Frequently Asked Questions Answered!
Saddle Slippage & Security?
Our Barefoot Treeless saddles will not slip more than any other saddle. If you have slippage issues with your current saddle you will most likely have the same issues with a treeless saddle. Slippage issues are generally due to your horse's conformation issues, but there are remedies.
For rounder, flatter shaped horses, we always recommend an English rigging system over western rigging, as it provides additional hold. We always recommend a short girth or cinch. The shorter the girth/cinch the more secure the saddle will fit. (See below for our girth/cinch placement recommendation.) We recommend that you girth snugly, but you do not have to over-tighten your girth/cinch. Anatomical girths also give better hold to the saddle.
We recommend you use a mounting block or other mounting aid (i.e. tree stump, rock, etc.) when mounting your horse for the following reasons:
- Using a mounting block is better for your horse's back and lessens the strain placed on his back and withers.
- Using a mounting block is also easier on your joints and muscles particularly if you are short and your horse is tall.
- Using a mounting block is also a pre-riding safety check. If you horse will stand comfortably and willing at the mounting block then he is giving permission for you to ride.
- When out on a trail there are always tree stumps that can be used for mounting.
Barefoot Saddles can flex in all directions. They are an easy fit and it is likely that one saddle will fit all your horses.
After adjusting to the different feel of a treeless saddle, you may develop a new connection with your horse that gives both of you a more secure feel. A treeless saddle does not provide any more security than a treed saddle.
You will be amazed when you first ride in your new Barefoot Saddle. You will have a new connection with your horse. You will feel your horse underneath you and your horse will be able to feel your aids. Without the rigid, hard tree, your horse will have freedom of shoulder movement, be much more comfortable, and will move out freer than ever before.
The ideal girth position for a treeless saddle is shown in the picture to the right. The arrow shows the position the girth should be when it is tightened - just above the elbow of the horse's front leg. This shorter style of girth/cinch results in a more secure saddle fit. To ensure you get the correct girth size, measure with a measuring tape from a hand width above the horse's elbow on one side, down under the belly, to a hand width above the elbow on the other side. Girth lengths are always given from the end of one buckle to the end of the other. This measuring method ensures that buckles lie far enough above the elbows
More Q & A
WILL MY BAREFOOT SADDLE FIT SEVERAL DIFFERENT HORSES?
Absolutely! Its flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of the Barefoot: It will conform to just about any shape horse or mule, will always fit, and often save you buying saddle after saddle for your herd. If you have very different types of horses (some high-withered, some round-backed), you may have to exchange the pommel or fork. This is done by opening two zippers, exchanging fork, closing zippers again (it nestles in there fairly sung), and takes less than 5 minutes. Extreme differences may be accommodated with different blankets/pads.
Weight changes from summer to winter are not a concern anymore due to the variety of sizes of pommel/forks, changes in shape from muscling up during training don't require a new saddle, blanket or stuffing. If you get a new horse you can start riding right away, with confidence, and don't have to pay for professional saddle fitting, alterations, a new saddle, or go through weeks of painful trial and error.
CAN I MOUNT FROM THE GROUND?
Yes, you can, but you shouldn't - in any saddle! Mounting from the ground will put tremendous stress on the horse's withers. Any good Chiropractor or massage therapist can tell if you mount from the ground, just from the state of the horse's spine and muscles! It is literally looking 'a bit wrung at the withers'. The hard parts of the saddle tree are ground into the horses off-side when you hang onto the saddle or stand in one stirrup, and may pull the spine out of alignment. The shorter or heavier you are, the less springy and athletic when mounting, and the taller or wider your horse is, the worse this gets. Also, ground mounting will pull ANY saddle asymmetrical over time, and it requires you to cinch or girth up a lot tighter than you really need to. So try to use a mounting block, a rock, log, truck, fence, ditch, bank, or just a handy slope in the terrain to assist you in mounting - your horse will love you for it! Thankfully, this message is spreading, through magazines, vets and chiropractors. The days where you must prove your worth as a rider by mounting from the ground will soon be over.
That said, on the trail there is sometimes no choice, and you can mount most horses from the ground just fine with the Barefoot saddles. Try to be a little slick about it: Don't hang on to the horn, grab the opposite side of the saddle and the mane instead, face forward, push up hard and fast with your right leg, and throw the weight in your upper body over to the other side right away. If you have difficulties with ground mounting, choose the Physio pad, its non-slip Sympanova lining makes a huge difference in mounting stability! You will find out on the trail, there is always a stump or rock to mount from.
