Does all the hype about treeless saddles have you curious? Kelsea Brockmeier shares her experience of trading in her traditional saddle for a tree-free alternative.From Kelsea:
I’m Kelsea and I’m your newest writer here at HorseNation! I thought I’d start about by telling you guys a little bit about myself. I’m 20 years old and a political science major from North Carolina, but those are just minor details. What really matters is that I’m the proud owner of an almost 11 year old (but still a foal at heart) Arabian named Diesel, although I call him an assortment of other, more colorful names when he’s being ridden!
Diesel lives a bit of an alternative lifestyle, which I would love to discuss with you all in the future. One of the main differences between D’s everyday life and that of most horses is that we school in a treeless saddle.
There are many different types of treeless/bareback saddles out there, so I should note that ours is a LittleJoe bareback saddle. We chose this type because it’s pretty cheap and not too ugly. (Seriously, some treeless saddles make me want to cry a river and then use it to cause them water damage. Ew.) It’s basically, as the title suggests, an English saddle without a tree, or the hard part that makes a saddle take its shape. We do use a girth and stirrups, so we keep it pretty close to the usual set-up. The saddle is also more balanced than a regular bareback pad, in order to put the rider in place.
We find that horses are happier with these saddles, as they are able to move without the pressure points and restriction created by a traditional saddle. The lack of a tree also provides for a better horse-rider connection while riding, and there are NO limits on activities! I even learned how to jump in one. To be fair, however, we have to talk about the negatives.
The first thing is that the treeless is not acceptable to show in… we don’t think. We haven’t actually tried, but it would be at the judge’s discretion to decide if the tack was “non-conforming” and we aren’t taking risks. Diesel can go between treeless and traditional pretty easily (to be fair, I think he would carry me around in a papoose if I asked him). Not all horses have such an easy time with this, and take an “adjustment period” of a few weeks to get used to carrying the traditional saddle again.
Another issue is weight distribution. A treeless does NOT offer the support of a traditional saddle and some people with a little extra junk in the trunk may require a few supportive pads (the pads may also add comfort on a spiney horse… ouch). I personally know of a few curvy ladies who do perfectly fine in a treeless saddle, but it is all about personal choice and comfort.
So there you have it! As a rider who works in both types of saddles, I know my preference but don’t hold any grudges against the traditional saddle, either. What do you think, HorseNation?