Do you need special stirrup leathers for a treeless saddle?

The short answer is yes.

A traditional treed English saddle has a recessed metal stirrup bar affixed to the tree of the saddle. It is recessed into the tree so when the buckle of the English stirrup leather is right up against the stirrup bar, you won’t feel it under your thigh. It is covered with a small skirt of leather. Sometimes this still results in a bulge over the buckle, but it’s slight, and most people can tolerate the small lump under their thigh.

Treeless saddles do not have a tree, and therefore the stirrup attachment is most often under the seat. If you put your English stirrup leathers under the seat in the traditional way, the buckle will be a lump right under your thigh and you will be very uncomfortable. The solution is to put the buckle of the stirrup leather down by your ankle.

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Barefoot English Stirrup Leathers with buckle down by the ankle and stirrup leather keeper.

Basically, you are turning the English stirrup leathers upside down. Under your seat will only be the fold of the leather, and it will lie flat and not bother you. Now that you have the buckle down by your ankle, what do you do with the excess ends of the leathers so they don’t flop around?

To answer this question, the illustration below works better than words. Simply tuck the ends of the leathers back into the buckle and then between the two layers of leather and slide a stirrup keeper over the whole thing to keep everything neat and tidy. Ta-da!

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Barefoot English Stirrup Leathers are rigged so the buckle is at the ankle and comes complete with the stirrup leather keeper. They are nylon lined so they won’t stretch, and made with soft and pliable leather for comfort.

 

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Action Rider Stirrup Leather Keepers

You can use regular English stirrup leathers with a treeless saddle if you put them on as the above illustration shows. You can purchase the Action Rider Stirrup Leather Keeper separately.

 

A traditional western saddle with fenders has the buckle for adjustments down by the ankle. The western or endurance fenders for a treeless saddle has a similar design. It is important for the top of the fender to be thin and pliable enough for it to lay smoothly under the seat of the western treeless saddle. The Barefoot Western Fenders and Barefoot Endurance Fenders are made with a nylon section that goes through the stirrup attachment to allow it to lay as flat as possible under the seat.

In Conclusion

The most important element for success with your English stirrup leathers, western fenders or endurance fenders with a treeless saddle is to eliminate the bulk of the buckles from under your thigh. To do this, the buckles need to be positioned down just above the stirrup, near your ankle. The result will be a smooth transition under your leg and you will be comfortable and in close contact with your horse.

 

 

 

 

Studies Show the Barefoot Surcingle is Essential for Proper Training

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Barefoot Surcingle is made with quality leather and plenty of D rings.

In an article written by Christa Leste-Lasserre for The Horse she relates studies done by Russell Guire, a PhD candidate at the Royal Veterinary College and a researcher at Centaur Biomechanics in the UK. The article titled, Training Aids: How Their Fit Could Help or Hinder Longeing Horses, discusses lungeing your horse for training using a surcingle, side reins, and other training aids. Leste-Lasserre writes “While science has already confirmed the usefulness of training aids…, improperly fitted training rollers [surcingles] could be squelching any benefit these systems offer.”

“ ‘We’ve noted significant pressure under the training roller that’s close to the pressure found during a sitting trot,’ Guire said. ‘Most rollers don’t have trees, so when they’re tightened up, they put that pressure directly onto the horse’s spine at about the level of T12-T13 (thoracic vertebrae). We believe that this pressure could reduce any benefits the horse could have from the training aids. Previous studies by the same team have already indicated that pressure at T12-T13 inhibits locomotion.’”

The Barefoot  Surcingle imported from Germany solves this issue of pressure on the back and withers. The pommel of the surcingle protects the horse’s withers and spine. Underneath the Barefoot Surcingle pommel the withers remain unrestricted and there is no pressure – neither on the withers nor along the sides. The supports on both sides are padded softly and extra wide, so that muscles can develop without being squeezed.

