When Barefoot Treeless Saddles work, they really work. Barefoot Saddles USA received a call from a customer who was literally at her wits end trying to find a saddle to fit her older Arabian. After trying numerous saddles for over two years, she decided to give the Barefoot Cheyenne Treeless Saddle a try.
At Barefoot Saddles USA we ask for a photo of your horse. A full side view, weight on all four feet, head in a natural position taken on level ground is a very useful photo for helping to determine saddle fit. As you can see in the photo, the Arabian has a pretty prominent wither and a back that drops away from the wither.
This conformation can be a challenge for fitting any saddle, tree or no tree, as it’s difficult to get enough wither clearance and at the same time get the saddle level so the rider will sit in the center and be balanced.
Next, we ask that you print out the pommel measuring guide to see how your horse will compare to the different size pommels available – narrow, standard/medium, wide and extra wide. There are some horses that are so wide; they need the soft pommel to allow the saddle to spread as wide as the horse. This Arabian measured between a medium and wide pommel. In this case, we recommended trying the medium standard pommel because of his prominent withers.
Then we need to determine what size girth will fit. It is important to have the girth the correct size, and most importantly not too long. Too long of a girth will creep up near the saddle flap, especially on small horses, and make the saddle unstable. This Arabian measured 20” elbow to elbow and so a 22” girth was appropriate.
Barefoot Treeless Saddles have two styles of saddle pads designed to go with each saddle model. The Special Saddle Pads have one set of soft open-cell foam inserts, wool felt and wool fleece underlay. The Physio Saddle Pads have two sets of inserts – one set is soft open-cell foam, the other is dense closed-cell foam and can be used separately or combined together for the most back and spine protection. The Physio Saddle Pads also have non-slip underlay that can be very helpful for keeping the saddle in place. For this Arabian, we recommended the Physio Saddle Pad so there would be different foams to work with, and customize if necessary with shims to get the saddle level.
We shipped out the saddle to allow a week for the customer to try it out. After a couple of rides, this email was sent to us that says it all.
“After almost 2 years of searching and trying multiple saddles, the Barefoot Cheyenne hit the bull’s eye! It fits Noah and me perfectly in every way! My barn friends commented that not only do we both look comfortable in it; it puts me in the perfect riding position so I can be the best partner for him. Absolutely the best saddle EVER! I’ll send you pictures this week, I’m so excited and grateful that I totally forgot to take them.”
Soon after, the photo was sent of horse and rider in their new Barefoot Cheyenne. Her comment to go with the photo was, “Not the best angle, but the smile says it all!”
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.
Why does your saddle slip? Well… it’s complicated. Saddles can slip side to side, saddles can slip back, and saddles can slip forward. Not only is it annoying, it is unsafe. And safety with horses should be your number one priority.
First we have to address the simplest and most obvious cause. Your girth or cinch is loose. It is extremely important to check your girth before mounting, after mounting, after just a short walk away from your mounting block, and again after 5 minutes or so. During a long trail ride, check periodically. There are some saddle pads with foam or other inserts and they compress after you settle in the saddle, and can compress further after a long ride. Your horse may sweat during work, and your girth may need tightening after several hours in the saddle.
The next issue is saddle fit. A saddle that is too narrow or too wide will slip side to side and even forward or backwards. If your saddle has a tree, it must be the right size and fit your horse. There is no way around it.
Another common cause of saddle slip is while mounting. The way in which you mount your horse can effect how easily the saddle slips. For instance, how much you pull on the horn, pommel, cantle or seat. Mounting from the ground is putting torque on the saddle tree (if there is one) and possibly tweaking your saddle and the leather. As a daily ritual, mount from a mounting block. It will help your saddle, tree or no tree, last longer. It is also safer.
