Start searching for a treeless based on your weight, build of horse or pony, activity, position you want and your budget. Not all treeless saddles fit all horses and riders, most treeless saddles fit most horses and riders. A treeless saddle is not a solve it for a badly fitting treed, a badly fitting treeless can cause just as many problems. You can hire a Port Lewis pad if you are concerned about pressure points or fit. There are a few saddle fitters in the UK and overseas please check the Treeless Tried and Tested main website.
The saddles come in your dress size and each make has their own sizing and base length. Generally a 17" saddle is for the size 12-14 dress and has either a 21" or 22" base, but this is just a guide. Some makes have a size guide as size 0,1,2 so it's worth asking for the base length. For the short back length equine you can buy a short base making that is 20" or smaller, so adults on ponies can ride treeless.
Do NOT buy a treeless saddle without a makers name on it, if the company cannot put a name to it, it's not worth buying. There are a lot of copies. I won't even put one on my horse so please do not ask me what they ride like. They can be shipped over very cheaply and sold on EBay. You will find that new "company" isn't around very long. My horse like me has one back, look after it. Cheap shoes fall apart, need I say more about cheap saddles.
Do be careful of any saddle that is made in INDIA, this is due to the material being used for padding and the symmetry of the saddle is not always accurate. So double before you buy. They are handmade and personally my standards would be so high that unsymmetrical models would not make it to the public!
You can pay £200 up to £3000 plus the only saddle i can recommend in the budget range is the libra trek, as i have had one for three years.
Saddles come in synthetic, equi leather, leather and nubuck. Italian leather is used as well as various other indian leathers depending on how much you spend. The cheaper leather can be a little plastic looking and slippery. Try and ride in it when its wet and you know what I mean!
Nubuck needs caring for and it does look worn quickly. Barefoot have changed the finish of the newer models, you either like that feel or not. But I believe it is easier to care for.
Some treeless saddles have uk agents that will fit the saddle for you. You can also get some on a trial basis. (small fee)
It is best to get a treeless saddle pad with pockets for shims, these act like flocking and you can adjust the fit. This is ideal if you have a horse with a loss of topline, lack of muscle, a high withered, or your horse or pony is croup high such as a youngster.
A high withered horse can be fitted with a treeless, some people use a suber pad, or you can use the equitex high wither pad made by torsion. some treeless have a very soft pommel or a cut back pommel, so try and see.
A horse or pony with a forward girth may be more limited in the model you can use, some people opt for the Freeform saddle as the new model has swinging straps as does the Barefoot Cherokee. However you can also try the swung girth or shaped ones, such as the Torsion Moon or the Dream C.
The weight limit on some saddles is due to the material being used, extra weight will compact the material and likely cause pressure.
A heavier rider should opt for a treeless that doen't have the weight limit on it, although some makes offer a different pad to cater for this. Usually the more solid type such as the Dartmoor Tree free is great for the really heavy rider.
Do not be scared to wash the wool pad on a low temperature, it's fine.
A treeless with a gullet in some cases a moveable one will fit more like a treed and it is more laterally stable, it may not need a special pad, some people use the heather moffet pad. A treeless without the gullet will need a spinal clearance treeless pad, and it is not so laterally stable.
You need to have the girth long enough to avoid hitting the elbows, the non gullet saddles most likely need to be girthed up to the base of the pad. This will also depend on the balance of the rider. A saddle that moves shows a problem with your pad, girth or you.
The girth is a personal choice whether or not to have elastic. The elastic should be firm enough that you cannot pull it, if you can it's too loose. I've used the girth with the elastic centres and the elastic end ones. My current girth is the 'C' girth from Dream Team and i do also have a Roamer and Kincade. I've been through the cheap ones and for a non gullet saddle i didn't find it was secure for me, so I have done the hard work for you.:-)
Some treeless will put you into the classical position Freeform and some put you in a bareback position (Libra Trek)
You can buy a treeless with and without knee rolls, some have knee rolls that can be removed or altered in size when you order the saddle, so yes you can jump. How high depends on your balance and the model.
Some come with a moveable stirrup bar plate, the leathers on these models tends to be fixed to the plate and are the dressage less bulky types. You can buy a stirrup plate now that allows for ordinary flat leathers and it has a e bar fitting.
Some saddles will have an e bar or a closed ring, either way i recommend safety stirrups or at best the barnes buckle for normal stirrup useage. NEVER use normal stirrups with a closed ring.
Some models allow you to buy different seats, such as endurance style, western, the models that allow this are the Freeform, Sensation, Ghost.
Some models have removeable pommel inserts, but remember they do not fit as a treed saddle does, the pommel doesn't have any weight it just keeps the saddle shape. However in some cheaper makes the pommel has been made too big and can press down.
A treeless will help your balance, if the saddle goes off the side, check you are girthed correctly and have level stirrups. If the saddle goes forward check you have the correct pommel insert, and you have shimmed. A crupper is not to stop the saddle shooting forwards, but will let you know you need to make adjustments.
The photo on the websites are new unsat on photos, the seat may look flat in some models, but they do mould.
You could mount from the ground, but it is kinder on the animal to use a mounting block, and some treeless advise on doing so.
If you cannot do up the dressage girth from the saddle it is too short, unless you are unfit, disabled, or inflexible.
You can jump in treeless, how high will be dependent on the model and your balance. Ask the company to explain what they mean by small jumping if it states this. You can jump up to BE level in the Solution.
Black tends to looks nicer than brown, and when reselling will sell easier. Think carefully before limited edition green or purple!
Most first time treeless owners opt for a barefoot or libra trek.
An exercise sheet under a treeless tends to make the whole saddle unstable, a quarter sheet is better.
Torsion do a dressage approved treeless for competiting.
The Solution is allowed for use in all disciplines under FEI and BHS rules.
Do your homework, do research, ask questions, a company that can answer all your questions fully is worthy of your money.
The Heather Moffet saddles are part treed and not totally treeless. The new Flexee is NO T a treeless and therefore these are not included in the above.
A few makes you may wish to look into are Dream, Libra Trek, Libra Trail, Barefoot, Torsion, Freeform, Treefree Dartmoor, Treefree Exmoor, Startrekk, Ghost, Sensation, and Solution/Ansur.
To look at reviews and photos of treeless saddles check out the Treeless Tried and Tested Website.
(copyright, Treeless Saddle Guide)