Going Treeless Part 1

Jack sunflowerCash Treeless 2
Many of you may have pondered the phenomenon of Treeless saddles. Now this is a huge controversial topic and I’m not trying to start any wars here, but I have been giving it some serious thought. Treeless options are not for every situation or every horse but due to Jack out growing almost all of my saddles and the few I “borrowed” from my parents, I began to wonder if treeless especially for young horses that are constantly growing and changing might not be such a bad idea.

As I began to ponder this idea I started riding Cash bareback ALOT! I have noticed when I ride him bareback not only am I more relaxed but so is he. It got me thinking just how much the saddles I have might be slightly uncomfortable enough for my horses to no relax and that maybe for some reason i’m unknowingly more tense in the saddle.  I think what has helped me relax completely with him bareback is the amount of communication I seem to have with him.  While a lot of things still need work I feel like we are speaking on a whole new level together. He is more intone with what I am asking and I rarely have to go to the reins unless it’s for whoa. He is even starting to lift and relax his back and is starting the baby steps to self carriage (in a bitless bridle I might add)  and that is truly an amazing feeling!!!

However the more I ride bareback the more I was want a saddle that mimics the feeling I get riding bareback. Now everything isn’t going to be exactly the same since I obviously still have a good layer between me and the horse but maybe having something that will flex around my horse and gives me the stability of the saddle.  Enter treeless saddle here. (I love ya Jack but I’m not quite THAT bold with you to ride without a saddle yet)

Now before I go any farther I want it noted that I’m not a complete convert. I still love jumping and I refuse to give up my old stubben saddle!!

I’m a person of research too. I love throughly reading about something before I commit financially to anything. I’ve been known to jump into the deep end before but I try to avoid being completely blind when I do it. Now if you’re someone looking into treeless saddles there are about 100,000 different kinds of treeless saddles out there ranging in price from $150 – $6000.

There is SOOOOOO much information out there. Why you should go treeless, why you shouldn’t go treeless. Use this brand not that brand, this pad not that pad. People vying  for one over the others in EVERYTHING. It was a very frustrating stream of information to dig through. I appreciated a lot of the studies on treed vs treeless saddles, but I noticed that the most recent date was from 2008. How am I to judge the newer technologies and brands with no studies that show how the new type of treeless saddles handle pressure points? And you want to tell me all treed saddles are comfortable? Most of the treed saddles they used were fitted to the horses. Not all horses/people have that luxury…but i get it for the sake of a study. Then you have the people saying the pressure points are way to much….and yet there are endurance individuals doing 100 mile endurance rides in them with a clean bill of health for the horses back.

The next frustrating thing I found is rider weight. I’ll admit I weight over 175 pounds not much more but enough to become very frustrated. (It’s all muscle I swear *shifty eyes*).  What a lot of people don’t mention/know  is that most treeless saddles are meant for people weighting 175 pounds or less. It’s usually written on an off page in fairly fine print. Most websites do have it somewhere you just have to dig for it.   So if you do weight more then that you either need to invest in some really good saddle pads or look for the ones that are made specifically for heavier people…..or just go with it and pray it works!

The next thing that knocked down the list even more was price. Most really good treeless saddles cost boat loads of money. Like I could buy a brand new custom Stubben for the same price or maybe even a brand new Schleese dressage saddle. I was amazed at how proud they are of these saddles, not that I could blame them but still it really hurt to look at those prices that everyone was saying was “worth it” and wonder how I could afford it while I was already practically living on PBJ and Rice. But the more I read the more they said “you get what you pay for” with these saddles. That $150 indian brand on eBay  was so tempting but I figured I couldn’t be quite that stingy.  So as I began to look through the multitudes of brands and sifting through treeless forums these were the most common I heard/read mentioned:  Sensation, Barefoot, Bob marshal, and Ansur. However,…. almost all of these are over $1500. Except barefoot which is much more in the “I might be able to afford” price range. I believe their most expensive was $900.

So as my pocket book was screaming and I was becoming very disheartened and thinking that maybe I’ll have to stick with just bareback I ran crossed a little known gem.

They are called EZ Fit Saddles. They are saddles individually handmade by an amish gentleman in PA. He will even custom make the colors for our saddle!  Now they aren’t specifically marketed for Heavier people. They actually don’t say anything about it anywhere on their website (that I could find) but on doing some research I noticed a lot of not so petite people riding in them and pretty much every review I managed to dredge up from the unknowns of google were great reviews. Though they are still $1,000 brand new, it was better then the 3k most companies wanted, and I could custom make the colors with a slight fee.