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Barefoot Surcingle in use with Barefoot Super Grip Long Lines

Lungeing and ground driving is a great training tool that can be used to introduce young horses to the bit, and to tune up and advance older horses. Working properly with a surcingle and side reins or long lines, the horse is encouraged to flex to the pressure of the bit at the pole and lift and round his back. Developing the horse’s top line in this manner helps the horse to carry the weight of the rider in balance and comfort. Using the Barefoot Surcingle will insure you are building muscle properly without impeding the forward motion and stride of your horse.

What’s in YOUR Saddle Bag?

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This gorgeous trail riding photo was shared by Action Rider Lindsay Nichols

What should you carry in your saddle bag? The length of your ride and whether you are going on familiar trails or exploring new horizons will obviously have some bearing on what you take with you. Although it is impossible to carry everything for every emergency scenario, there are some practical items that are often needed and can really come in handy.

Here are some suggestions of practical items to consider putting in your saddle bag: Water, water purification tablets, fly repellent, trail mix, wire cutting tool, sunglasses, tissue, camera, small flashlight, pepper spray, hoof pick, Band-Aids, Dy’s Liquid bandage, Vetrap, pain reliever, antihistamine, bear bell or little bells to ward off critters, an Easyboot, folding water bucket, folding saw to cut branches and trees from blocked trail, Multi-purpose tool, pocket knife, signal whistle, map, and compass.

There is a First Aid Kit available that comes in a soft pack that fits in most saddle bags. It includes 40 items including a First Aid Guide, bandages, gauze pads, butterfly closures, wound dressing, antiseptic towellets, Povidone-iodine prep pads, needle, moleskin, safety pin, and latex gloves. There is also a small item that can make a difference for your safety, it’s Rein Safe. It prevents you from loosing your reins when your horse takes a drink from a stream, or you take a photo and drop your reins for a moment.

What size saddle bag should you carry? There is a huge selection of fabrics, styles, and sizes of saddle bags, carriers and ties that attach to your English, western, endurance or Aussie saddle and saddle pads with pockets. If you become separated from your horse, there are carriers that attach to your ankle, wrist or waist for your cell phone.

In the event that you did not take something for an emergency that arises while out on trail, and your cell phone has no service, be sure you have told someone where you are going to ride and approximately how long you will be gone. Then if you don’t show up back at the barn, someone will know where to look for you.

ActionRiderTack.com has an extensive selection of trail riding gear for trail riders and their horses.

Is a Treeless Saddle Right for You?

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Barefoot Nevada Treeless Western Saddle

There are so many saddles in this world, where does one begin? Saddle trees were traditionally made of wood, which is why it’s called a tree. Today, treed saddles are made out of various materials. Saddle trees can be made with wood reinforced with spring steel, wood combined with other metals or rawhide, fiberglass, synthetic polyethylene, and even plastic. Treeless saddles are often made with leather, foam, fiberglass, felt and other materials to create panels for spine protection and a stiff pommel for wither protection. The decision to choose a treed or treeless saddle is most often based on what works best for your horse.

Action Rider Tack has been selling a variety of treed and treeless saddles for years, and through our experience with success and failures we have developed certain guidelines to determine whether a treeless saddle might be good for you.

First, let us state clearly that treeless saddles are not for everyone. However, when they do work it can be a great experience.

Here are a few reasons why a treeless saddle might be a good choice for you and your horse:

  • You have a low withered, wide horse, or other challenging conformation issues, and every treed saddle you have tried digs into your horse’s shoulder or creates a sore back.
  • You have a big moving or gaited horse that is restricted by the tree of a treed saddle.
  • You love to ride bareback and the close contact feel, but want more security that a saddle can provide.
  • You are a competent rider and feel a treed saddle is too bulky under you.
  • You want a lighter weight saddle.
  • You have a young horse that is developing and changing shape.
  • You want to use a saddle on more than one horse.
  • You love the idea of being in closer contact with your horse and are willing to take the time to make the adjustments necessary to get comfortable riding in a treeless saddle.

