Treed or Treeless: the great debate
What is all the hype about treeless saddles? It seems everyone and anyone recommends them at the drop of a hat, but is it really the saddle for you?
Treeless saddles are often the go to saddle for hard to fit horses. It is an easy and cost effective solution if your horse would require a custom fitted saddle due to his shape. Treeless saddles mold and conform to the horse's back since there is no hard tree to cause pressure points. Another use for treeless saddles is if you are riding multiple horses, that way you don't have to have multiple saddles fitted to get the job done. In this same sense, it can be great for younger horses, because one saddle can continue to fit the horse as it grows and changes shape.
Another feature of a treeless saddle is an expediting of horse and rider communication. Treeless saddles offer a much more close contact ride with the horse; you can really feel what is going on underneath you. This can be a positive or negative aspect, because beginner riders may feel out of balance or uncomfortable with so much feedback from the horse. The benefit to this would be once you are used to the different feel of a treeless saddle, most treeless saddles do put you in a better spot balance-wise for the horse to maintain equilibrium.
After reading the benefits of a treeless saddle, you may be wondering why not everyone uses them. They sound too good to be true, fixing every possible issue with one simple solution. Treeless saddles do have their benefits, but they do also have drawbacks. Every treeless saddle may not fit every horse. For example, some horses may have aspects to their conformation that could cause any saddle, treed or not, to slip back without use of a breastplate. Before deciding if a treeless saddle fits your horse, make sure you actually sit in it on your horse. Treeless saddles are made to be flexible, the shape of the saddle will change with you sitting in it. Also, many treeless saddles have been found to have slipping issues when mounting/dismounting or participating in extreme events.
A treed saddle is recommended for disciplines that are going to put a lot of torque on the saddle. For example, barrel racing. No matter how tight your cinch is, it is much safer to really dig into a turn with a treed saddle. The reason for this being the lack of tree on either side of your horse's withers to keep your saddle in the middle of your horse during periods of extreme pull on the saddle. Treed Saddles are also recommended for riders jumping over 2 feet.
Make sure to keep all of the options in mind when considering a treeless saddle. It certainly will feel extremely different from riding in a treed saddle if that is what you are used to! If you keep an open mind and take into considerations all aspects of the saddle, you might just find you have a new way to ride!