Icelandic Horse Connection

Treeless Saddle Benefits

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Anita of the GaitedHorse list said:

"My experience has been that many TWH & SSH that I've worked with seem to have a nice curvature to their spine that most saddles will bridge. Every caution should be made to avoid this problem fit, particularly in the gaited horses. Couple that with the fact that my stud has a very short back, which he is passing on to his offspring. Saddle after saddle has been too long for these short backed horses. I sold my Wintec after realizing that every shortbacked horse I put it on went hollow and couldn't release their topline. I've since ran across several other people who have had this same experience, and all seem to be riding shortbacked horses.

The needs of the gaited horse are so particular when you think about it... needing to move each corner independently requires a lot of freedom of movement."

Helen said:

"When it comes to saddles, design and materials only play a small part in the saddle's ability to distribute weight. People think, rightly or wrongly, that the larger the bearing surface, the better the weight distribution but this is not necessarily the case, especially with treeless saddles because flexibility does not distribute weight in the same way as rigidity. The important factor and what should be focused on first and foremost is that the saddle offers little or no restriction to the horse and this is one of the major benefits of treeless over treed, no matter the make or style.

If for instance, a treed saddle that had large wide weight bearing panels that covered a larger area of the horse's back did not follow the contours of the back and was not wide enough through the front of the tree to allow full movement and unrestricted rotation of the shoulders, the weight distribution ratio would not be even and a large percentage would be carried on the trapezius either side of the withers and not much more. As it is with even the best fitting saddles, there is more weight carried forward than to the rear and this is a combination of design features of ours and the horse's body, the way we have to ride them, the design of the saddle and how the stirrups and girthing are rigged. Just having a tree does not automatically mean our weight is better distributed and more often than not, the weight distribution can be worse.

What really needs to be addressed is not that the weight is constantly being distributed evenly throughout that saddle's panels, but that the pressures from weight can fluctuate and be constantly on the move so that no area of the horse's back is under continual pressure. This is where treeless has the benefit over treed due to the flexibility but then relies a little more on the rider's ability to be aware of their position and how they distribute their own weight. The weight of the rider may be a factor but it isn't necessarily the most important. I've seen heavy weight riders who can ride lightly and more balanced than some of their much lighterweight counterparts.

Maybe not all but certainly most horses are happy to be ridden bareback and certainly some prefer this to being ridden in a treed saddle. When we ride bareback, the only area we have to distribute our weight is our bum cheeks and upper-inner thigh so this is one time when those of us with "20% extra free" can be of benefit! If you think about it, mankind and horses managed very well this way for a few thousand years until someone decided they needed to put a forked wooden block on their horses backs. Now when riding bareback, there is no rigid interface between horse and rider leaving two soft and flexible entities working togther . This means your body is constantly making small adjustments to move "with" the horse and therefore keeping the pressures from weight constantly moving and to some degree this is how it works with treeless. What really makes things difficult is our need for stirrups and this is where materials and design play a part but the biggest part needs to be played by the rider in ensuring that the stirrups are used as a balancing aid to rest ones feet in rather than a strut to support them.

When it comes down to it, do your research but above all ask your horse's opinion because the most up-to-date technical designs and the most expensive materials will mean diddly squat to the horse because they will know when they're comfortable."

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