Here are some reasons why a treeless saddle might not work for you:

  • You are a heavy weight rider on a small/medium horse.
  • Your horse has prominent withers and an exposed spine. This type of conformation can be difficult to achieve proper wither clearance and spinal clearance on horses with a treeless saddle.
  • You require a lot of security in the saddle. A treed saddle with knee rolls, poleys, a pommel and horn are going to provide more security than a treeless saddle. There are treeless saddles with deep seats, knee rolls, and a horn, but compared to a treed saddle with the same design, the treed saddle will most likely feel more secure.
  • You cannot rope cattle or dally a horse on the horn of a treeless saddle.
  • Mounting from the ground is important to you. Treeless saddles on some horses will slip when you mount from the ground. This is most often a problem on really round horses. (However there are some mounting aids that help with saddle slip)
  • You stand in your stirrups a lot or like to jump. A treeless saddle cannot provide the support under the stirrup area that a treed saddle can. This also depends somewhat on your weight.

Is there a weight limit to a treeless saddle? Generally speaking, the weight limit is around 170 lbs, but keep in mind, there are plenty of exceptions. Depending on the size of your horse, it is certainly possible to go over that limit. Riders who weigh above 170 lbs have ridden successfully in treeless saddles, but usually are on bigger, stout horses that can carry their weight with relative ease.

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Barefoot Arizona Treeless Saddle

You can also increase that 170 lb weight limit with a proper saddle pad using a combination of open and closed cell foam inserts or other materials. The weight limit is also influenced by the position and skill of the rider, as that effects how the pressure from the rider is influencing the back of the horse.

 

The US Cavalry came up with a useful guideline for how much weight a horse can carry without stress. According to them, the weight of the rider and his tack should equal approximately 20% of the weight of the horse. So, if your horse weighs 1000 lbs, both you and your tack should weigh approximately 200 lbs or less. This is only a guideline and there are exceptions of course, but this 20% figure has been backed up by recent stress testing.

In conclusion, we know that in the world of horses there are no hard and fast rules for fitting a living, breathing animal with an inanimate object on his back. We recognize there is a need for treed and treeless saddles, as the variables and needs of horses and riders are infinite.

Tito: A Modernized Gaucho

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Tito at work on a ranch in Argentina.

Mariano Fernandez has a ranch in Argentina. He raises cattle and sheep and has about twenty ranch horses – real working horses that help to move the livestock. But this story is not about Mariano. It’s about his ranch hand, Tito.

Tito has been working on Mariano’s ranch for the last twenty-eight years. He is seventy-two years old, fit and lean and weighs in at 120 pounds soaking wet. Mariano describes Tito as a true representative of an Argentine gaucho.

Historically the gaucho of Argentina was known to be a skilled horseman who worked cattle. The gauchos of the Buenos Aires pampas, or grasslands, have been recorded as saying, “A man without a horse is a man without legs.” The Argentinean Criollo horse comes from the Andalusian and Arabian horses imported by the Spanish conquerors centuries ago. These wild horses adapted to the harsh conditions of the pampas and are tough and known for their endurance.

Mariano shared this story about Tito. “Eighteen years ago Tito was riding on horseback, probably chasing some animal. His horse put one of the front feet in an armadillo hole and rolled over. This resulted in a broken hip for Tito, the horse didn’t get hurt. Apparently Tito’s hip bones didn’t heal the same way they were so from that point on, he sort of rides slanted to the right side. The funny thing is that you tell him that and he doesn’t acknowledge it. I’m saying this because if you look at the saddle, you can see that it has been definitely ridden off balance. A very non-advisable thing to do with a treeless saddle in particular.

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Tito, 72 years old, still working and riding ranch horses.

“Typical Argentine saddles in this area are called recado,” Mariano explains. “It is a succession of layers without any hard structure. You basically have a sweat pad, one or two wool pads, a leather pad, the “saddle” and on top of that a sheepskin.  This recado saddle is very comfortable for the rider but it is usually not very good for the horse. The most common problems are pressure points and galling of the withers. Most people don’t wash the sweat pad so that results in even bigger problems.”

Traditionally the gaucho’s recado, a multi-layer design, was built with local available materials – leather and wool. When the gauchos are out on the pampas, the recado saddles can be disassembled and used as a sleeping bag when needed.