DO I NEED TO GET USED TO THE SADDLE?
Probably not. It depends on your old saddle and style of riding. Most likely you'll just be blown away by the comfortable seat, by the big swing in your horse's back and gaits, and by how easily your horse seems to read your aids and cues now. On the other hand, if your old saddle had forced you into a chair seat, like many Western saddles do, you will feel a change. The Barefoot puts you into the correct vertical position. Any riding manual, no matter if Western or Dressage, shows that drawing with a line going straight down through the riders ear, shoulder, hip and heel. The Barefoot stirrup attachments and seat are positioned to allow you to sit like that. This may feel weird at first, like your leg is further backward, under you. It will feel to the muscles of your inner thigh like you're sitting bareback. You'll learn to appreciate this position really quick, though, as it makes for good balance, easy posting, and allows you to follow the horses movements or influence them. This ideal position also feels very stable. Renown riding coach Mary Wanless always asks, 'What would happen to you if someone pulled your horse out from under you?' Well, in the Barefoot you would land perfectly balanced on your feet!
If you had an English saddle before, and have a wide-backed horse, you may feel you're sitting wider in a treeless. This is because now you feel the width of the horse's actual back, when before you were sitting on top of a built-up, narrow twist. The muscles around your hip joints or inner thighs may need to adjust to this, if you have become a bit inflexible. Stretching helps, or some warm-up before riding. Any 'stretched wide' feeling should disappear after a few rides. If you have bad arthritis in your hip or other chronic hip problems or you aren't flexible through your hips, you can fix this by customising your saddle: by using a Barefoot Hip Saver available in sizes 1 & 2, you will find them in the online shop under accessories.
DOES MY HORSE NEED TO GET USED TO THE SADDLE?
No. But you may need to get used to your new horse! Most horses are very happy to be finally able to move freely and without pain. This can lead to some exuberance on your first ride or two - be prepared for a more spirited horse! And any new saddle may feel just plain weird to a horse, plus the Barefoot allows it to feel what you're doing up there, which may be feel odd the first time, too. Don't ask too much right away.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUNG HORSES, TOO?
Absolutely! A Barefoot treeless saddle is eminently suitable for starting and training young horses! It spreads the weight quite different than a treed saddle. The rider sits between the pommel and cantle supports which are fixed to the saddle in their pockets, not ON them, so they are free to move with the horse without disturbing its motion. The saddle can be placed on the shoulder, since the scapula (shoulder blade) is able to move underneath the saddle without bruising the muscles. This type of saddle places the rider in the optimum position, above the centre of gravity, and therefore makes it easy for the young horse to balance itself. The cantle support is soft, and there is space underneath, so no unnecessary weight is transferred to this sensitive area. Thanks to the total flexibility of our saddle, it can adjust itself to the horse's back even when the horses' shape changes significantly. A horse undergoing training goes through a pronounced transformation, the muscles get bigger, fat disappears, the back develops. A conventional saddle with a rigid tree is very unlikely to fit throughout these changes, while the Barefoot saddle will 'grow' with the horse. Horses are very comfortable under the lightweight Barefoot saddle from the beginning, because it doesn't impede their movements. And again, a pain free horse is a relaxed horse, and a happy horse is much easier to ride! Especially young horses are often confused or offended that you would cause them pain, they are not as resigned to discomfort as most older horses. Keep them pain free, and you will keep their willingness, and that spark, alive!
IS THERE A BREAK-IN PERIOD FOR MY NEW TREELESS BAREFOOT SADDLE?
The saddle is soft, comfy, deep and flexible, and your posterior will feel right at home in it. In fact, it will probably feel like it has died and gone to heaven!.
However, all those layers of foam and fleece will compress over time, and this may take a month or so, depending on how much you ride.
During this time, you need to re-tighten the girth a lot, until everything has compressed and settled a bit. It helps if you have someone tighten your cinch or girth again right after mounting with your weight in the saddle, then do it again after 10 minutes or so after the foam has warmed up, and again before you do any wild galloping. This will gradually get better with every ride, just be careful to always keep the girth snug for the first few weeks. Western riders: The Nevada has a dressage girth, you can usually snug that up right from the saddle, without getting off! Love it!