When out on trail, carry a step stool, search for higher ground, a log, a rock, anything to gift you a boost. There are saddles on very round horses that do indeed fit the horse, but still will not stay put for mounting from the ground. It also depends on the weight of the rider. More weight, more slip. Safe Rider makes a Trail Mounting Aid that keeps the saddle in place while mounting.
Saddles slipping side to side can also be caused by the rider. It is more common than you think that you ride with more weight in one stirrup than the other. Many times your stirrups are not level. The best way to tell if your stirrups are equal length is to take them off and put them side by side. It might surprise you. To tell if you are weighting one stirrup more than the other, have a friend stand directly behind you while in the saddle. They will be able to see if your saddle is off center. You can also look down at the pommel and see if it is lined up with your horse’s neck. It may be necessary to ride without stirrups, or drop the longer stirrup to train yourself to stop putting more weight in it. It may take awhile to self-correct, however, it is worth the effort for both you and your horse. Your horse’s musculature will compensate for your unevenness, and your spine will suffer if you continue to ride with one collapsed hip.
You also should rule out any lameness. According to the British Equine Vet Association, the saddle will slip to the lame side. Your horse also may also be asymmetrical in his muscle development, shifting the saddle from the more built up side to the weaker side. Shimming the saddle pad may be necessary to even things out.
So – when you rule out a loose girth, uneven stirrups, ill fitting saddle, unbalanced riding, lameness, and asymmetrical muscles, there are ways to combat saddle slipping in any direction.
Your choice of saddle pad plays a big part in saddle slip. Fleece is not a good choice, neither is felt. That rules out lots of saddle pads. You can try putting a non-slip, thin, inexpensive saddle pad under your other saddle pad. It kind of looks like shelf paper, but is more substantial. It’s only 18” x 22”, but worth a try since it is under $10. The HAF Saddle Pads from Italy have a pebbly, egg carton underlay that is helpful. There is also the Getta Grip Non-Slip Western Pad, and the Tacky Tack Western All Purpose Saddle Pad. I personally use a Dixie Midnight Saddle Pad under my other saddle pads, and even though the Dixie Midnight company does not make a claim for non-slip, I find it does help.
Your girth or cinch choice is also a factor. Mohair is pretty grippy, so is neoprene, synthetics with egg carton looking underlay, and girths and cinches that are wider in the middle. Again, fleece or felt is not a good choice as a non-slipping material.
Breastplates and breast collars are designed to stabilize your saddle. The English style breastplate attaches to the D rings on either side of your saddle and to the girth stabilizing side to side movement, and preventing saddles from sliding back when going uphill. The western breast collar functions the same way and attaches to each side and it often has a neck strap to aid it in staying in place. I recommend either of these for all trail riders.
The back cinch of a western saddle can also help the saddle stay in place, but some horses are not used to them so a breaking in period may be necessary. To avoid the back cinch sliding too far back and becoming a bucking strap it must be attached to the front cinch with a connector strap or flank cinch hobble strap.
Lastly, cruppers prevent the saddle from sliding forward going downhill. They can be used on western or English saddles and are made of synthetic material or leather. Word of caution – some horses will come UNGLUED when you put one on, so a training period is needed. However, some horses will never tolerate one – proceed accordingly.
To sum it all up, as with everything involving horses, it is a case by case situation. It is necessary to evaluate your horse, your riding, your saddle and all your tack and equipment to come up with a working and safe solution to keep your saddle in place.
Horses inspire us in so many ways! For some, they’re a regular source of strength and hope. For others, they’re an unexpected inspiration throughout a particularly rough time. In honor of hope throughout Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’re encouraging you to help pass hope along to those who need it most!
Send in a story of how your horse helped you find hope in a difficult time. Include your name and email for contact information, as we will be picking a random entry each week to receive a $25 Action Rider Tack gift cardand a special gift bag – to spoil your horse!
Visit our blog to keep up on stories and photo entries. Send all entries to firstname.lastname@example.org – your story could help to inspire someone in need of a little hope!
