible quality stuff. Not sure about the Torsions, but the name makes me think of a twisted intestine and gives me the willies.
 

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A good fitting treed saddle should not hurt the horse. A saddle tree is to help spread your weight over the horse's back evenly. So I don't know why people think saddle trees are bad? Maybe from experience with poorly fitting saddles.



A lot of people go treeless and then have to have a special pad to distribute the weight and give spine clearance.........sort of like a saddle tree does. So why not just get a treed saddle to begin with? For doing short informal rides I'm sure treeless is okay. But for long trail rides......that's what saddle trees are made for.
 

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Barefoot is my favorite treeless. Super comfortable. :) I use mine on trails. I also have one of their bareback pads. So supportive!

HAF pad makes good pads for the treeless saddles.
 

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Treeless saddles aren't known for having narrow twists. I believe Ghost is one of the few I've heard recommended for being a little more narrow. Bob Marshall is one of the widest ones I know of.
@phantomhorse13 has a Torsion she likes so she can give you more advice on that model

I hated my Ghost and never used it so I sold it this spring and used the money for nicer treed saddles. I have a Reactor Panel and a Specialized Ultralight that I both love now that fit a variety of horses with adjustments and are much more comfortable than a western saddle. Do you ride a lot of horses and are looking for the adjustability?

Yes, you generally need an expensive pad. The few that they say don't are Ghost and some of the newer Freeforms because of the panel set up but still people generally use nicer pads with spinal clearance with them just to be safe. Haf, Skito, Equipedic, Toklat Matrix, Grandeur and the Ghost pad are ones that I know of that are well used.
 

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I wish someone on here would buy a saddle with a living bar and post their impression.
 

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A few said it took a little while to adjust to some horses. A couple horses it didn't work for at all...

One human couldn't get comfortable in it as a rider.

Nylon billets didn't hold up (although you can customize it to get a different setup)

But there's maybe 1 person who didn't like it for every 20 who do, which is rare for the endurance crowd who are a bit like princess in the pea about their saddles.
 

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My mare was a nightmare to fit, so I basically had to go treeless for her. I ended up ordering an EZ Fit treeless. It really doesn't have a twist to it, but I can customize the seat and add a twist if I want to. I have gotten used to riding in it the way it is. I find it very comfortable. We did a ton of mountain miles this summer and overall I was really happy with the saddle.

I just use the pad that comes with it, but it isn't a special pad and I could use any saddle pad I want.

I did try out a Sensations saddle as well as Barefoot and a Freeform (I did not care for the freeform although a lot of people do like them).

I would suggest trying some out. They aren't a one size fits all and there is a lot of personal preference.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I would suggest trying some out. They aren't a one size fits all and there is a lot of personal preference.
I'd love to try. But trying saddles used or new, treed or treeless can be expensive, especially if one ships, which is what I have to do. :( I don't know anyone who uses treeless around here. I have tried other people's treed saddles, though. They were too wide, but I did get a "feel." I'm a little scared to buy treed online since there is such a precise fit. I understand that treeless needs to fit, but it they seem more... forgiving?
 

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I'd love to try. But trying saddles used or new, treed or treeless can be expensive, especially if one ships, which is what I have to do. :( I don't know anyone who uses treeless around here. I have tried other people's treed saddles, though. They were too wide, but I did get a "feel." I'm a little scared to buy treed online since there is such a precise fit. I understand that treeless needs to fit, but it they seem more... forgiving?
I was lucky as a local saddle fitter here does carry many of the popular treeless brands and will do a fitting and trial.

Ideally it would be great if you could at least sit in a couple - there are treeless FB groups you could join and reach out to people there. I'm sure there are folks in your area that ride treeless.

I would say in general the fit can be more forgiving, but some horses don't do well with treeless. My mare is wide as a barrel, however I have heard that narrower horses may not be as comfortable in treeless as there is the possibility of pressure points.

I also found that some of the ones I rode in made me feel really 'tippy' - in that I felt like my seat was perched forward.

The treed saddle I bought for my gelding is a Specialized. It is a treed saddle, but does allow for some customization for fit with the shims that come with it. I have been pretty happy with that saddle as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
My TWH mare is narrow, short-backed (needs a round skirt), mutton-withered, but has BIG shoulders. Hard to fit? I don't know, but I did have a saddle fitter fit her and somehow.... it didn't fit. How???? :( I can always tell when a saddle does not fit because she can't/won't gait or canter and head tosses the whole ride.

Her current saddle is an okay fit, but not like-a-glove. It is a little too wide and long, unfortunately. She can canter, but she's not happy. She can gait, though. I wish FQH, QH, and SQH were not different from manufacturer to manufacturer. These western saddles are seemingly made to fit giant, wide stock horses... Maybe I should try English?
 

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I wish someone on here would buy a saddle with a living bar and post their impression.
I had never heard of "living bars" so I went and looked it up and watched the video. Looks like a more modern version of Ortho Flex. Could very well be better, I don't know. But it looks like a similar premise. I have never tried Ortho Flex or Stonewall living bars saddles.

What I did try, and it hurt my back for some reason, was a Reinsman flex tree. I think the tree is similar to what Circle Y used (uses?) in their flex trees. It was a gorgeous saddle. But it gave me back pain for some reason. Seemed to fit the horses okay but had the looser, less stable feel that flex trees seem to share.

It would be truly great to have a flex tree (or any tree) that could fit the shape of the individual horse. That really would be the holy grail of saddle fit. But after trying a lot of saddles over the years I am sort of skeptical. But it would be awesome if the living bars worked as promised and held up over time.