The natural dyes used for the Nubuck leather may stain for the first little while if they get damp - please wear darker pants for the first few weeks of riding!
If you get a Western model, you may want to purchase stirrup turners. This avoids knee and ankle strain and helps to keep your feet in the stirrups at all times.
I HAVE A GAITED HORSE, IS A TREELESS SADDLE SUITABLE FOR ME?
Absolutely! In fact, it is especially well suited for gaited horses: it allows their backs and shoulders the freedom to move that they may need in order to gait. Also, they are often short-backed, so conventional saddles will hurt them by banging the rear ends of the tree into their loins when they bend. The Barefoot is short and soft, so it prevents that problem. It is also very light, which is helpful for smaller or lightly built breeds. Gaited horses seems to have more than their fair share of back trouble, maybe from being started very young, maybe from the rider sitting too far back. In any case, most horses with back problems will benefit greatly from a Barefoot saddle with an appropriate blanket.
WILL THE BAREFOOT SADDLE REMOVE ALL THE PAIN MY HORSE HAS?
That depends. It will certainly prevent the acute pain typically caused by ill-fitting saddles, saddle sores, pressure points, or a hard tree slamming into the horse's back, shoulders or loins. Most horses will gain immediate relief for their back pain from a Barefoot saddle, but if you suspect there are injuries to its back already, call a vet, or examine and observe your horse: if there is no improvement after a few weeks of regular, back-friendly (lots of 'long and low', no sitting trot) riding in a treeless saddle, you may need the services of a vet, qualified equine chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist or body worker, to address the previous damages. Acupuncture has also been highly successful.
CAN I USE THE HORN FOR ROPING, DRAGGING, OR MOUNTING?
No. It is solid, but contained in a zippered pocket, and the zippers will wear out if you put too much force on the horn. You can use it for stability when riding, or to hang a light horn bag from it, but don't tie any animals to it, and don't haul yourself up in the saddle from the ground on it. If you expect to do some roping, a treeless saddle is not for you!
CAN I USE THE BAREFOOT TREELESS SADDLES FOR SHOWS AND COMPETITION?
Yes: With horn and fenders, and a deep seat between the high poll and cantle, both Western saddle models for fill the requirements, and are legal for Western Pleasure shows, unless it states in the rule book " no treeless saddles", you will need to look over the rule book to see if they allow "treeless saddle" in the comp you are entering. The latigo straps allow you to carry any required gear. There may always be a judge that punishes you for a lack of glitz and bling, but others may appreciate the workman-like simple good looks of the Barefoot. We recommend you check with your group /show tack requirements first.
The London, Lexington & Wellington looks conservative enough to be legal in a Dressage show. And remember, you will see an increase in animation, in reach and float in your gaits, there is more swing and bend to your horse, collection is not impeded by a painful hunk of wood jamming into the lifted back, and even light aids can be felt by the horse - this increase in performance should more than offset any funny looks your saddle will get.
For hunter jumpers, a treeless saddle may be legal, but is not the right choice. There is a lot of force coming down onto those stirrup attachments!
Since there are infinite numbers of regulations and organizations involved in horse shows, which also change continually, so we cannot absolutely guarantee that there isn't some show somewhere that has a rule against treeless saddles. In case of doubt, I recommend just showing your Barefoot saddle to the decision makers, or inviting them for a test ride, rather than ask for a ruling on treeless in general. Not all treeless saddles are created equal! And your Barefoot may even be considered to be a half-tree saddle, since it has a fixed pommel. In the end, you always have to decide what's more important to you, the horse's best interest or another ribbon.
CAN I JUMP IN MY BAREFOOT?
Yes, you can, up to about 3'. We recommend the Physio pad, for stability and improved shock absorption. If you are a regular and ambitious jumper, Barefoot offer the Nottingham, designed for jumping and heavier riders, the Nottingham has 3 layers VPS.
IS THERE A WEIGHT LIMIT?
While most manufacturers use the weight of the rider to evaluate size, we find this method to be somewhat imprecise, as a person who is 5' 11" and weighs 120kg has a completely different impact on the saddle than a person who weighs the same but is 5' 2" tall. To clarify this situation, we recommend saddles sizes according to clothing sizes.
Barefoot saddles come in 3 different sizes: 0, 1 & 2.
Size 0: Youth and petite adults up to size 8.
