The treeless difference
|January 17, 2015||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
I’ve started schooling dressage regularly again and everything is the same AND everything is mind-blowing-ly different.
How can that BE? (says the Dear Reader)
Since July I’ve been riding almost exclusively treeless. My last ditch effort to find a saddle that fit Farley’s current back shape was to go where I never thought I would go (at least not with this horse). TREELESS.
But when nothing else works, what do you have to lose by trying?
As you know, the saddle works great for Farley and with a couple of modifications to better accommodate her high wither (never underestimate the inventiveness of endurance riders), and after putting some miles in it, I don’t even notice that I’m riding “treeless” anymore.
The “adjustments” to my riding were minor. To be perfectly blunt the changes consisted of: “don’t let your ass fall out of the back of the saddle”. Apparently without realizing it I had come to depend on the cantle of the saddle to “catch me” when my horse did an up transition.
So, with apparently minimal (conscious) modifications to my riding over the last 6 months, color me
surprised shocked when I saddled up for my first dressage ride in 6 months in my dressage saddle.
Same dressage tack that I did lessons in and schooled in for YEARS.
All the things about my position that have nagged me for years are FIXED.
- “Post more back and forward instead of up and down“. FIXED
- Sitting trot. FIXED
- “Relax your thigh“. FIXED
- “Sit down and relax into the transition!” FIXED
- “Keep your lower leg more quiet” FIXED
What was interesting was that my body had obviously learned the “correct” way from riding in the treeless, but when it tried to execute it in the dressage treed saddle, it got negative feedback.
The first thing I noticed was the posting. When I posted in the saddle, the pommel kept getting in the way! To fix that I started posting more up and down, which immediately starting ringing alarm bells in my brain. “Wait a minute…I’m modifying my riding because of the saddle and the ‘fix’ is something my riding instructor was constantly telling me not to do!” So I sat the trot instead. Which was both easier and harder. Easier because apparently my body had figured out how to relax into and sit the trot in the treeless. Unfortunately, the immediate feedback in the dressage saddle was OUCH! as my private parts were beat into smithereens. No wonder I hadn’t learned how to relax and sit deeply prior to the treeless! Not with that kind of negative feedback for doing the right thing.
Same thing happened in the down transitions. There was an initial pleased surprise as I felt my body naturally seat itself deep into the seat and really ride the transition…followed immediately by pain as my delicate parts got smooshed into painful oblivion.
I’m surprised by the sheer magnitude of difference the treeless made because it’s not like I don’t ride bareback. I do, ALL THE TIME. Slipping onto my horse bareback and going for a ride seems like “stolen time”. It’s feels like I’ve snuck my horse out of the paddock and whispered “just a short one, don’t tell”.
But apparently riding treeless for the longer conditioning rides, and the big trot shorter trail rides has fixed things about my position that my shorter bareback rides couldn’t.
I couldn’t be happier by this sudden “jump” in rider position, but it does create some delimas too.
The treed dressage saddle is not in all ways encouraging my body to do the “right” thing. In fact, sometimes I am directly fighting the saddle. I suppose I could school dressage in my treeless trail saddle, however the treeless saddle isn’t ideal for dressage – leg and thigh support and deep seat of the dressage saddle is nice and really does support me doing dressage “correctly”. I also like the idea of NOT always riding Farley in the same saddle – no saddle ever fits a horse perfectly for all time, and by mixing up saddles that fit reasonably well I feel like it minimizes any pressure points.
This whole situation reminds me of my current running shoe delimna. I LOVE the positive changes that has happened to my running since switching to barefoot and minimalist shoes, but I didn’t fully realize how much my feet had changed until I tried to wear running shoes again. I can’t do ultras well in minimalist shoes – I need some support and cushioning for long hard rocky trails. But my feet are really unhappy in shoes and I’m have a really difficult time finding a compromise that works.
I’m considering trying a seat pad for the dressage saddle since that’s where the major discomfort originates from, but I suspect that nothing I can put on the seat without adding substantial bulk will come close to the cushy feel of the treeless. I may also try my Solstice for dressage schooling since it is built on a dressage tree, and Farley’s back may have changed enough that it fits again.
Consider me a treeless convert for the bulk of my riding…for now…- we all know that endurance is the sport of never being fully satisfied with all your tack for long!