Mariano continues, “Tito rides different horses. There are about fifteen to twenty ranch horses and we rotate them in groups of four every shoeing cycle. We wanted to give Tito a saddle that was comfortable for him and the horse, but also adaptable to every horse that we have.

“Tito is seventy-two years old and has been working with us since we bought the ranch in 1990.  He uses the horses to move cattle, sheep and muster deer as well.  During the hunting season he also guides hunters on horseback. He is a true representative of a gaucho but now modernized with a Barefoot Atlanta Treeless Saddle. Everybody that meets him believes that he was born one century too late.”

When Should You Replace Your Helmet?

According to Equus Magazine, “It’s a standard rule to discard any helmet that was struck hard in a fall. As a general rule, it’s best to get a new helmet every five or six years—replace your helmet sooner if it’s been exposed to extreme temperatures or chemicals like those found in automatic fly spray dispensers.” TipperaryHelmetsLIVE2

It’s also common sense to replace a helmet with any visible signs of wear and tear on the harness, chin strap or clips, or cracking, peeling, or dents.

Don’t need to replace your helmet?
9 Tips for Care and Cleaning your Helmet.
  • Most helmets have a liner that you can remove. You can then hand wash this liner with cold water and mild soap. Allow to air dry completely away from the sun.
  • Clean the exterior with a soft cloth, and brush the interior with a soft tooth brush. You can use cold water and mild soap on the exterior if it’s plastic. If it’s a leather exterior, use a dark damp cloth. and a bit of leather cleaner if necessary.
  • Let your helmet air dry, but not in the sun, after each use and after cleaning.
  • You can use compressed air to clean the helmet’s vents and channels.
  • Do not machine wash, put in dish washer, or dry clean.
  • DO NOT use or spray any products other than mild soap on your helmet. The chemicals can ruin the protective coating and compromise the integrity of the helmet.
  • Store your helmet away from direct sun, chemicals, solvents, bug sprays, cleaning products, or fertilizers. Do not store your helmet in your car where temperatures can exceed 100 degrees.

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    Action Rider Kaidyn Griggs
  • Store your helmet in a bag that has ventilation so it can dry out between uses. This will also help keep it clean.
  • To keep your helmet smelling fresh and clean, throw a dryer sheet into your helmet bag.

Be safe, have fun, always wear your helmet.

Do Stirrups Make a Difference?

 

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Andrew Marlen riding in EZ Ride Stirrups with Cage

The short answer is yes! Stirrups now come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Personal preferences and style of riding have quite a lot to do with your stirrup of choice. However, safety stirrups are often preferred by trail, endurance, and recreational riders and safety should always be a consideration around horses. The worst train wrecks with horses are never predictable. That’s why a helmet will only provide protection if it’s on your head at all times. Same applies to safety stirrups. Safety stirrups can help to enable you to get clear of the saddle and the horse when needed.

One component of being safe in the saddle is how your foot is placed in the stirrup. You should strive to only have the ball of your foot in the stirrup, no further. This is a safety measure to help your foot come out of the stirrup when necessary. Also the old “heels down” rule is not just for looks. When your weight is in your heel, your foot will slide out of the stirrup easily. It amazes me to see Grand Prix jumper riders ride with what looks like only their toe in the stirrup as they fly over five-foot fences.

If you choose to ride with safety stirrups, there are so many more choices today. It’s like we’ve had a stirrup explosion. But first, let’s not forget the tried and true Peacock Stirrups.

Fillis Peacock Stirrups

One would think that the elastic bands on the outside would come off all the time, but actually, they do not. Generally, a rider doesn’t put their weight on the outside of the stirrup, so your foot rarely touches the outside of the stirrup which is where the elastic bands are. Peacocks are a favorite choice for children in English saddles, yet many ladies also choose this stirrup for peace of mind. It does require an English 1” leather to go with it.

Icelandic Stirrups

Icelandic Stirrups have the top bar of the stirrup at a 90 degree angle to the base of the stirrup. This allows the stirrup to hang perpendicular to the saddle, so you are able to slide your foot into the stirrup easily without fishing for it. It also has an S curve shaping to the sides that allow your foot to come out of the stirrup more easily. They also require an English 1” stirrup leather.

