There are now countless different types and brands of treeless saddles on the market. The word "treeless" has become a popular catchword since the Barefoot saddle appeared on the market at the end of 2002 and was greeted enthusiastically by the horse world as the new, horse-friendly and affordable saddles for riders.
In the meantime, "Barefoot" has become a synonym for treeless in the same way as "Kleenex" has for paper handkerchiefs.
But please do not make the mistake of confusing treeless with Barefoot!
There are now many suppliers of treeless saddle systems. Unfortunately for many riders and above all for many horses, “treeless” has become a buzzword. Many riders think: "If I buy a saddle without a tree, then there will be no strain or pressure on my horse’s back and everything will be fine.”
But this is far from the truth. There are treeless saddles that are not back-friendly or, for example, only suitable for a special type of horse - but other horses with a different build will suffer under this saddle because it lacks flexibility and/or the correct anatomical shape.
Since equestrian equipment suppliers are constantly on the lookout for innovative products - after all, there is money to be made - saddles appear on the market that can only be described as questionable at the least. Unfortunately, many manufacturers have no basic knowledge of a horse’s anatomy or its movement pattern, resulting in products which will not fulfil their purpose or may even cause serious problems.
There are imitations on the market which are very similar to Barefoot at first sight, so take a close look: Only our Barefoot logo (the feather plus the stamped identification number) on the product guarantees you the real thing.
In tests, the Barefoot saddle system has undergone pressure measurements and its construction has been proved horse-friendly - on all horses tested without exception. These tests were carried out by completely neutral horse osteopaths, i.e. not financed by our company, so the results are honest and objective. (for more details, see “what experts say about Barefoot” and our customers’ reviews).
We tend not to call our saddles ‘treeless’, as there is no exact definition of what “treeless” actually means. In our opinion, the VPS® system in the Barefoot saddle could be regarded as a kind of tree, but, because it is really flexible, more modern and adapted to the well-being of the horse.
More information can be found here http://shopware-stage.barefoot-saddle.de/media/pdf/ab/ef/b2/barefoot-makes-the-difference.pdf
The difference to conventional saddles:
The difference between Barefoot saddles and conventional saddles is immediately apparent, not only in their outward appearance, but also in their inner structure, primarily in the function of our VPS® System. Under a Barefoot, the horse can relax, arch its back upwards and thus allow a real lateral inclination of the thoracic spine. The horse can bend without having to avoid pressure on its back.
The Barefoot is the most flexible saddle in the world, which allows it to constantly adapt to changes in the horses musculature and physiognomy.
A horse's back changes mainly with the change of seasons, during training or due to age. But the above illustration shows that the biggest changes in the shape of the back are induced by the horse adopting a different posture, i.e. a forward-downward movement.
No conventional saddle can accommodate this forward downward movement completely without blocking part of the dorsal musculature, preventing muscle development and even causing muscle atrophy (e.g. "typical" hollows to the left and right of the withers). Under the barefoot, however, a horse can become supple, relax its muscles and move forwards/downwards without pressure from above. Thus it learns to move without pain and that moving under a saddle can be fun!
We often observe that horses improve their propulsion, covering more ground per pace, start working through their hindquarters, or spontaneously start to tölt…. The horse suddenly starts to do things the rider has been trying to achieve in training for months.
The Barefoot saddle gives the rider a slightly different riding position and a somewhat wider seat, allowing more freedom of movement. Some riders are critical of this and it does often take a little getting used to. But given the choice between a supple, relaxed and contented horse which can build up good musculature and move freely without pressure from the saddle, albeit at the price of adapting to the new Barefoot-style seat, or remaining in your old, familiar conventional saddle with its large knee rolls and which hides some of your seat errors, just because this is what you are used to: which alternative would you chose?
Riders who have already developed a stable and independent seat usually have no problem adjusting and begin to feel at home after a short time in the saddle. Others take longer, feel insecure at first, and need time to adapt to the wider seat closer to the horse, have difficulty keeping their legs still and feel like they have forgotten how to ride! But don’t worry, after 2 or 3 hours you will notice that your body has begun to adapt to the new position.
Tip: Our Hip-Saver gives sensitive riders a narrower seat and cushions the buttocks more comfortably