Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treeless Part IV: It's not about ME, but...

 This really is a post about my treeless experience. Bear with me...

Back in Harv's and My Salad Days
Many years ago, when Harv was a mere pup of 11 years and I was... well.. younger...  I was transitioning from hunter/jumper to dressage. I'd dumped my 15-year-old  close contact saddle for a used Charles de Kunffy.  I'd ridden in the hunt seat saddle in high school and for several years when I bought Harv. I had ridden in the dressage saddle for maybe 3-4 months and was still acclimating to it.

Then a friend  invited me to a fun show in Lancaster at Bridge Acres -- a hunter/jumper show. I lept at the chance for a friendly competition, and pulled out my hunt seat saddle with no hesitation.

Show day arrives
On the show grounds I signed up for two flat classes and a small, low course -- adult equitation I think. About 1/2 hour before the flat class I tacked up and got on.

My legs were shaking as I posted. Where was my knee roll? Why do I feel like a jockey?????  I could barely trot. The thought of jumping left me weak with fear. Well, the day went all right, but the point is, I lost my hunt seat feel. The saddle that had been so comfy for years now left me insecure and wobbly. Your body gets used to a certain position, feel, and muscle memory.

Kind of like... The treeless saddle experience

I had been warned that the treeless saddles put you in a chair seat. . I'd been warned that the seats were hard, and that there is no twist. I didn't find any of that to be problematic for me. I felt VERY balanced in the saddle. My left fell nicely down and I was right over Ri's center of gravity. The seat was not hard, although for a petite size it felt a tad roomy. The saddle did not feel that different from other saddles in the crotch and thigh area. It was comfortable to sit in.

I felt closer to bareback than I do in a treed saddle. And when you're fifty, that's an insecure feeling. When I was riding, I did not struggle for my balance--but this saddle made me very aware of the little adjustments I was making. There were no blocks to hold me together (although I could have added them--the owner brought them).

At the Hank Hutson clinic, Hank told me that I should feel as if I was riding a ball of energy, that I was sitting on top of the energy ball as it rolled foward. When he said that I thought of surfing a wave. Well, that's how I felt in the Ansur Excel. I was more aware of Riley's energy, and how my body contributed to or detracted from his movement. I also felt like if he misbehaved I would be more vulnerable.

Some saddles I know just won't work. This saddle? I felt like I needed more time in it. It's a very different feel -- not bad, and in fact it did some nice things for my leg and abdomen (you can BET I used my abs). I want to sit in one again, and try it for awhile. I guess that's the bottom line.


  1. A horse I am riding goes in a Barefoot saddle. I love it, I feel more secure in it then in treed saddles now, and I have only ridden her four or five times. As soon as my mare is ready to go back into work, I am going to try it on her and see how she feels.

    But, to each their own. A friend of mine hates the feel of it, and I think that you have to be just as comfortable as the horse in whatever saddle you use to be safe and effective. Hope you find a new saddle soon!

  2. That's interesting - so you're going to try to track down another for a longer trial, maybe?

    I know that Eldest hated my old close contact saddle and was never happier than when we bought her a dressage saddle of her own. Ironically, she's grown that tidbit more that we should probably go for an 18" now, not the 17.5". If we do, I'll probably lay claim to her hand-me-down as it's a lovely feel for this old hunter rider. And you can never have too many saddles, eh?

  3. I have to tell you that I've found this whole series of posts on the Ansur just fascinating. I've never even SEEN a treeless saddle, much less sat in one. I would imagine that yes, it feels a lot like a built-up bareback pad, but thank you for the details!

    I have been riding for the last couple years in a very comfy, secure-feeling Wintec dressage saddle (it's the only thing that fits friend's Giant WB). I did get on her other horse in her all-purpose a couple times, and it wasn't TOO weird. However, I'm wondering how I'm going to do/feel when I finally get to ride again in my own close-contact. That will happen soon because I bought a lesson package and will be heading to the barn when I get my courage screwed up... :-) Will my legs be noodles? Will I feel like a jockey, like you did? That remains to be seen!

  4. Most of the treed saddles I've owned
    have been pretty close contact, and I used to jump in a flat saddle, so the feeling of not being "wrapped" in a saddle has never bothered me. The transition to the Ansur Classic was no problem, and I actually liked the closer contact with the horse from the first.

    It can take some getting used to for riders who ride in saddles with a lot of support. But, on the plus side, it also helps them develop stronger and more independent seats. And, oh yes, a much closer and cleaner communication with the horse.

    This too is where many riders, including me, feel that it also allows us to anticipate spooks and such from our horses sooner. And then since the saddle flexes if the horse does spook, our seats and balance flex right along with him instead of bouncing us off as a treed saddle might.

    Need to be on the lookout for an Excel you could try for a week or so. Ansur does allow a week trial of a new saddle, but you have to pay for it first and that gets pricey.

  5. That's exactly what I like about treeless saddles. I feel like you are having a conversation with your horse using your seat. There's just so much more interaction.

    I don't think all treeless saddles put you in a chair seat. I had a barefoot saddle that did but my Freeform allows you to adjust the placement of the stirrup attachments (very handy) and my Fheonix is the model for long legged riders so the bars are set further back.

  6. I have been there. I was on a pure bred Arab pleasure horse (saddle seat) and the feeling that I was sitting on a beach ball was very concerning. If I tipped forward, I felt he would buck and I'd be gone! The feel of trying to roll that beach ball back just a list past center was not an easy spot to find!

    I am finding this interesting as my newly purchased OTTB is getting grumpy and slow but is happy and very responsive if I ride bareback. I think I need a new saddle too :0(

  7. Just curious if you've ever done much bareback riding and how you would compare the treeless saddle to riding bareback? I have a bareback pad that I love and after a major horse vs. killer tractor episode last week (I stayed on & got my crazed horse back under control) I am questioning if I really do have any more security in my saddle than I do in my bareback pad.

  8. I rode in an Ansur Chic for years. I loved it, and my Arabian went beautifully in it until he developed Cushings and lost muscle. Then he wasn't comfortable in it and I went treed. I also had a young spooky Arabian that I rode in it. I sat many a spook and even a bolt in that Ansur. It never budged, nor did I. I miss it. I actually felt more secure being close to my horse, and going back to treed felt farther away and less balanced. As far as chair seat, I never had one riding my Arabians in it, but our old grade (possibly Appendix) guy, for some reason, his back put me in a chair seat. It wasn't the saddle; it was his confirmation.

  9. Marnie, I'm not one of those bareback ridin' girls, much more into staying on and not falling off. So, if you are used to or comfy bareback the treeless may be something you take to immediately.

  10. For me the Ansur saddle was not at all like bareback riding. I have a lower back deformity that cannot handle bareback, plus I felt in a chair seat riding in bare back. Not in the Ansur though. It is like riding in a saddle. Really, if people started out treeless, they would feel unbalanced in a treed saddle.

    You know, you can try out an Ansur for a week. If I could afford an Ansur now, I would definitely go for the newer model. I did ride mine with a Skito pad.


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.