EZ Ride Stirrups with Cage

EZ Stirrups with Cage prevent your foot from sliding through the stirrup, much like western Tapederos stirrups.  Riders have told me that small twigs and leaves can get caught in the cage holes when you are brush busting. However, there are many happy people riding with EZ Ride Stirrups with Cage with no problem, and they are very popular with endurance riders. You can use a western or endurance fender, or 1” or 2” leathers with EZ Ride Stirrups.

Flexible Stirrup Irons

English Flexible Stirrups have a rubber covered hinge that flexes when you put pressure on it with your ankle. It helps to absorb the motion of your horse’s gaits, particularly in the sitting trot. The flexible hinge will release your foot to slide out during a fall. Many people find them more comfortable than a traditional English stirrup iron.

EZ Ride Aluminum Ultimate Stirrups with Cage

Easycare came out with a new EZ Ride Aluminum Ultimate Stirrup with Cage that is a lightweight safety stirrup that prevents your foot from going through the stirrup. It has a nice cushion pad and wide platform for your foot. It can be used with any size fenders or stirrup leathers.

So, when you are considering your choice of stirrups, consider your own comfort. But also keep safety in the forefront of your mind.

The Startrekk Treeless Dressage Saddle

I recently took home the Startrekk Treeless Dressage Saddle to try on my TB cross that I ride on the trail and in the dressage arena. Action Rider Tack has carried the Startrekk Western, the Comfort, and the Endurance models for years, but we just recently stocked several dressage saddles.

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Startrekk Treeless Dressage Saddle

First, I have to say, the Startrekk Dressage Saddle by DP Saddlery of Germany is a good looking saddle made with quality leather. It looks like a traditional dressage saddle and sports a deep seat, prominent knee rolls, and traditional wool flocked panels. The panels provide good wither and spine clearance, so you don’t have to pair it with thick saddle pad inserts in your saddle pad. It also has quite a bit of structure and is stiffer, if you will, than other treeless saddles that are a bit squishier. (Squishier is a technical term.)

My Thoroughbred cross has a bit of a wither, but is also fairly wide in the wither and shoulder area. I didn’t take the time to swap out the gullet plate for the wider one that my horse needed, but with an extra half pad underneath, it sat level and rode comfortably.

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Startrekk Treeless Dressage Saddle with size 1 seat,  on 15.3 TB/Cross

Treeless saddles feel different. It takes a couple of rides to get used to them. I immediately felt the closer contact, even though I felt I was sitting in a traditional dressage saddle with support. As I let my horse warm up at the walk, and he took his very first step I could feel his back legs moving much more clearly. I could also feel his sides, his breathing, his ribs and his back moving.

After fifteen minutes or so, I began to settle in. I have found through the years that riding on a 15-20 meter circle, continually doing transitions between the walk and a slow sitting trot, is a great way to sink into a saddle and get in tune with your horse’s rhythm. It’s seems like it would be boring, but actually, I find it very relaxing as it makes you stay in the center and sit upright to stay balanced for the downward, then the upward transitions. Repeat. Your horse also relaxes and becomes in tune to your forward aids and your half halts, balancing back into the walk.

The great thing about the Startrekk Treeless Dressage Saddle is it’s adaptability to your horse. If your horse’s weight or muscle tone decreases, or he develops more muscle through the years of training, the saddle will still fit. There are six different gullet plates that bolt into the firm leather in the front under the pommel that you can order if you need them. When you put in a wider gullet plate, the channel under the saddle also slightly widens. The channel, or gullet, is about 3” with the average gullet plate fitted in the saddle.

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Wool flocked panels, and 3″ channel

I rode with my normal English leathers with the buckle up under my thigh on the stirrup bar. Some people might prefer Barefoot English Leathers with the buckle down by the ankle, or the Barefoot Dressage Leathers with a T-bar at the top and the bottom for a seamless transition under your thigh.

