Are Treeless Saddles Permitted in USDF/USEF Recognized Shows?

Treeless Dressage Saddles, like this Barefoot Lexington Treeless Dressage Saddle, are permitted in USDF recognized dressage shows and are comfy for trail riding.

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.”

Freeform Treeless Elite Dressage Saddle
Barefoot London Dressage Saddle








“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!


Action Rider of the Month – Jody Gular

Jody Gular owns two gorgeous Arabians and recently added a rescue Shetland pony to her herd. She lives on three lovely acres with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Jody comments, “I feel like I’m living the dream!”

Jody Gular
Jody Gular riding on her acreage in Texas.

“My elder Arabian mare, Dallas, a former endurance horse, is now 30 years old, and teaching my grand kids how to ride. I discovered Barefoot Treeless Saddles back in 2008 while trying to find a saddle that would fit her aging top line.

Jody Gular3
Jodu Gular and her bay Arabian

“I ordered the Barefoot Atlanta for its good looks, comfort, and fit. Her top line actually improved with the new anatomically correct fit. We still hit the trails together, and Dallas has a steady stream of young girls in her fan club who love to exercise her for me.

Jody’s Arabians introducing the next  generation to riding.

“The Barefoot saddle works on both of my Arabians as I can change out the pommel when my wider, flat backed Arabian, Fancy, uses it.

“I enjoy trail riding, and playing with my horses using the Parelli method of natural horsemanship.”

Action Rider of the Month – Trish Terry

Trish Terry on a trail ride with her mustang mare, Star.

Trish Terry is married with four kids and lives in Brighton, Colorado. Her horses are kept at her home. She works for the City of Boulder full-time,  and also has her own business called 100% Mohair Horse Tack, where she hand makes custom mohair western cinches, English girths, and breast collars. All of that keeps her busy, but she makes the time to go out on trail rides every weekend. She rides in the surrounding areas of Boulder, Lafayette, Louisville, and Adams County. Colorado offers many beautiful places to ride that are horse friendly, so Trish never runs out of new adventures.

Star is Trish’s 11-year-old domestic mustang mare that has been part of her family for the past six years.  

“Star is an amazing trail horse and she has a silly pony type personality. I ride her in my Barefoot Cheyenne with an upgraded sheepskin seat, and a bitless bridle. TrishSlingwineSmithTerry,Star,BFCheyenneShe is also barefoot herself, because I try to keep my horses as natural as possible, and I use the kindest tack I can.  No bits for me, and definitely no treed saddles, and mohair all the way.

“She was a very hard horse to fit in a treed saddle, due to her barrel shape. Star is 15 hands and 1,250 lbs, and quite the easy keeper. I tried a variety of treed saddles, which she always balked at, until I finally went treeless. The Barefoot is actually my first new saddle ever! I just love it. I can mount from the ground, it doesn’t slip, and it is the most comfortable saddle I have ever used. I use a Diamond wool pad with cut out spine with it too.”

Trish continues, “Our older mare, Silky, was 38 and she just passed away last November. So we recently acquired a two-year-old black and white pinto filly named Indie. TrishTerryShortyBFCheyenneShe is in the training process right now, being ponied and saddled, and one day she will wear a Barefoot Treeless saddle too!

Action Rider of the Month – Melissa Vesterholm

Melissa Vesterholm riding Isaiah Callaway, a Welsh Cob gelding.

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, a sports team in Denmark, where they train medium-size ponies for Tour-riding and Monté-riding, Trotting, Easy Dressage and Carriage Driving trials.

Isaiah Callaway has a huge trot stride.

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.”

February Action Rider of the Month – Janet Lopez

Janet Lopez riding her Medicine Hat paint horse, Boo.
Janet Lopez riding her Medicine Hat paint horse, Boo.

When horse and rider suit each other perfectly, like Janet Lopez and Boo, you can just sense their connection. Horses that enrich our lives are what it’s all about.

Janet’s horse, Boo, is a palomino Medicine Hat Paint/Quarter horse that stands at 14.1 hands. Janet bought him when he was 6 years old from the gal who raised him, and he will be 10 years old this year. A Medicine Hat paint horse is almost entirely white, but has a colored patch covering the ears and the top of the head. The distinguishing head markings are what create the Medicine Hat, or war bonnet.

Janet relates, “The gal who sold him worked in a big hunter/jumper facility and could have sold him to a number of people. Fortunately, she felt that her Boo and I would be perfect for each other!

