When I first got my treeless saddle I was so excited to give it a try!  We had been struggling along with the Wintec Wide, neither myself, Billy or Chloe had enjoyed it much. We were ready for something different.

Boy oh boy was treeless different!

The first thing I noticed was how high my new saddle sat.  It was like a sky scraper sitting up on Billy’s back. I knew from all my research that the saddle starts out that way, but after 20 hours of riding it will soften and take the form of your rear end. Walla! No more sky scraper!

The other thing was NO MOUNTING FROM THE GROUND. The saddle was slip sliding all over both Billy and Chloe’s back even when I mounted from my pedestal or a fence. I would get on them and the saddle would immediately slide to the side. This had me worried because Billy is a youngster and there may be antics that I will have to ride through. I was wondering just how I was going to do that on a saddle that slides around when we are just standing still!

However, as I mentioned in the other post, I don’t have a saddle budget. THIS saddle was going to have to work. So I set off to do more research. There must be a way to make the saddle more stable!

I found this wonderful article about girth length.  ( Scroll down the page to the article “Is Your Cinch Too Long?” by Richard Sacks.)

And walla! Things started to fall into place. I had been using the girth I had for the Wintec Wide saddle, a 34″ Montana Cincha girth. It was a beautiful mohair girth that would not cause Billy to itch and wouldn’t pinch or cause sores when he got sweaty. But it was waaaay too long.  Because it was so long it was basically making a nice ring around Billy’s body. Allowing the saddle to just roll around and around. Also it wasn’t wide enough to help distribute the pressure on his brisket (see photo below for where the brisket is located). When using a treeless saddle, often you will need to have your girth a bit tighter than on a treed saddle and this can put more pressure on their brisket area, which can be uncomfortable if the girth is too narrow.

So I pulled out chloe’s little 22″ girth and gave it a try! The saddle was so much more stable, I was totally amazed.

My mom bought me the leather girth that Rocky Creek Hill offers for their treeless saddles. They are shorter and wider than the average girth. Perfect for their treeless saddles of course! I asked for a 20″ girth as I felt the 22″ was still a bit too long.

Here is a photo of what it looks like with the beautiful 20″ leather girth.

SONY DSCThere was still a bit of slippage going on that I attributed to my Woolback dressage pad.  It’s my opinion that if you are going to have a treeless saddle it’s best to also use a saddle pad made for the treeless saddles. My Woolback is not. To help with that I got out my scissors and cut a wide patch out of the middle of my pad, along the spinal channel of the pad. Doing this alone, has greatly helped stabilize the saddle even more. I plan to save my pennies and purchase the 5 Star treeless saddle pad.  I have a friend that has one and it’s such a beautiful pad. It’s real felted wool, not mixed with plastic as most of the felted wool pads are.

(I can not use anything plastic against Billy’s skin because of his allergies. He will break out in hives. How horrible that would be under his sweaty saddle pad!)

Another issue that cropped up when I first rode in my treeless saddle were the stirrups.

SONY DSCThere is a BIG flat ring under a flap on the saddle that the stirrup leathers buckle around.  However I found that the placement of this ring was too far back, throwing me forward onto my horses withers and neck. How weird!  It was quite unsettling at first. So I hopped off and tried moving my leathers forward on the ring, but they wouldn’t stay of course… so I lengthened my stirrups two holes and climbed back on. Problem solved! Plus my stirrups still hit right at my ankle bone, as they should.

Another thing I learned in all my researching was that the treeless saddles actually need to be placed further FORWARD than a treed saddle. Since the treeless saddles don’t have a tree there is nothing that can pinch or bang into the horse’s shoulder. Having the saddle farther forward puts your weight on the horses ‘center of motion’ which also helps keep the saddle stable and the horse comfortable.

SONY DSCsaddleplacementThese are just a few of the hints and tips I ran across in my research. I thought it would be helpful to have them all in one place right here so that others can learn from my mistakes and hopefully have a wonderful first ride in their treeless saddle! Also these were a few things that I was not prepared for that kept me up at night wondering if I had made the right choice for myself and my horses. If you are armed with the correct information from the get go things are so much easier and you don’t feel like the treeless saddle people are lying about their product!

Treeless saddles can be really wonderful if you are using them properly.

I do not have a big budget for a saddle. Actually I don’t have a saddle budget at all, so when I went out shopping I knew I was going to have to pinch my pennies. Luckily my mom gave me her old saddle to sell and that started my saddle fund!

The first saddle I purchased, back when Billy was just a two year old, was a Wintec Wide Dressage Saddle. I thought it would be the perfect fit because it has the adjustable gullets, allowing you to change out the gullet as your horse grows and changes. The problem? When Billy was two the widest gullet was the one that fit. Also, because Billy started out with such a dip in his back, the saddle bridged terribly. The more I padded to help with the bridging the taller and more unstable the saddle became!

