Tree vs. Treeless Saddles and Rider Pressure: Objective Study Performed at Michigan State University


Comparison of pressure distribution under a conventional saddle and a treeless saddle at sitting trot
B. Belock, L.J. Kaiser, M. Lavagnino, H.M. Clayton

a b s t r a c t
It can be a challenge to find a conventional saddle that is a good fit for both horse and rider. An increasing number of riders are purchasing treeless saddles because they are thought to fit a wider range of equine back shapes, but there is only limited research to support this theory. The objective of this study was to compare the total force and pressure distribution patterns on the horse’s back with conventional and treeless saddles. The experimental hypotheses were that the conventional saddle would distribute the force over a larger area with lower mean and maximal pressures than the treeless saddle. Eight horses were ridden by a single rider at sitting trot with conventional and treeless saddles. An electronic pressure mat measured total force, area of saddle contact, maximal pressure and area with mean pressure >11 kPa for 10 strides with each saddle. Univariate ANOVA (P < 0.05) was used to detect differences between saddles.
Compared with the treeless saddle, the conventional saddle distributed the rider’s bodyweight over a larger area, had lower mean and maximal pressures and fewer sensors recording mean pressure >11 kPa.  These findings suggested that the saddle tree was effective in distributing the weight of the saddle and rider over a larger area and in avoiding localized areas of force concentration.
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Please note that the above is unedited by Ellen.  This is the scientific study abstract commissioned by, and published in, a British veterinary journal.  This study was performed at the McPhail Equine Performance Center at Michigan State University in 2011.