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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Email: jackereynolds@yahoo.com


February 28, 2008

Endurance Saddles tree or treeless?

There are a multitude of nice saddles out on the market. But what is available for the newbie to endurance, the person just starting out, or on a limited budget? With most of the horses participating (not all, but most) being arabians, how do you fit that wide horse? Which type of saddle should one choose?

If you are just starting out, and you already own a saddle that fits your horse well, and is reasonably comfortable for you, then start out using what you have. That involves zero investment and you will be able to check out a lot of different saddles at the rides, and talk to folks first hand about their likes and dislikes with the various types saddles.

When you do decide to buy a saddle or upgrade from the one you have, there are again only a few factors of importance. #1 Saddle Fit #2 Tree or Treeless #3 Saddle Style #4 Saddle Weight.

Saddle Fit
Assuming you are riding an arabian or an arabian cross, saddle fit can be challenging. I have one horse that requires a ten inch gullet, and the other is even wider. Draft horses you say? No, an arabian mare, and a half arabian filly. I was able to fit the shape of my older mare with an Arabian Abetta paired with a quality saddle pad. The younger horse I tried the Abetta and had dry spots at the withers, moved onto a Wintec 2000 and still didn't have enough room even using the widest gullet in the kit. Finally I had to have a saddle made for her. I had a quite affordable custom made saddle fitted through Sycamore Creek Saddlery. The other alternative would have been to go treeless.

Tree or Treeless

I've wanted to try a treeless saddle, and have heard both good and bad about them. Spoke to one rider who switched from a treed saddle to a treeless. She was an experienced horsewoman. She rigged it up right, added a breastcollar for extra security, and the first time the horse spooked sideways found her head dangling near the ground. The treeless has rolled sideways. I've heard other riders attest to the comfort of the saddle and good scores on the condition of their horse's back. There are some pretty nice treeless saddles out there, but I wouldn't drop that much cash on one until I could try one out. A few of the suppliers will let you test ride a demo for a week prior to purchase. Sensation Treeless offers this, and some of the suppliers of Barefoot Saddles will let you demo. If you are a very balanced rider, treeless could be a great solution for the saddle fitting woes. They fit when the horse changes shape, and will fit multiple horses making them a good value. Many retain a good resale value as well. The Bob Marshall Treeless are known for holding their value, and being of good quality. I would recommend that you avoid the cheap imports. They are inexpensive, but I don't think these cheap imitations are always safe. You want the saddle made right, made for the job at hand, and durable. If I ever go treeless, I'll want to try out the Barefoot Saddle.

So when is treed okay? Again, when the saddle is a good fit and does not create muscle soreness, or rubs for the horse. A treed saddle is also a better choice for someone who feels they need a little extra support, and are not the most balanced of riders. I'll tell you that the rider I was at 26 is not the rider of age 50. Gone for me are those limber days of mounting bareback by swinging myself up and galloping around a field with my hands thrown to the wind. My body shape has been affected age, weight, and gravity! I just feel more secure in a treed saddle. Granted, I need to work on my balance issues.

Saddle Style is a personal choice. Boiling down to what you like and how you like to sit your horse. If it fits, and it works, style is not an important issue for riding endurance.

Saddle weight is somewhat of an issue but not as much as one would think. I do want my horse to carry as light of a load as possible. Since I can't seem to take the weight off of me, I try to make my tack as light as I can. Saddle weight would also be an issue if you want to keep yourself into a certain weight division and a few pounds can throw you one way or the other. A saddle weighing 12-20 pounds is well within the norm for an endurance saddle. Treeless saddles will weigh less, and their treed counterparts more. I was able to shave about three pounds off of my saddle by having the saddle maker minimize the skirting, and choosing a no horn model.

What ever you decide, keep in mind saddle fit, treed or non, style, and weight. Demo a saddle prior to purchasing, ride it for at least one good long training ride. Ride enough miles that you can detect any problems prior to purchase.

(So OVER winter)
~Endurance Granny

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