What I posted…
One year ago: In which I edit a meme to make it more satisfactory
Three years ago: It was so cold that…
Four years ago: The question
I have a sheepskin pad on my saddle that really does make it more comfortable. I forgot to switch it onto today’s saddle and I regretted it as soon as I got on. I’ve definitely been spoiled by it.
Hmmm…I’ve been thinking about giving treeless a try even though I have a perfectly good endurance saddle and a perfectly good dressage
saddle. I feel like I need the experience and I have to admit to just being curious about it. Also your idea of never being satisfied with your tack:) I’m glad things are working out for you and Farley:)
Interesting, will have to watch for changes in my position. Got my treeless this week, and the main thing I noticed was how tight my hips were on my run the day after lol
Yep, hear you on this post!! I will bring my Specialized with me to Mojave so I have the option of another saddle but my lady bits are like NO NO NO at the thought of treed saddles now!
I am the same. Ride training miles and endurance rides in a treeless. Reluctantly use a dressage saddle for arena work. I have a hard time figuring out why: I just feel like I “should” ride dressage in a treed dressage saddle which is ridiculous as I don’t apply the “should” principle to much else! I find myself riding the baby ponies in the treeless now too: I actually feel very secure and I don’t have to worry (as much) about their radically changing shape.
Yeah I’m not sure why my hesitation. I feel like there is value doing dressage in a dressage saddle even though I can’t put my finger on it. Comforting to hear I’m not the only one with this dilemma.
Ooh what a fascinating dilemma! That sounds complicated to find an appropriate middle ground. I’m looking forward to hearing your solution!
IKR? Struggled with this… (although technically I ride in a flex-tree that has a foam tree rather than a true treeless)… tried so many things… even bought a treeless dressage saddle that looks very traditional (Startrekk Dressur) and just couldn’t make it work (didn’t give the advantages of either for me).
Until I found my current (treed) dressage saddle. It’s made by an Australian saddler and the saddle is designed for a female pelvis rather than a male pelvis. The saddler is Peter Horobin and the model is Amazone. I bought mine second hand on ebay and had it altered to fit my horse (re-flocked and points moved) because she was so difficult to fit.
I now ride trails/endurance in my endurance saddle(s) and if I want to do/train dressage I use my dressage saddle (I also do a bit of arena work bareback too). I find it really useful to use both saddles, because the endurance saddle makes sure I keep my sense of balance and sensitivity to the horse’s movement, whilst the dressage saddle reminds me about lengthening through the leg and using my thigh/knee contact which is easier with more of a twist (all of those things are almost subconscious, more like muscle memory). In the dressage saddle I’m able to work on more specific subtle aids, because it is less work to sit quietly. But the endurance saddle give me a much better feel and better awareness/ability to follow the horse’s movement. The combination means that I ride better in each saddle by drawing on the strengths gained from riding in the other.
I like them both for different reasons… Maybe there is a dressage saddle better suited to what you want? I like mine, but a friend raves about her Prestige (Lucky), I think she said it has foam or flocking in the seat. The Bates Isabell is supposed to have multilayered foam in the seat… all depends on what suits you. My dressage saddle doesn’t have a padded seat but the tree itself is different (http://www.horobin.com.au/saddles-for-women/male-vs-female.html). It’s working for me… for now! 😉
The next thing I’m working on is getting the saddler who made my flex-tree endurance saddles to bring out a dressage version… don’t hold your breath, hahaha!
I think you’ve done a great job ennunciating why I feel like it’s important to continue to school dressage in a dressage saddle. Yes yes and YES.
Agree that I probably am looking getting a different dressage saddle. In some ways I guess I should be flattered – this one worked for me for so many years and the fact that is doesn’t work any more is a sign that I’m progressing and improving and changing – especially because the things it isn’t allowing me to do comfortably is the “correct” thing.
Because dressage isn’t my focus I can’t justify spending money on a dressage saddle but I see what I could sell/trade my current one for (Wintec Isabelle). The hard thing is always letting something go that works “OK” before gtetting something that I know for sure works. I’ll probably try padding the seat with a cover first – if it’s as easy as that for now, it buys me some time to see what will work for ML (she is SO much more narrow than Farley). mmm…food for thought.
Ahhh… the joys of fitting saddles to horses… and riders! Especially while you have a young horse that hasn’t decided what it will fit yet!!