Now I was really, really debating between EZ fit and Barefoot. Barefoot has a saddle specifically designed for a heavier rider, but upon reading reviews many of them stated it had no twist to the seat, which makes sense really.The EZ fit saddle, every review I could find said it incredibly comfortable, with a decent twist to the saddle and over all comfort for horse and rider.

The barefoot saddle I was looking at was about $700 new. So price wise they were pretty close together though the few hundred dollars difference could buy me a really really nice saddle pad! Surprisingly treeless saddles seem to hold their value really, really well used and since the saddle I was eyeing from Barefoot was a brand new model there weren’t any new ones out yet and the one used one I found for the EZ fit was still $700 so really it didn’t help weed out one over the other.   Then I stumbled on the EZ fit group on Facebook and a lady listed a used EZ fit for sale. For a glorious $500.00 I took a chance and snatched it as fast as I could!

Well this beautiful gem finally arrived in the mail this past friday and boy oh boy was I excited!!!

So after getting it out of the box and drooling over it I had to go try it out on the boys!! So I grabbed Cash-man first because I knew he probably wouldn’t buck me off if he didn’t like it and threw it on with the good old western blanket I had. (it surprisingly matches my saddle). Now A feature I found out and LOVE about this saddle. The rigging for the girth, the stirrups AND the seat are all adjustable!  Yup you heard that right, I can maneuver it around as much as I need to to get it comfortable for myself AND my horse!  Also the panels underneath to create a spinal channel to keep it up off the spine are completely maneuverable as well!!!  Oh and the whole saddle weighs 15 (Yes 15!!) pounds!

Not wanting to take an extraordinary amount of time to adjust it just right I jumped on! (I was a tad to excited) The first thing I had to say was WOW!!!! The saddle fit my butt like a glove.  I felt completely secure and yet not stuffed into the saddle. The stirrups ended up being in the perfect position for my legs, though I don’t like the stirrups it had come with. They are a tad unstable for my liking and wanted to bend when I posted. The front of the saddle has a nice aussie “oh shit” handle that will probably someday come in handy. The front is made out of foam so it will flex and bend with the horse as well and there are no truely rigid parts other then the cantle of the seat.

Cash seemed to love it. I only rode for a few minuets as I felt a bit unstable with those stirrups and Cash was SUPER sensitive to my moments. I don’t think he was expecting to feel me as much as he did, or me him, through the saddle and we both kept catching ourselves off guard. Now the rigging for the girth needs to be moved just a tad so it hits the girth groove right for Cash and i’ll need a bigger dressage girth for him but overall it was a great fit. It was a wee bit tight on him due to the small girth but he wasn’t overly worried about it either.

I must say the way Eli riggs the saddle makes them incredibly stable on the horse. I didn’t try it but I think I could easily mount from the ground if I needed to. I intentionally shifted my weight left and right and there was barely a budge either direction! That is something I’ve noticed most treeless saddles have major issues with. A lot of people say they slip badly left and right and if you have a horse with low withers it’s a real concern.  and some tend to slip backwards more then others. I didn’t have any breast collar or crupper on and just a plane old western saddle pad and I don’t think it would budge much at all unless you were literally hanging off the side of the horse for a long time.  I’ll have to ride some hills to see if it will shift forward and back but i have a feeling it’ll be pretty stable.

Next up was Jack. Now considering I knew I had some things to adjust on Cash I figured many would be similar on Jack and since I didn’t have stirrups to switch out with on hand (I was to lazy to go drag out my western saddle and steal the stirrups) I choose just to see how he would do lunging with it. Now here is where I noticed the biggest difference with him. He usually throws a bucking fit within the first few minuets of lunging after a few days off. He didn’t do that. He squealed and did some baby head shakes but he didn’t buck and carry on like he usually tries. He seemed so much more forward and relaxed in all gates. Now I didn’t ride him but I was extremely happy with what I saw!

So this is post 1 of hopefully several about my new treeless endeavor!!! I want a few more rides and a few longer rides to see how it truly feels after a while in the saddle and working with it to see the horses reactions to it after more then just a few minuets!  So check back to see how it’s going!  (If you’d like to read Part 2 check it out HERE!)

Until next time

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