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!

BarefootDiagramAttachStirrups

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

Are Treeless Saddles Permitted in USDF/USEF Recognized Shows?

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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.”

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Freeform Treeless Elite Dressage Saddle
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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.

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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.

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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.”

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!”