Are Treed Saddles Really Better Than Treeless Saddles?

Posted by Elisa Wilson on

So you're thinking about a treeless saddle. You search the web and read about the benefits, how much lighter they are, how they can fit almost any horse and so on. But then you read the horror stories about how wrong they are and that you must have a treed saddle. What should you do?

First of all, there are so many factors to take into consideration. It isn't just a matter of having a tree or no tree. There are many questions you will need to answer, just as there are many different types of saddles, both with a tree and without.

Saddle Goals

If saddles had goals it would be to first keep the spine of the horse clear of pressure and second to disperse the weight of the rider over a larger area. A secondary goal is to secure the rider and give them a place to sit. Sounds obvious right?

A Treed Saddle Pros and Cons

Not much can top a good fitting, well made saddle on a horse. With the emphasis on "well fitting". A custom made saddle is usually best but not always affordable, especially if you have multiple horses.

The horses' back isn't stagnant like a hard treed. A saddle could fit while the horse is standing but what about when the horse moves it head, turns or is running? A lot of thought goes into a well made tree, allowing for the weight dispersement and also the movement of the horse.

On the other hand a poor fitting saddle with a tree can do a lot of damage to a horses back. It can cause pressure points, and because the saddle tree is hard an unyielding, the pressure stays in one place, no matter what the rider does. Pads can help but it can be like putting on more socks when you have a rock in your shoe. You might feel the rock less but it depends upon the size of the rock and how much walking you do.

And for the Treeless Saddle?

Finding a treeless saddle can be like finding the right pair of shoes. Are you running and need running shoes? Hiking in the woods or strolling at the beach and need flip flops? A treeless saddle can have a lot of form and support or it can be nothing more than a glorified bareback pad. Some are designed and engineered to take into consideration the impact placed upon the horses' back and give the benefit of more weight dispersement. Some are very minimal and others can look similar to a treed saddle.

Some considerations to think about are how you ride? How much do you weigh? How many hours do you ride each day and week? Do you ride casual tails, steep mountain trails or in the arena? Do you jump and do a lot of running?

With a treeless you also want to be concerned with the stirrups and girth putting too much pressure on their back. By having just one attachment point to the saddle, and the rider's foot constantly pushing into that stirrup you can add additional pressure on one spot, causing discomfort and injury. Some people I've seen riding actually push into their stirrups as they ride, using them to balance on. I'm not here to talk about your riding style but I can say that this would be a concern for adding additional pressure to the horse's back in a negative way.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

The heaver the rider the more pressure in one place on the horse.

Balance is important. Put a small child in one of those metal framed back packs and have the kid reaching around and leaning over. It will feel completely different than a child who has fallen asleep or even one that is watching and looking where you are looking. They are in a sense - going that direction with you.

If you choose to ride treeless build up your time riding so that the horse has time to develop the back muscles to support you.

If you are a larger rider, invest in more support, padding or whatever it takes to disperse the weight and don't plan on heading out for eight hour days, at least not in the beginning. An endurance rider can easily ride in a treeless saddle if they build up their time in the saddle and asleep an eye on the pressure on the back.

In some treeless saddles it can be said that you can feel the movements of the horse. This can be a good thing but if an inexperienced or unbalanced rider is on the horse then they can feel all of the movements and unbalance of the rider.

What to look for in a Treeless Saddle

Bareback pads and treeless saddles that have some sort of panel or foam panel to disperse the weight is best. These do two things, they lift you off the spine and help disperse your weight.

The Christ bareback pads have foam inserts on each side that are removable and vary depending upon which Christ fur saddle you buy.

You can also use treeless saddle pads with inserts or panels which help with weight dispersement.

Treeless saddles usually have less twist in the saddle which can spread your hips wider. Each brand varies and styles within each brand vary. So if you've tried one, be open to trying a different style and or brand with different amount of twist. Each saddle can feel different depending upon the width of the horse too.

So what is the best choice for you?

Take a look at your size, your riding requirements. A person riding a few hours a week in a well made treeless saddle compared to lots of hours doing advanced maneuvers, jumps and a heaver rider you might want to look for a well made treed saddle.

Also look at the type of treeless saddle. Find one that is well made and that will fit you and the type of riding you want to do.

Upcoming Review of the DP Startrekk Treeless Saddle

I'll be doing a review on a few different brands in the upcoming days. First off will be the DP Startrekk Treeless Saddles which have a panel along each side that Velcro's on and can be adjusted for each horse.


Elisa Wilson of Mountain Top Saddlery

Share this post

← Older Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.