“She was right!  Boo and I have ridden together in lots of different  cool places – Eagle Cap Wilderness out of Halfway, Oregon, the Tobacco Root Mountains near Billings, Montana and recently the Hassayampa Wash in Wickenburg, Arizona. Those are just a few of the places that we have ridden together.


“We have taken part in cutting buffalo and cattle, as well as searching and rounding up small herds out of Montana and Washington. We have been to several clinics so that I can learn to be a better partner for my horse. I have learned so much and feel so good that Boo and I have learned together.


“Someone told me that having a horse can be a spiritual journey. You can go as deep as you want and beyond or you can just stay on the surface. I highly recommend the journey – what an amazing and blessed ride it is!

“I just love this partner of mine. Boo definitely came into my life to save my soul!”

January Rider of the Month – Lorraine Stubbins

Lorraine Stubbins riding her mare, Keira. What a view!
Lorraine Stubbins riding her mare, Keira. What a view!

Lorraine Stubbins’ mare, Tabby’s Keira, is a seven-year-old Irish Sport Horse that she bred herself. Keira’s sire is an Irish Draught/TB cross, a show jumper named ToBeSure from Vancouver, British Columbia. Keira’s dam is a thoroughbred mare.

Lorraine explains, “Keira is 16.2 hands and a really nice horse. She is returning to Arizona this winter with us where we are going to be camping in the desert and trail riding around the state. This will be her fourth trip in her short life. She is a very good traveler and a pleasure to be around.

“I have shown her a little at local riding club level shows, jumping and dressage and western dressage. I used to be an eventer years ago, but we have decided not to do any more competing and just to enjoy the trails now, from this year onward.”

Lorraine has always ridden her mare bitless in a Lindel Side pull and she goes barefoot – she has never been shod. Lorraine is a barefoot trimmer following the methods of Cheryl Edwards-Henderson of ABC Hoofcare and the Oregon School of Natural Hoofcare.

“It seemed a perfect fit for us to expand our natural journey to include a Barefoot Barrydale Saddle,” Lorraine continues. “We are in our first week with it and so far we are really enjoying it. Tonight I did a long fast gallop in mine and it felt great.

Lorraine riding in her Barefoot Barrydale Treeless Saddle, and Bill in his Barefoot Tahoe.
Lorraine riding in her Barefoot Barrydale Treeless Saddle, and Bill in his Barefoot Tahoe.

“My partner, Bill, just started riding in a Barefoot Tahoe this week too. We found it second hand and ordered it for me, but it was too big and happened to be a perfect fit for Bill. He rides a nine-year-old gelding, an Akhal-Teke/ Hanoverian cross called Andre, bitless, barefoot and now treeless!  Bill keeps telling me how comfy his new saddle is and I think he sits very correctly in it.

“We are all four – two horses and two riders really enjoying our Barefoot journey. Thanks for carrying such nice quality well-engineered tack!”

December Action Rider of the Month – Mari Secrist

 Mari jumping Remy at Novice Level - stadium jumping in his EasyCare Glue-ons.
Mari jumping Remy at Novice Level stadium jumping in his EasyCare Easyboot Glue-ons.

Mari Secrist is a seasoned eventer who had ridden successfully at the Advanced Level. In the world of eventing, the Advanced Level is the highest level and the jumps on the cross country course are 3’11”and in the stadium jumping phase can be 4’1.” Solid fences at almost four feet on a cross country course takes a well-schooled, talented horse and a gutsy rider.

Mari explained, “The photo is of my adorable off the track thoroughbred, Don’t Cross Granny, alias Remy.  Remy’s sire, Valley Crossing, was a stakes winner of $1.6 million! Remy raced till he was 6, and won $26,000, oh well…

“Remy and I are eventing at the Novice Level in that photo, and getting ready for the move to Training Level. He had pretty crummy feet before I bought him. I was having a tough time keeping shoes on his formerly split, cracking and shelly feet. All my horses are barefoot, so the first thing I did upon purchasing him was to pull his shoes.

“His feet look lovely now – no more cracks and splits. But he doesn’t have the thickest sole, due to wearing shoes from an early age until the age of seven, so I usually ride him in EasyCare Epics for the first few days after a trim. I always compete him in EasyCare Glue-ons. Boots that come above the coronet are still not allowed in the dressage phase of eventing.

“It amazes me that no one even notices he’s wearing them! Anyway, he moves quite confidently across gravel or whatever the footing might be, and almost always comes away with a ribbon. How could he not? He’s so CUTE!

“Remy is a delightful character, always happy to see me, and a pleasure to work with at all times. I feel pretty lucky to have him.”

Mari is still eventing at age 65. What an inspiration!