In my previous post (2/21/10) I spoke of my Treed Demo Saddle Extravaganza. Today, I’d like to chat about my Treeless Adventure!
For me, I prefer treeless if it works for the horse. I say that because in my experience, I have had sore backs with treed saddles but not with treeless. Now, I’m not trying to convert anyone… so please no worries or ruffled feathers. I’m just reporting what I found in my demo process. So, here we go!
First of all, I am short (5’4″) with an even shorter leg. I don’t weigh that much (113lbs) but I do have a large thighs. (All that speedskating… ;) ) For me, I tend to prefer a very lightweight saddle that is easy to rig, stirrups are forward, sturdy enough for me to mount from the ground, I can stand in the stirrups when I need to and it has to have a spine channel and adequate padding for the horse. I also like close contact so I don’t like much fluff under my leg — like long/thick flaps. My biggest question is regarding weight distribution. Most people argue that a treeless saddle will sore the horse because the rider weight is centered in one spot on the back (I wonder what the Indians did… ). But, you know, I had this very wise Cavalry Expert and he said to me, “The Indians never wore saddles and they were always ahead of the Cavalry…” So, hmmmmm….
Anyway, let’s start with the list of Demos – and there are many more out there. I just ran out of steam…
- Sensation Hybrid
- Sensation Harmony Element
- Freeform Enduro X
- Kuda Endurance
- Startrekk Comfort
- Startrekk Western
- Startrekk Espaniola
- Barefoot Cheyenne
- Barefoot Atlanta
- Black Forest
- Cashel Soft Saddle
- EZ Fit
- El Companero
Here are my top 5.
Pros: I liked this saddle because it is built well, uses quality leather and addresses most of my issues. Truly, these saddles are very carefully designed, easy on the eye and you can pick just about any color over several styles. One of the models is sure to fit most any horse, even gaited shoulders. And, it is easy to adjust, is very lightweight (7 lbs) and easy to clean. I preferred the Hybrid because it suits my needs as a trail rider. However, I think all the styles have the same quality and attention to detail for you and your horse. And, you can speak to the manufacturer to request what you’d like in your particular saddle. They have a great demo program going with several of their US reps. I strongly suggest demoing several styles until one is juuuust riiiiight.
Cons: For me and my shorter leg, I found the stirrups, in any position, were not quite right. I know that the manufacturer is looking into this for the shorter legged rider. So, they will probably fix this in time. In the meantime, I have cut off their stirrups and added one from the Freeform that works well. You will need a very good pad (an investment) underneath this saddle – as with most treeless saddles. And, for me, I wish this saddle had a version with waaay shorter flaps. I hear that is in the works, too. The biggest drawback for me is if you have a higher withered horse, the Sensation may not work for you. Make sure to demo it.
2) FREEFORM (ENDURO X AND FREEWEST)
Pros: I like this Italian made saddle because it has structure and it feels like a treed saddle. (Some people don’t like that about the Freeform.) It is very adjustable as the seat and stirrups are all velcro’d on so you can put them where you like them. The Freeform saddles allow me to mount from the ground and have no bulk under the leg for good contact. And, it does not get in the way of a gaited or high stepping shoulder. They have a few different seat styles/sizes and stirrup leather styles so you can mix and match. I like the short flaps on these styles but they do have dressage models and endurance/trail models with longer flaps. I can see how the weight distribution would work with this saddle.
Cons: Because these saddles feel more formed, you do need to have a pad that is adjustable if your horse is uphill, downhill or whatever. The seat isn’t cushy but I just added a sheepskin. The manufacturer is in Europe but there are several reps here that are very knowledgeable.
Pro: I might call this my favorite saddle if I had more rides in it. I just got my demo and love the volumes of adjustments available. Literally, you get the parts and you can move them all around. The girth strap and stirrups are velcro’d on so you can move them anywhere. You can remove the fenders if you want less bulk. The pommel is very stout (it is fixed) so you feel secure. The cantle is also movable so you can adjust the seat after holiday meals….and there are two sizes of cantle should you want a 5″ or a 3″. You can have several choices of fenders or stirrup leathers as well as stirrups. It comes in a multitude of colors, English or Western rigging and has several D-rings for trail riders. The foam against the horse is durable and won’t compress to nothingness. I also love the tacky tack underside. It stays where you put it. And, because it has such nice padding, and a nice spinal channel, you don’t have to have a really thick additional pad. So, that feels more close contact for me. I also like that it feels substantial, had a wide weight distribution yet is treeless. I like that you can speak to the saddle maker directly. He modified my saddle to my specifications and is a really nice guy. He uses all Amish leather and has put years of thought into his saddle configurations.
Cons: The velcro is really, really strong. So, adjusting the stirrup placement and girth can be a 2-person job. Since the seat is virtually a “skin flap”, it is difficult to get it as smooth as they do at the factory without practice. Also, I use a sheepskin seat cover to make it more cushy. Probably the biggest con is that this saddle looks different than most saddles. I don’t care but some might…
Pros: I like many attributes of this saddle. The pommel is adjustable in that you have a choice of three different sizes to fit almost any wither and shoulder. The rigging is easy. The leather is nice! I think the construction is very good. It feels like a treed saddle. The spine channel is open and available. It also comes in a “shorty” size for shorter backed horses. And, it really does give huge wither clearance, which is rare in a treeless saddle. You can also grab onto the pommel and many people like that security in a treeless. There are several styles of Startrekk which are very different from each other so one will most likely fit you and your horse. There is a great demo program, just go to this website.
Cons: Changing out the pommels can be time consuming. But, not that bad. The leather isn’t soft and cushy but the seat is very comfortable. You cannot speak to the manufacturer directly however the rep is very sweet and goes out of her way to accommodate.
Pros: The is the best bareback pad I have ever used! It isn’t a saddle, it is a pad. However the El Companero is made of excellent suede that keeps your hiney glued right in place. It has a ohjeez handle and lots of tie straps. The girthing is easy and it stays put. If your horse has a fairly comfortably shaped back, this pad is wonderful to ride and FEEL everything. I love, love, love mine.
Cons: The material has a huge footprint. It is like a blanket instead of a pad. I cut mine back to a reasonable area. Also, Bareback pads are not for everyone. They challenge your balance and take time to provide confidence. But, this is the best one I’ve ever used. If you like the close contact feel and love the bareback experience, this is the pad for you!
Kuda Saddle: I tested a Kuda and really liked it. It is strong and supportive, has great weight distribution and is comfortable and secure. However, when I went to the website, it had totally changed. I wondered if the saddle company has been sold? Anyway, they now call it a Leather-Flex Tree. There is no tree but it has thick leather as a base. It sounds like it would be hard and nasty but it isn’t. I quite liked it, actually. Since this is made for Pasos and horses with a high step, it really gives shoulder space. And, it is a great trail saddle. The Con was that it didn’t fit my wider withered horses. But, if you have a Paso or an Arab, this might be the perfect trail saddle for you. When I ordered mine, I got to speak to the importer himself. That was nice. He offered to make any changes I wanted.
So there you have it! Please ask any questions! Do you have any treeless saddles that you love?