“I have been undergoing some medical issues the past 3 years that have left me discouraged and depressed. Throughout all of it, my Icelandic horses, Geisli, has been there for me during the toughest times and the lighter times with no thought of judgement.
It has given me hope that, with his steady presence, I will be healed. I think that all of us who share our lives with horses can feel the hope through our relationship with our equine partners, if we only give them a chance. This was his first trip to the beach. He wasn’t crazy about the surf, but he took good care of me nonetheless – as always”.
“I am writing to tell you about my Haflinger, Billy. He helped me write my English dissertation –
I was stuck for an idea, and spending time with him made me realize I could write about horses! I passed with flying colors, and he has a home for life with his mommy!”
“I wanted to share my story of a couple rescue horses that have changed our lives forever.
My adopted daughter Katie came from social services in Tennessee. In Tennessee, once a foster child turns 17 they are dropped off at the local homeless shelter. I had only met Katie one time, and agreed to go to a meeting with her case worker. I called my husband when I saw the conditions they were going to leave her in – she was still in high school with no way to even get there. Needless to say, I brought her home.
The case worker tried to hand me her [very thick] file, stating she had “behavioral issues”. I said “no, this is her opportunity to start fresh with a family“. I put Katie in the car, and told her the same thing. I told her she has a chance to start fresh. I agreed if she finished school and kept her “behavioral issues” to a minimum, we would eventually get her a horse, as she knew I was into horses.
Katie completed her junior and senior year of high school at the same time – at the top of her class. She is a wonderful young lady that just needed a chance!
On to the horses:
This last year we rescued 2 yearlings from slaughter off the range. Katie has since found her 2 best friends. She has learned about responsibilities and how to live and care for beautiful, loving, creatures. She spends everyday with the babies. When she is having a rough day, she sits with them.
The question is: ” Who rescued who”?
The babies – Patience and Maizie, have helped Katie with a lot of sadness from her past. They know when she is having a rough day and demand her attention. She does all the ground work under my direction, and she cares for them everyday – for hours.
Point of the story:
Who really rescued who? These horses have been such an inspiration for her, and it heals her heart. I wanted to share our story of a girl that was told she had no hope, rescuing these 2 yearlings who also had no hope; becoming the best of friends, and a team of healers.
Horses are wonderful healers who love you for WHO you are not WHAT you are or what you have. They will be with us for the rest of their lives as well as Katie, my daughter, will be apart of ours.”
“It was the fall of 1996. I had just bought my very own house. I had a new love in my life. I was finishing up a successful season of endurance with my horse and in general, loving life.
“My then boyfriend Guy (now husband) was snuggling on the couch with me. He found it first. I froze when I felt the lump in my breast. My mom had died of cancer ten year prior, and watching it had made me very, very afraid. I tried to be calm and not over-react and made an appointment the next day for a mammogram.
When I got the call from the lab, I dropped the phone as my knees buckled. I got to feel what abject terror felt like. I’m here to say you do come out of it, but while you’re in that hell, it’s a lonely and dark place.
The usual procedures. Consults. More mammograms. More tests. Surgery scheduled. Follow up radiation therapy. Blah, blah, blah. All the while, the abject terror hovered around me, over me, in me.
Eight weeks of radiation therapy, everyone will tell you, is cumulative. What that means is you feel fine—for a while. Then you don’t feel so fine; you feel….tired. Very tired. And kind of sick. And at the age I was—45—it was terrifying to feel so old, so weak, so vulnerable…so defeated.
Eight weeks of daily visits to a hospital. Eight weeks of being put in a cold, silent room, with people talking to you over an intercom because they don’t want to get hit with the same things hitting your body. Eight weeks of trying to keep abject terror from consuming you. Eight weeks of just trying to get by. To endure.
