No advantage to treeless saddles?

By Amanda Stevenson

Gear news

09 April 2008 15:03

The Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) has carried out a pressure testing survey to see if treeless saddles have an advantage over traditional saddles with trees. Having purchased the latest pressure mapping system from German company Novel, the SMS carried out a comparative test on four types of treeless saddles.

As a result of two days’ vigorous testing, the Society has concluded that there is no advantage of having a treeless saddle over a traditional treed version. In fact it claims, as a result of its findings, that a well-fitted treed version could be more beneficial to the well-being of the horse than a treeless saddle.
The full report is published below.


Society of Master Saddlers Report on Treeless Saddles

The Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) joined forces with the British Equestrian Federation in 2007 to purchase the latest pressure mapping system from German company, Novel.  Part ownership of the system has allowed the SMS to start to compile data collected from using the Pliance system.

One of the first, ongoing, assessments carried out is that of treeless saddles.  To date the SMS have carried out two full test days for treeless saddles.  On both occasions the same horse and rider were used and the tests were carried out in the same indoor arena and therefore on the same surface.  Four different types of treeless saddle were tested and, where it was advised by the manufacturer, the appropriate pad was used. The horse was walked, trotted (rising & sitting), cantered & jumped on both reins.

Thus far, the information gathered has indicated that, without exception, there is no advantage to the horse in being ridden in a treeless saddle over a well fitting traditionally made treed saddle.

All of the saddles tested were found to exert pressure onto the horse’s spine under the rider, something that a well fitting, well balanced treed saddle does not do due to the tree distributing the rider’s weight either side of the horse’s spine.

All of the saddles tested had high, localised pressure under the stirrup bars.  This was improved, in most circumstances, when the saddle was ridden without stirrups or with single thickness, dressage style stirrup leathers.

Also tested was the effect of a different weight rider.  The regular rider was substituted with a heavier rider.  Whilst the second rider’s actual weight was heavier, they could be described as having a ‘lighter’ seat.  The Pliance system showed that the pressure produced from a heavier, ‘lighter’ seated rider was less than that of the lighter weight, regular rider thus indicating that the rider’s style has an influence on the pressure exerted under a treeless saddle.  

In conclusion, the SMS have not found any advantage in using a treeless saddle over a well fitting treed saddle and, in most cases, would consider the use of a well fitting treed saddle to be more beneficial to the well being of the horse.

As stated previously, this is an ongoing collection of data and the SMS will continue to publish any new findings.