Size 1: Ladies sizes up to size 10/12 (tall 12); Men sizes up to size 32
Size 2: Ladies sizes up to size 16( Tall 16); Men sizes up to size 42
Different models have different seat sizes.
The Nevada Saddle:
This model is offered in one size. Ladies sizes 10 - 16 Tall and Men up to size 42.
If you are bordering sizes, we suggest that you lean toward a larger size saddle. It's important that the rider is placed correctly in the saddle in order to feel comfortable for both the rider and the horse. Ideally, the Barefoot saddles places the rider over the center of the gravity of the horse. Since there is no rigid tree to restrict movement, the overall length of the saddle is not as important.
If you are a heavier rider, we recommend the Physio pad. In case of doubt, it can be further 'beefed up' by adding extra rubber foam inserts, especially if you spend a lot of time standing in your stirrups.
I'M NOT SURE WHICH SIZE SADDLE TO ORDER.
If you're in doubt, go with Size Two. Sizing isn't nearly as critical as with treed, hard saddles, where a too big or ill-fitting seat will mercilessly bruise, chafe or overstretch your tender parts. The Barefoot's soft, flexible seat will be as comfortable as a pillow for any shape or size of seat, in the bigger size you will just have two inches more wriggle room. Also consider if other people will ever use your saddle, if you share it a lot you may want to stick to the bigger size. If your horse is very short-backed, you will need to contact us to discuss the correct saddle for your short backed companion. The fit of the seat really isn't an issue with the Barefoot, it will mould exactly to your individual shape over time, as foam and felt compresses. Only the most delicate of bottoms will ever need a sheepskin seat cover for the Barefoot!
WHAT ABOUT SADDLES WITH FLEXIBLE TREES?
If they were really flexible, a good idea. But its buyer beware, most of those trees can be bent only by throwing all the strength and weight of a grown man at them, or they bend just from front to back, not sideways. This means of course if you can't wiggle and flex it with your hands, such a tree will not follow the shifting of the horse's back. That flex is just to keep the tree from busting, it won't help the horse one bit. And then there is the saddle: is the leather too stiff to allow any flex? Is the seat soft? Is the seat swell shaped right? Is the stirrup attachment too far forward? Make sure that the flex tree is not just a marketing gimmick!
SHOULDN'T THE WEIGHT BE SPREAD OUT OVER A BIG AREA?
Yes, but this area is limited by anatomy. The spine of a horse can carry weight best between the withers and the 15th thoracic verte-brae . It is there, that the horse can balance a saddle and riders weight best. So the region of the spine that can safely carry weight is just that spot where you sit if you ride bareback, right behind the withers - and that is the spot where the rider should sit in the Barefoot saddle if you have saddled correctly. A big long saddle spreads weight to where you really don't want any!
WHAT ABOUT GETTING THE SADDLE BACK AND OFF THE SHOULDERS?
Forget it. With a Barefoot you don't need to worry about pinching the shoulders - everything is soft and flexible and will just follow their movements. It can be valuable with a rigid saddle to free up the shoulders, and works well if the saddle is designed for it like the Balance Saddle system, but it can backfire badly if you end up sitting too far back. Plus many saddles don't have the right shape to rest further back, because they were never meant to, and they end up rocking or slipping or pinching withers etc, or you have to shim.
WHICH PAD AND ACCESSORIES DO I REALLY NEED?
Most important is your saddle blanket or pad. It is an integral part of any Barefoot saddle system and plays a big role in its performance. The right saddle pad can make ALL the difference!
With all treeless saddles, you should use a shock absorbing pad with foam or felt inserts! All treeless saddles NEED a treeless saddle pad!. Each Barefoot saddle has its own designed saddle pad, either Special or Physio pads.
WHAT KIND AND SIZE OF GIRTH OR CINCH DO I NEED?
The Arizona needs a Western cinch, usually 65 to 85 cm. All other models need a short dressage girth, usually around 45cm to 75cm. These are the regular English flat girths with two 2.5cm wide buckles, just shorter than some, because the saddle comes further down.
To figure out which size you will need, measure with a measuring tape from a hand width above the horse's elbow on one side, down under the belly, to a hand width above the elbow on the other side. Girth lengths are always given from the end of one buckle to the end of the other. This measuring method ensures that buckles lie far enough above the elbows.