I did it. Thanks to friends and family and a supportive work place, I did it. But the strength, the stamina, the ability to just put my head down and keep going? I owe that to endurance riding. I owe those 100 mile rides in the middle of the night when you don’t know where the heck the trail is and you’re beyond exhausted—and you keep going. I owe those days of being with my horse and my horse alone, trotting along for hours and hours, and feeling his strength and stamina and willingness to just-keep-going-no-matter-what. I owe it to remembering how bloody good that finish line feels like, when you’re done, and you can hug your horse and your friends and your spouse and know you’ve accomplished something really really big. Without endurance, I would have never known what it means to truly endure.
And damn it, I had to learn it all over again, ten years later. Another diagnosis of breast cancer. Same routine. But this time, it was just a tiny bit easier. I knew the drill, and I knew—I really knew—I could endure. I AM a survivor. AND I thrive.”
-Sandy Cheek, Survivor
[Congratulations, Sandy! Our first winning random-pick of the month!]
“My story isn’t something extravagant, but for me personally, horses provide a daily dose of happiness and hope for a brighter day. I went through an abusive marriage and after getting out of it I’d lost most joy in my life. I had grown up with horses as a child and remembered the close bond I’d shared with them.
So, when an opportunity presented itself to ride in exchange for mucking stalls, I jumped at the chance. My oldest daughter and I did it together and I was able to share this love of horses with her. After some time I realized this was something I’d missed tremendously, and I then bought a horse to share with my kids and from that time forth we have been a horse crazy family.
I believe they are truly therapy for the soul and just having the chance to spend time with them is joyous beyond measure! I believe we are able to overcome anything and we just have to look inside ourselves to find the strength to get through it!”
“I’m a senior citizen who grew up during WWII. As the only child of two alcoholic parents, my childhood was somewhat erratic. To escape the drunkenness, rowdy parties and loud fighting, I would sneak out of the house at night and race away on my horse – often stopping to fall asleep under a tree, far from home.
My parents are long since deceased and I’ve gotten past much of the trauma of those days, but horses are still a source of comfort and joy for me, a reminder of just how much healing peace they can bring a stressed out human being, of any age.” -Anonymous
“I rescued Sage when she was a yearling – Found her abandoned in a field, starving and sick. She was my best friend from the start.
We learned together, from ground work right on up to trail riding the most rugged terrain Vancouver Island has to offer. She has seen me through divorce, depression, to finding myself again. She is my Heart Horse in every way, and I cannot imagine where I would be today without her solid grace to guide me.”
We recently had a customer call to say they didn’t like the E-Z Ride Stirrups with Cage. The E-Z Ride Stirrups with Cage have been on the market for quite some time with lots of happy customers, and are designed so the rider’s foot cannot slide all the way through the stirrup, and it is considered a safety stirrup. So I asked, “Why don’t you like them?”
The rider had a very good reason. Her horse turned its head around and was biting at the stirrup – no idea why. While biting the stirrup, the horse actually got his teeth caught on the cage! After he ran sideways for a bit, he stopped and let his rider disengage his teeth from the cage. No one was hurt. Whew!
Safety has to be the number one priority with horses. It’s important to develop safe habits while riding and being around horses. We sometimes become a little careless, or I should say carefree, when we ride our horses. We know them, we trust them, and we know what they can handle. However, the Martians can still land – unpredictably. And when they do, train wrecks can happen.
I have ridden with trail riders who give their horses a long rein, and allow them to move their heads from side to side looking at the scenery. I’ve heard the term “wag” their heads for this behavior. While this is ok on a limited basis, basically, I feel a horse should keep its head straight and look in the direction of movement at all times. This might require continuing to correct the head position by returning it to straight ahead repetitively, but it is safer in my opinion. It results in less tripping, and the horse can see what’s ahead, and perhaps avoid a surprise. It’s also a better way to cover the ground. A horse that is made to travel straight will stay in forward motion with less energy, it’s just more efficient.
