There are ongoing discussions amongst horse riders and saddle fitters whether treeless saddles are good for horses. In theory it sounds like a treeless saddle would be more gentle on the horses back, however this is not always the case. We have done the research and there are 3 things you need to consider before buying a treeless saddle.
1) Keeping The Riders Weight Off The SpineOne of the major concerns for treeless saddles is that they can put pressure on the horse's spine, which is obviously a very sensitive area. If you damage your horse's spine it is usually permanent damage that can not be fixed. A treed saddle has a deep channel that makes sure that the riders weight does not touch the wither.
2) A Treeless Does Not Have To Be FittedA treeless saddle is not only lightweight but it doesn't have to be fitted onto each horse as it shapes after the horse's back. It is therefore very popular to use for horses that have difficult withers to fit.
3) The Absence of Scientific Research
Facts cannot be certain unless hours of research and testing have been poured into the field. However there are not many scientific articles or tests that have been done in relation to treeless and treed saddles. The research that have been done focuses on the issue whether treeless saddles puts pressure on the spine as mentioned above. There are a handful of articles that implies that treeless saddles creates pressure points on the rider seat bone and stirrup fastening. However there is not enough evidence at this stage whether treed or treeless saddles are more/less gentle on the horses back. An incorrectly fitted treed saddle can cause more damage than a treeless saddle with light pressure points.
Conclusion - Are Treeless Saddles Good For Horses?
It is evident that more research and testing together with technology is required, there is currently no right or wrong answer. The shape of horse saddles and manufacturing has not changed much in the last 100 years. However in todays technological environment it is just a question of time before the next generation of saddles that are easier to fit, more gentle on the horses back with no pressure points etc are developed. In the meantime we recommend either making sure that you have a correctly fitted treed saddle or a treeless saddle as long as you are a 'lighter' rider. Make sure you discuss options for you and your horse in relation to brands and fit with your vet and local saddle fitter.
Treeless Saddles Pros
- Easy to fit on the horse
- Usually cheaper than solid tree saddles
- Closer contact
Treeless Saddles Cons
- Can cause more pressure on spine/riders seat bones/Stirrup fastenings
- Rider not as secure as in a treed saddle (more unbalanced)