For the Western cinch, measure with a tape, from two hand widths above the horse's elbow on one side, down under the belly, to two hand widths above the elbow on the other side. This measuring method ensures that buckles lie far enough above the points of the elbows.
You don't need a specific girth for a treeless saddle, but since treeless saddles should be done up snug, elastics are especially important. Your girth should have at least one, better two, elastic inserts, to allow for proper breathing, yet secure girthing up. Two elastics, or self-centering girths are best, because they will not pull the saddle one-sided. Should you prefer a Western cinch for your saddle, or a dressage girth for the Arizona, there are girth converters available. If you have a problem with chafing behind the elbow, you may want to try neoprene or gel-filled girths. Sheep skin girth covers are excellent, too, since they allow the girth to slide back and forth without pulling at the rib muscles. I recommend using an Anatomical girth.
DO I NEED YOUR SAFETY STIRRUPS?
Not necessarily. They are your safest choice, but it won't make any difference to your horse or the saddle's performance if you use regular stirrups, or other safety stirrups from your local tack store. Be aware that many conventional English saddles have a hinge on the stirrup attachment affixed to the tree that allows the stirrup to come loose when a rider is dragged (theoretically). This doesn't work on treeless saddles, that's why we recommend some sort of safety device on your stirrup instead, or now you can purchase OPEN STIRRUP ATTACHMENTS. For Western riders, tapaderos are a safety option, since they prevent the foot from slipping though the stirrup. Still, boots with heels should always be worn for riding.
DO I NEED YOUR STIRRUP LEATHERS?
Not necessarily. If you have old dressage stirrup leathers that buckle at the lower end. You can also pull your regular old stirrup leathers around, so the buckle is at the bottom, then tuck the loose end into a sleeve. Sleeves are available in Neoprene or leather at good tack stores, or you can make your own with Velcro. Do Not use your old stirrup leathers with the buckles right under the saddle flap. They may press through the softer treeless saddle and cause a pressure point there. Once you get rid of that nasty bump under your leg, by having the buckles below, you'll ask yourself why you didn't do that a long time ago! No more chafing or bruising, and your leg will lay smooth and long on the horse.
HOW DO I CARE FOR MY NEW TREELESS SADDLE?
Barefoot have developed their own shampoo and leather creme for their leather products, you will find these items under accessories in the online shop. We don't recommend using saddle soap or leather wax as this will make the leather hard and brittle.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR MY SADDLE TO ARRIVE?
Once the items have been ordered with Germany, this part normally takes around 7 days for them to receive order, pack shipment, email us paperwork, gather paperwork for customs, book shipment in for pickup. Then the shipping company picks up the shipment and books it in for the next shipment out, sometimes this can take 3 + days before it is booked for Destination Country, Australia.
Once shipments arrives in Australia, normally shipments are delivered to us within a few days of landing. But, if they are held for CUSTOMS and BIO SECURITY checks this can take many weeks for shipments to clear!
Once we receive the shipment I sort, pack and post out, this can take a day or so.
Normally time frame is 3 to 5 weeks.
Who do you use for shipping?
We use Australia post, once your package leaves our hands, we take no responsibility, It is up to the customer to request postal insurance. If items are damaged or lost after they have left our hands, you will need to contact Australia post with the tracking number you received for your package. We are not able to call Australia post on your behalf.
Tracking number is lodged with Pay Pal, Pay Pal email you with tracking information. Once Item is posted out to you, we take no responsibility after that. Customers have an option to add insurance, which is an extra cost to you. This way if an item is lost or damaged by Australia post, you are covered.
Will my saddle squeak?
You are purchasing a leather treeless saddle, all leather when new is stiff it will make some squeaking noise till the saddle starts to settle, this is normal so don't be alarmed! If your leather saddle continues to squeak, which is highly possible, you need to use the barefoot leather creme.
Drytex saddles - is the same as the leather saddles, you can minimise the squeak with dusting your Drytex saddle with baby powder, using endurance fender. Please remember the saddle is not FAULTY because it squeaks! It is a treeless saddle which molds to horse and rider. If you are a busy rider in the saddle, the saddle will continue to squeak.
Drytex saddles - are they durable?.
Drytex material is a synthetic material, if you are after a harder wearing material than go with the leather. The Drytex saddles molds quicker than leather, the Drytex saddles is one of Barefoot's most popular saddle, due to price and lightness.
Care and Maintenance of Leather products.