This horse that turned his head around to grab the stirrup had too much freedom and the reins were most likely too long. I’ve never heard of a horse getting his teeth caught on the stirrup, but I have heard of a horse catching the bit on the stirrup or other part of the saddle. This can also result in a serious train wreck. And it’s avoidable by not letting the head get turned that far around.
While we are discussing the head having too much freedom, a long length of rein also can allow the horse to grab bites of grass as you go down the trail. Then it can get out of hand as the horse is constantly reaching for the grass, stopping forward motion, and yanking the reins out of your hands at times. Too long of reins can also make it more difficult to stop a spook. When you have a proper rein length, you can often stop the spook just by re-establishing contact quickly, and preventing a 180-degree spin of a badly spooked horse.
In short, (pun intended) -keep the reins at a reasonable length. It’s a habit that can prevent an unpredictable mishap.
The United States Equestrian Federation, USEF, is the ruling organization for the United States Dressage Federation, USDF, recognized dressage shows across the United States. We asked Hannah Niebielski, the Director of Dressage of the United States Equestrian Federation if treeless saddles were permissible in USDF/USEF recognized dressage shows. Here is her answer:
“Dear Action Rider Tack,
“Per DR121.1, An English type saddle with stirrups is compulsory for all tests and classes other than FEI tests. Stirrups must have closed branches.
“An English type saddle may be constructed with or without a tree but cannot have a horn, swell, gallerie, or open gullet. Australian, Baroque, Endurance, McClellan, Spanish, Stock, or Western saddles are not permitted nor are modified versions of these saddles (exception: competitors with a current approved Federation Dispensation Certificate). A Dressage saddle which must be close to the horse and have long, near-vertical flaps and stirrups is compulsory for FEI tests.”
“The saddles pictured appear to be permissible at USDF/USEF Dressage Competitions.” – Thanks Hanna! So dressage riders who love treeless saddles – trot on down the center line and salute!
Melissa Vesterholm lives and rides in Denmark. She has ridden and trained Isaiah Callaway, a six-year-old Section C Welsh Pony gelding. The Welsh Pony of Cob Type, Section C, is the stronger counterpart of the Welsh Pony, but with Cob blood. These ponies are surefooted and hardy, and used for many purposes.
Melissa is part of Russ-park.dk, a sports team in Denmark, where they train medium-size ponies for Tour-riding and Monté-riding, Trotting, Easy Dressage and Carriage Driving trials.
Melissa states, “Our latest star, Isaiah Callaway, has won ten out of fourteen starts in Pony-Monté in Denmark in 2015. Isaiah Callaway also received the award as “The Monté Pony of the Year 2015” for his outstanding achievements at the racetracks.”
Melissa is also training several ponies for other people and chairs two clinics for disabled riders per week, where the students ride Icelandic horses.
Melissa explains, “Our ponies are all living barefoot with strong hooves and they are roaming around in Paddock Paradise the whole year in all kinds of weather. If necessary, we use Easyboot Gloves on the ponies hooves on long endurance rides.
“We coach our ponies in natural horsemanship with mutual respect and love. Therefore, they always are in top mental and physical form, but as we all know, summer and winter coats change a pony’s body shape.
“Therefore we searched, about 7 years ago, for a good treeless saddle for general purpose, and after many tests we chose the Barefoot Cheyenne Treeless Saddle, which we believe is a very good all-around saddle.
“Recently, we purchased the lightweight Barefoot Cheyenne model in the Dry Tex version, for which we are very happy, because it is a sturdy saddle in all kinds of weather conditions and has a safe seat for both beginners and experienced riders.
“In Denmark we have no tradition to use western fenders, but the Barefoot Cheyenne Saddle is also excellent with classic stirrups. Anyway, we are considering buying the new fenders with knee support to our Barefoot Cheyenne Saddle, which may give the rider more support for terrain riding and jumping.
“We have never had “saddle problems” since we went over to Barefoot Cheyenne Treeless Saddles.”