The new model for Barefoot is the Merlyn. This is a dressage model with extra short flaps for the cob, smaller horse or the short legged rider.
Very smart design in a soft leather, soft knee rolls, lower cantle and deep seat.
Narrow seat- twist that allows more contact for the rider. Adjustable S curve stirrup plate to allow the precise positioning of the leathers for the rider. This is an open attachment, similar to the E bar design not used on Barefoot, but an S shape. This might mean you do not require a safety stirrup as with the closed rings, but I am awaiting confirmation on this point.
I have been trialing my new saddle, the dressage formal model by Sensation.
It’s the 17″ and it’s very nice and compact looking while giving me ample seat room. The seat is very soft and very comfortable. The girth billets are the slightly shorter dressage length, I swapped my girths around to find one that fitted.
As it has a hard use setting I found if I wasn’t using that, then the extra strap just pops into the girth. I would therefore use a girth with adequate keepers or a girth as in the photo with its own pocket.
I wasn’t overly keen on the high pommel but after half a dozen rides I dont even notice it. It came with a Barefoot Physio pad and adding two inserts meant that I am very slightly higher and therefore the pommel isn’t as huge looking.
I decided I liked it, my horse liked it, but I wanted my riding instructor to run her eyes over it. I wanted to see if it complimented my position, or made it worse. She gave it a tweak here and there and off we went. It gives me much more feel than any of the other models ridden in to date. My Freeform has a restricted seat by comparison.
I have yet to hack out which I plan to. It’s been used for No Stirrup November. My sitting trot has improved by a change of saddle and tweaked position.
The photo shows a soaked horse and pretty much a soaked saddle. I had been trying to keep it dry but the weather is what arrives that morning.
My original guide below was written way back in 2007/8, it still comes up on the Google searches. The copycat article complete with my spelling mistakes and factual errors, also does. 🙂
I find it amusing that not only did the person deny copying bits, they managed to copy mistakes.
People ask, why go treeless, well because it fits :). It’s simple. If it didn’t suit my horse and me, didn’t fit, then we would use a treed saddle. Nothing wrong with these.
To start off your search, look for a treeless based on your weight, dress size, conformation of the horse or pony, activity it is to be used for and your budget. Not all treeless saddles fit all horses and riders, most treeless saddles fit most horses and riders.
A treeless saddle is not a solve it solution for a badly fitting treed, a badly fitting treeless can cause just as many problems. You can hire a Port Lewis pad if you are concerned about pressure points or fit of a treeless, but bear in mind these are not suited to western styles and are effected by outside temperature.
There are a few saddle fitters in the UK and overseas. Solution have their own trained fitters. Some companies will hire the saddle out to you for a minimum of one week, this allows you to try before committing. There is to date no national qualification for fitting a treeless as there is with treed saddle.
The Dartmoor and Exmoor range have been designed by a Master Saddler and other reputable makes have been designed by people such as physios, endurance riders etc.
Do you want a twist or are you happy without? Some models have the option of creating a twist if required. The twist will give you a similar feel to a treed while being close contact. The non twist tends to feel wider, but depends on your horse and your leg length.
The saddles mainly come in your dress size and each make has their own sizing and base length. Freeform has a base length that you can select your seat size to when getting one made. If you rude in a 17″ treed then that is the seat to select.
Generally a saddle described as a 17″ is for a size 12-14 dress and has either a 21″ or 22″ base. Some makes have a size guide as size 0,1, or 2 so it’s worth asking for the base length, if for example you have a short back equine who won’t cope with the longer base. These days you can buy a short base which is 20″ or smaller, so adults on ponies can ride in a treeless.
Freeform, Barefoot, Torsion and Sensation are a few examples to look at with short base options.
Do NOT buy a treeless saddle without a maker’s name on it, (with the exception of Dream) if the company cannot put a name to it, it’s not worth buying. There are a lot of copies. I won’t even put one on my horse so please do not ask me what they ride like. My horse like me has one back, look after it. Cheap shoes fall apart, need I say more about cheap saddles.
You can pay from £250 up to £3000 plus, the only saddle i can recommend in the budget range is the Libra Trec.
