Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to recognize a broken saddle tree

So, I got my first saddle on trial, found online but the saddle was local so it was dropped off by the owner last week. In theory it was the perfect saddle, the make and model I wanted, reasonably priced, in good condition (judging from the picture). Except when I finally got it to test...

Something was wrong. I could tell right away.  It looked limp. Part of it was lack of flocking that was more pronounced on one side. It seemed a tad lumpy around the stirrup bars. When I asked over the phone why the saddle was for sale, the answer was just a little vague. I think the seller is an honest person, but...

I had a bad feeling.

You can test the tree by holding the saddle against your body and pulling the cantle toward you. I did this test. In addition to the flocking and velcro, I suspect the tree might be broken. This is not the saddle I trialed but here's what a broken tree looks like...

 Now, some saddles have more "flex" than others -- the Stubbens and Passiers, for example -- and the only way to really know the condition of the tree is to physically examine it. One model of Henning saddle (very expensive) had a flaw in it and the trees broke very easily.  I'm sure there are other saddles that are prone to breakage.  A friend even warned me that when you buy used online, you'll run into people trying to unload damaged saddles.

In short, I'm not sure I would try to buy online without a trial, and without making sure the seller has a great track record. Consignment shops may be the safest bet.

Testing the saddle tree from Equisearch


  1. Squish an Ansur in any direction you want and it will flex completely...no tree at all. *lol*

    I once sold a Passier all-purpose to a dealer who called me back a few weeks later to accuse me of selling a broken treed saddle. The saddle had NEVER been damaged in any way, but the slight flex in the Passier tree was something she was totally unfamiliar with. We sorted it out just fine, eventually.

    If you are looking for a saddle, get an Ansur demo. The Excel dressage saddle and the Elite--if you need a hunter/jumper model--are positively wonderful. I have been riding in an Ansur for going on ten years now and will never switch back to treed.

  2. If the saddle is on ebay, I insist that the seller take a return if the saddle is not sound and as described. A lot of those sellers aren't horse people (simply liquidating assets) and have no idea. Gosh how many times have I heard that the saddle wasn't the size it was described to be!

    If the saddle is elsewhere, I insist on escrow.

    Trial-wise, I don't consider it the job of a long-distance private seller to be like a saddle shop handing out demo's. But if the seller doesn't seem to have many offers I will sometimes ask if they are open to it.

  3. Buying such an expensive item that is so hard to fit is so scary to me. Thanks for the pointers and videos.

  4. Good call on the tree and good luck on your saddle journey.

    My friend purchased a new Ansur dressage saddle and loved for about three years. Then the stirrup bar broke and required professional repair. She has since gone back to treed saddles. Perhaps this was a fluke?

  5. I've had Ansurs since 2000 and the only problem was with the original billets on the very first model--a material design since changed.

    My original Ansur was sold and I have one here that's still perhaps eight years old. The trauma system should be replaced, as back then, again, there were some material construction issues. The newer models have changed all that. Otherwise, the old saddle is still just fine as far as billets, stirrup bars, etc. go. I used it a lot on three different horses riding 5-6 days a week--dressage and trails.

    The new Excel dressage saddle, as I said, is amazing! It's very comfortable, supportive, and fits all three of my horses. (Each with a different back.)

    I have heard of a broken/bent stirrup bar on the Ansur Saddle Yahoo board, but from what I've read it's been because the stirrups got hung up going through a door/gate or something like that. I had a regular treed saddle that the same thing happened to years ago.


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