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