Treeless Saddles

A tree keeps weight off the horse's back. It also distributes the rider's weight from front-to-back and side-to-side, making the pressure even all along the underside of the saddle tree.

A treeless saddle doesn't have a solid fixed structure; instead, it has several points where pressure can be focused. It has a fixed pommel, a fixed cantle, the attachment for the rigging, the attachment for the stirrups, and the rider's seat.

The pommel and cantle will often rub or drag down directly under those fixed structures; the last two photos show a horse who had a lot of pressure focused at the cantle.

The rigging usually attaches in a narrow band across the spine, and without a tree to keep it off the spine, will really dig into it. I saw a horse several weeks ago who was extremely sore at the base of the withers and had white hairs from the drag of the rigging of his Bob Marshall treeless. (I unfortunately didn't have my camera at the time.)

The rider's weight is focused below the rider; if you're very balanced and you're lightweight, then it is more or less like riding bareback for the horse-except that you also have those additional areas of pressure at the pommel, cantle, stirrups, and rigging. If you are heavier or you are unbalanced, then you will drag on the horse's back under your seat as well as putting uncomfortable and uneven pressure along the pommel, cantle, and rigging.

Click on any picture to see a larger-sized image.

Nice leather treeless saddle.

Seat removed; fixed pommel and fixed cantle showing more clearly.

When pressure is applied to those stirrup rings, it's going to drag in a line straight across the spine from ring to ring.

On this particular treeless saddle, they've outlined the pressure points under the fixed pommel and fixed cantle with stitching.

There's nothing holding the saddle smoothly against the horse's back. There will be pressure points at fixed parts and areas of contact.

The fixed pommel sits at the horse's shoulder, just as a saddle tree does.

Just as with a treed saddle, it needs to allow the shoulder to move under it. Without structure behind it to support it and help it move out of the way, without flare, the shoulderblade will bump into it with every stride instead.

Endurance horse who wears a Bob Marshall treeless saddle.
photo copyright Kellie Sharpe

After a 100 mile endurance ride; the pressure point at the cantle was so great it burned the hair off, and left the horse so painful he could not even be touched in this area.
photo copyright Kellie Sharpe

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