Saddles come in-
synthetic suede, warm in winter and non slip. It can show signs of wear quite quickly.
real suede, more durable but prone to marks especially from the rain.
equi leather, looks real but it’s not. Easy care and durable.
leather, the cheaper end of the market has a slippery plastic type feel. It’s awful to ride in when wet. Nicer quality the more you spend.
nubuck, Barefoot is now using a treated version of which is easier to care for nut does feel different to ride on.
combo of the above.
You can choose whether or not to get a treeless saddle pad with pockets for shims (inserts), these act like flocking and you can adjust the fit. This is ideal if you have a horse with a loss of topline, lack of muscle, high withered, or your horse or pony is croup high such as a youngster.
A high withered horse can be fitted with a treeless, some people use a suber pad, or you can use the Equitex high wither pad made by Torsion. Some treeless now have a very soft pommel insert option or a cut back pommel, so once you have done your research give a few companies a call.
A horse or pony with a forward girth may need a girth designed for this. You can look into the Freeform or Barefoot Cherokee, these have swinging girth straps which allow the girth to be in front of the saddle.
The weight limit on some saddles is due to the material being used, extra weight will compact the material and likely cause pressure.
A heavier rider should opt for a treeless that doesn’t have the weight limit on it, although some makes offer a different pad to cater for this, do ask. Usually the more structured models of saddle have a higher weight limit. Be honest with yourself about what you weigh!
A treeless can be with a gullet or gullet free. It tends to be the case that gullet free doesn’t have a twist and requires proper padding for spinal clearance. The more structured gullet saddles may not need the same level of padding and come with a numnah designed by the company to complement it.
You need to have the girth long enough to avoid hitting the elbows, but not so long as to cause instability. If you cannot do it up from on board, it is too short.
The girth is a personal choice whether or not to have elastic. The elastic should be firm enough that you cannot pull it, if you can it’s too loose, or dare I say it a cheap girth! I’ve used the girth with the elastic centres and the non elastic end ones.
There are various models of treeless. Some companies have designed over ten styles over the years. Whether you want to do jump, do endurance, western, spanish or you want a basic gp for schooling and hacking, there should be something suitable. These days many have the option of knee rolls which the earlier models didn’t. They also look more conventional in appearance.
Often models come with a moveable stirrup bar plate with a closed ring or e bar. This allows you to adjust the leathers to your preferred place. You can also change from the closed ring to the E bar if you wanted. Either way i recommend safety stirrups or the barnes buckle(ceased production) /Swiss Clips for normal stirrup usage. NEVER use a normal stirrup with a closed ring.
Some models now have changeable pommel inserts, but remember they do not fit as a treed saddle does, the pommel doesn’t have any weight it just keeps the saddle shape. It shouldn’t be pressing anywhere, in some cheaper makes the pommel has been made too big and can press down, so be aware. If your pommel is pressing and it’s not one if the “cheap” makes then you need to adjust your padding/stirrup placement.
A treeless will help your balance and show you where you lack it, if the saddle goes off to the side, check you are girthed correctly and have level stirrups. If the saddle goes forward check your pommel insert, and you have shimmed enough.
You could mount from the ground, but it is kinder on the animal to use a mounting block.
An exercise sheet under a treeless tends to make the whole saddle unstable, a quarter sheet or wrap around is better.
The Solution is allowed for use in all disciplines under FEI and BHS rules. However so are many others. BD approves of their use, providing they are the standard models. It is only the showing world where a judge may refuse to ride or you may get marked down. This is dependent on what saddle you have chosen.
Most models can be used to jump in. If it states small jumping I tend to think of just over a foot. For anything much more I would want a saddle with a bit more structure. You can jump a metre easily in the Barefoot and Freeform though.
Do your homework, do research, ask questions, a company that can answer all your questions fully is worthy of your money.
The Heather Moffet saddles are part treed and not treeless. The new Flexee is NOT a treeless despite people thinking these are. Therefore I have not included these.
To look at reviews and photos of treeless saddles check out the Treeless Tried and Tested Website below 🙂