Saddle fit can be a nightmare. Treeless saddles like the Startrekk Dressage Saddle can solve some of these saddle fit problems and can also be a saddle you can take to the next horse. Because we all know, you can’t just have one horse, right?

Mystery Lameness? EponaShoes Might Be the Answer

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Hudson wearing his two front EponaShoes

Hudson, my handsome Thoroughbred cross gelding, had been very slightly lame, but only intermittently. These lameness issues can be a long involved saga, so I’ll keep it short.

It appeared the soreness was in the right front. The vet nerve blocked the right front foot to help diagnose where the pain was coming from and he appeared to go better. We did x-rays and ultra sound with no conclusive results. No swelling, no lumps, no bumps. He had many sound days. But it kept reoccurring. Hudson is not comfortable barefoot, and with riding and just moving around his corral, his feet wear down. He needs horseshoes to protect his hooves from wearing down too short.

At the advice of my horseshoer I tried steel shoes with pads, aluminum shoes, and egg bar shoes with and without pads, but no improvement.  The egg bars actually made him more uncomfortable. Then we tried EponaShoes.

EponaShoes are not made of steel. They are made of polyurethane material and so the shoe can flex with the hoof, more like a barefoot horse. It also has a softer pad on the sole side to avoid any pressure points on the frog or sole. Eponas also absorb the shock from the ground better than a metal shoe, and so is easier on the horse’s joints. I especially appreciate this benefit when Hudson and I go for long trail rides, and some of the ground is a bit rocky.

After putting EponaShoes on the first time, I took Hudson out and lunged him in an arena and he looked sound and forward. He also looked good on the hard driveway. When I rode him, he felt stronger and had more spring to his trot. I began to remember why I thought this horse could have a dressage career.

I still do not know conclusively what the source of his mild lameness is or was. I do know he is going sound, looks happy, has energy and willingness with lots of go, and I am so thankful. I only wish I had tried EponaShoes sooner.

Saddle Fitting is Evolving

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A variety of DP Saddlery endurance and trail saddles.

There is so much going on in the world of saddle fitting that it’s overwhelming. We get people calling us in total frustration – trying to get a saddle to fit their horse. These are customers who have had custom saddles, tried numerous saddles, and just can’t get anything to work. It can be challenging, as there are so many options. There is usually a conformation challenge involved with their horse, and some specific requirements that the rider needs.

Do we solve these saddle fit nightmares? Sometimes! We don’t just sell saddles from one saddlery, and Action Rider Tack is probably one of the only companies in the world with such a varied selection of treed and treeless saddles. We find we need a wide variety of saddles, saddle pads, shims, girths and cinches to be able to help customers make selections that make sense for their particular horse and horse activities.

Saddles are an investment, but an important one for your horse. A quality saddle can last up to 30 years or more! I know that for a fact as I have retired an over 30-year-old saddle reluctantly. It was an old friend. My butt knew that saddle and it was hard to replace. However, getting the right saddle regardless of the money invested is well worth it. You and your horse must be comfortable. Poor saddle fit can be the cause of resistant behaviors, sore backs, sour attitudes, and even lameness.

There are some new tools in the saddle fitting shed. DP Saddlery of Germany has introduced to the United States their adjustable gullet saddles. These saddles have truly revolutionized the saddle fitting world.

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One of DP Saddlery’s Baroque style adjustable gullet saddles.

There is a strong gear in the pommel area of the saddle tree that can be incrementally adjusted, millimeter by millimeter with the simple turn of an Allen wrench. This is superior to different replacement gullets or different tree sizes. What if your horse is in between sizes? A rider can turn the allen wrench, no strength required, until the saddle sits level, clears the spine, and does not impede the shoulder. The tree is a flexible carbon fiber, and the panels are attached at the front and the rear of the saddle to aid in the saddle flexing and moving with the horse.

The selection of DP Saddles styles will appeal to almost everyone – English all purpose, dressage, endurance, Baroque style, western, and trail saddles. It’s very exciting. It might be the last saddle you will ever buy, as obviously you can easily adjust it from horse to horse. The panels underneath are traditionally wool stuffed and can be reflocked or restuffed to customize it to your horse if necessary.