In the meantime, I am at peace with my treed saddles. They are comfortable for me and fit the horse I have at the moment. But it would without a doubt be awesome to have a good flex tree that would morph to fit different horses.......and didn't give me back pain.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I had never heard of "living bars" so I went and looked it up and watched the video. Looks like a more modern version of Ortho Flex. Could very well be better, I don't know. But it looks like a similar premise. I have never tried Ortho Flex or Stonewall living bars saddles.

What I did try, and it hurt my back for some reason, was a Reinsman flex tree. I think the tree is similar to what Circle Y used (uses?) in their flex trees. It was a gorgeous saddle. But it gave me back pain for some reason. Seemed to fit the horses okay but had the looser, less stable feel that flex trees seem to share.

It would be truly great to have a flex tree (or any tree) that could fit the shape of the individual horse. That really would be the holy grail of saddle fit. But after trying a lot of saddles over the years I am sort of skeptical. But it would be awesome if the living bars worked as promised and held up over time.

In the meantime, I am at peace with my treed saddles. They are comfortable for me and fit the horse I have at the moment. But it would without a doubt be awesome to have a good flex tree that would morph to fit different horses.......and didn't give me back pain.
Despite what people say, horses do change. My horse is not the same weight or condition she was last month, let alone year when I bought my saddle. It's hard because when the horse changes, so does the fit. So, realistically, nothing one saddle is going to be a 100% - 100% of the time. Besides, don't some things change once the horse is in motion? How "good" is "good enough?"

I remember riding years ago in a cheapo saddle bought online. The fit was probably bad, but I don't remember that affecting sweat patterns, white hairs, or horse acting up. Horse rode fine, actually. Maybe just really stoic?
 
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If I had a narrowish horse that went with pretty steady gaits, I'd ride in my Ghost treeless a lot.
I used to love mine on my little Arab, but she is retired now.

My other Arab was also not too wide and I liked the Ghost if we weren't galloping. Treeless saddles are a couple steps above bareback, but if you need to use your core to slow a strong horse, they don't give you that support.

My TB is wide and I don't like the Ghost on him. It has a narrower twist but if the horse is wide and has high enough withers that you need the thick treeless pad, you will sit wide. On my low withered Arabs I did not need the treeless pad.

It is harder to ground mount, but possible unless a horse is very tall. You are secure, but there is more of a bounce when you are trotting. You feel everything, including muscle twitches or deep breaths. If the horse shakes , it really rattles you too.
 

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How "good" is "good enough?"

If the horse doesn't seen sore in the back when I brush him/her after a long ride AND it doesn't cause white hairs over time AND it also fits me, I figure it good enough. If the horse isn't complaining and you don't see rubs, swellings, or white hairs you are off to a good start. And then if you ride the horse for a long time (hours at a time, for months at a time) and you still don't see any issues, I would say that's a good fit.

I have a Missouri Fox Trotter mare and she gets fatter over the winter and slims down in the summer but the same saddle fits her all year round. If I feel she is pretty chubby, I might use a thinner pad. If she is fitter after riding all summer, I might use a thicker pad. But that's about it. I don't change saddles because she doesn't seem sore and there are no rubs or white marks under the saddle. So I adjust the padding, not the saddle.

I did have horses in the past that had saddle fit issues and you will know it after a month or two. They will start getting white hairs, they will dip their back when you brush them after a ride, or sometimes you will have odd swellings (those are usually really bad pressure points). But if I am not getting any of those, I call it a good fit. If it's not broke, I don't fix it. But if it is broke, then I'm searching for another saddle again. :frown:


PS. Has your mare ever cantered well? Like does she canter well bareback or treeless or with a different saddle? Because sometimes TWH have problems cantering that don't have anything to do with their saddle fit. The more pacey a gaited horse is, the harder it can be for them to canter, or so I'm told. My mare is more on the trotty end of the spectrum so she canters pretty well, but I've heard the more pacey they are, the harder it is for them to canter. I had one MFT mare that didn't canter that well and it was just the way she was gaited I think.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
PS. Has your mare ever cantered well? Like does she canter well bareback or treeless or with a different saddle? Because sometimes TWH have problems cantering that don't have anything to do with their saddle fit. The more pacey a gaited horse is, the harder it can be for them to canter, or so I'm told. My mare is more on the trotty end of the spectrum so she canters pretty well, but I've heard the more pacey they are, the harder it is for them to canter. I had one MFT mare that didn't canter that well and it was just the way she was gaited I think.
My mare canters freely in pasture and her canter while bareback is smooth as glass.
 

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I don't understand the comparison of Orthoflex to Living Bar. The living bar does not actually flex as it is not a continuous bar but rather a series of tubes that comprise the bar. Each tube is free to adjust to the angle of the surface under it (the horse).


So yes, horses do change, but the living bar changes with the horse. Fixed does not of course. Treeless does but there is just no way to get the weight distribution that a fixed gives.


My fixed tree is adjustable and my obese horse had to have the top side of the bar at the shoulders brought in 1/2 inch on both sides at the top and 1/4 inch at the bottom on both sides. With a living bar, the adjustment would have been automatic.


About the only fit problem that can come up is with the rock, or dip in the back. The inventor sent me a detailed answer to how that was delt with which sounded acceptable.


I also have a Barefoot but have only used it when my horse was boxcar wide and the treeless can widen the horse a bit. I actually made a rigid bar that fit the horse and inserted it under the saddle. The bar is not rigid but floats with the saddle independently of the other bar. Very good for a horse with different shoulders and the bar spreads the weight as good as a rigid treed saddle.


Which ever treeless saddle is used, some type of probe or string with a large knot (1/2" or so) needs to be used after riding a bit and while mounted to be certain there is clearance over the spine 4 inches or so wide.


That can be a problem on longer rides where the pads compress and everything sinks.
 
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