I had been sitting on Billy bareback and in the bareback pad and he took to it like a fish to water. (He has a very small bubble and loves to invade my space, so having me on his back was the perfect solution! I can’t get any closer to him than that!) When I sat on him with the saddle on he was stamping his feet, swishing his tail, his ears were back and he humped his back up, giving a little crow hop.

I decided that he didn’t like that saddle and it was time to go shopping.  Now some will say that I am spoiling him because I listened to this feedback and didn’t make him adjust to the saddle. I say, why fight it? If he doesn’t like it then neither do i! I’m not the one that has to cart me around the mountains. His comfort is my top priority. If he is comfortable then I will be too.

So off I went to do some research and find the perfect starter saddle for Billy and I. This took me many months because many of the treeless saddles that I truly loved are way out of my price range.

The Freeform Ultimate Trail saddle is my dream saddle. It’s on my wish list for when I win the lottery…

The Freeform Ultimate Trail Saddle:  $1979.00
FF-ultimate-2TEXCITING NEWS!  A great new saddle for trail and endurance!!  Woohoo!  After many years of riding I wanted to design a comfy saddle for my older body.  I worked for a few years on prototypes of different seat styles.  Finally I’ve come up with what I think is the perfect seat!  A wonderful gel seat that fits a woman’s pelvic bones.  It’s wide in the seat, narrow in the twist and high in the cantle with soft gel poleys.  The seat will keep you in the saddle for many hours of riding.  I’m in love with the comfort and security of it.

I like the Barefoot treeless saddles as well, though they are not on the top of my list.

“The Barefoot Barrydale VSD Treeless Saddle: $995.00

BD-2The anatomically shaped knee rolls and seat on the new Barefoot Barrydale frame the rider thus affording the ride a low and secure ride.

The new Barefoot V-belting allows the girthing to self-adjust and distributes the pressure of the girth over the entire saddle.  The position of the v-belting also positions the saddle directly over the horse’s center of gravity, the perfect position for the horse to support the rider’s weight.

Each Barefoot Barrydale incorporates Barefoot’s VPS (vertebrae protection system).  The Barefoot VPS system’s components are totally flexible and therefore the saddle adjusts immediately to the movements of the horse.  The Barefoot VPS system is not bulky and allows for a very close contact and connection between horse and rider.

** I have a friend that got the Barefoot Tahoe and did NOT like it.  She said it was very uncomfortable as there was something under the seat that was hurting her as she rode.  She rode in it only a few times and then had HORRIBLE customer service when she tried to return it. They pulled a few unethical moves, however Emily was able to return it in the end. After hearing her story I would be very hesitant to purchase a saddle from Barefoot.

The Startrekk saddles are very interesting to me! I like the look of the Iberian saddle. I feel this would be an excellent trail saddle.

The Startrekk Iberian Portuguese Treeless Saddle: $1875.00

ST-Esp1The Startrekk Espaniola is an Iberian/Portuguese style treeless saddle modeled after those used in classical riding.  It has moveable panels secured with Velcro and a changeable pommel configuration.  The seat is built up to provide a twist for the rider.  The Espaniola works well for wide, short-backed horses such as Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos, Icelandics and other gaited horses.

I ended up finding Rocky Creek Hill Treeless Saddles located in Canada. They are able to keep the prices of their saddles down because the don’t have a middle man. They get them straight from the manufacturer and don’t have a retail store, so can keep the overhead costs to a minimum. This is something I appreciate.  not only that, they are always available and the customer service is wonderful! Also they look very much like the Barefoot brand of treeless, but cost much less.

My favorite saddle of theirs is:

The Diva: $499.00 (this includes leathers & irons and 2 sets of velcro spine clearance pads!)

thedivaThis is our Dressage/Trail treeless saddle with long leg flaps- extremely comfortable for any type of riding.  We even have clients using The Diva in endurance; these saddles are THAT comfortable!

The flaps lift up like a traditional saddle and are padded, and smooth (not stitched).  Built in knee blocks.

I bought this cute little treeless saddle (pictured below) this past spring. It was one of the sale saddles and though it wasn’t the exact saddle I wanted I figured it was a great place to start!

The Rocky Trail Blazer:  *ON SALE for $399 + shipping

SONY DSCSONY DSCAll purpose/ Trail treeless saddle with designer stitching.  A join-up of western styling meets all-purpose everyday flexibility.  All in a compact, lightweight, treeless saddle.  Flaps are one-piece padded and stitched, with NO knee blocks.

** note the leathers and stirrups pictured here are ones i already owned.  they did not come with this saddle.

I actually really love this saddle. It feels like sitting on a cloud, doesn’t weigh much (maybe 4 or 5 pounds?) and the most important part… Billy LOVES it!

Over the course of a few months I have figured out a few very important things about fitting this saddle to both Billy and myself… but that is information for another post. Stay tuned!