Treeless saddles information and FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Structure and Technology

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Why not use a tree?

A: The rigid tree in early saddles was intended to hold the soldier and his gear and weapons in place during battle. Since the introduction of the tree, we have spent several hundred years trying to make a rigid wooden frame comfortable for the rider and tolerable for the horse. For all the efforts made, it hasn't worked.

Ansur® Saddlery has replaced the fixed wooden, metal, and sometimes plastic rigid frame with a permanent internal, totally flexible foundation that is able to flex and bend with your horse. Our treeless saddles with their patented FlexCore foundation and trauma absorption systems provide the horse with pain-free comfort and the ability to move his body with unrestricted freedom. For a full understanding of our technology and the benefits of Ansur treeless saddles, see Treed Saddles, Treeless Saddles, and Ansur and The Ansur Difference: Our FlexCore.

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Doesn't custom fitting make the tree right for my horse?

A: “Custom Fitted” involves adjusting the tree and pads inside the saddle to a horse that is standing still on level ground, The second he moves, his topline is bending, so the tree, being rigid, can no longer fit. Saddle trees are rigid; the equine back is flexing. Put quite simply: Rigid objects cannot “fit” a bending, moving animal.

There are three main concerns with saddles having a rigid tree inside them.

  • Normally the horse is standing square and still when he is measured and fitted. As soon as he moves, his body changes shape because the horse bends as he moves and his muscles expand and contract. As soon as the expansion and contraction take place, the treed saddle no longer fits. The horse's movement causes the treed saddle to be off center and unbalanced. As this happens, the horse begins to restrict his movement.
  • A tree is a stationary, rigid object. As your horse bends and moves, the rigid tree cannot bend with him. This can cause intense pressure points and pain as the steelclad fork, rigid pommel, cantle and bars interfere with his natural way of moving.
  • Being a rigid object, the rear of the tree (cantle) will shift back and forth across the horse’s spine as he bends, walks, trots and canters. All of this interference with the horses’ natural movements is eliminated with the Ansur saddle. Because of the all‐directional flexibility and trauma absorption system of our saddles, there are no pressure points bearing down on the horse’s back and shoulders.

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Won't a tree provide better rider weight distribution?

A: The short answer is: “No.” By eliminating the rigid saddle tree and replacing it with our patented FlexCore structure and trauma absorption system, Ansur saddles allow the weight of the rider to be distributed over the entire surface of the saddle. Rigid saddle trees do not evenly distribute weight. It is physically impossible to do this if you fasten a rigid structure to the back of a living, breathing, moving horse. Add the vertical element of the rider on top of the rigid structure and you compound the saddle fit problem.

Much like a playground see-saw, as the rider rises in the trot, the rigid object will rock over the horse’s back and suddenly dump the weight onto the front of the tree pressing the points of the fork into the muscles around the horse’s shoulders. Conversely, as the rider moves to the sitting phase the weight rocks to the back of the saddle. Many horses learn to hold their backs immobile to reduce this painful action on their backs. We commonly refer to this behavior by saying the horse is "bracing" his back.

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Why don't all Ansur saddles have a gullet? What about spine protection?

A: With Ansur treelesssaddles, a gullet is not necessary. A rider's seat bones fall on either side of the spineous processes and our patented trauma absorption system inside the treeless saddles takes care of any localized pressure from the seat bones so it is absorbed by the layering system and never relayed to the horse.

However, since riders often feel more comfortable with the idea of a gullet, we designed most of our treeless saddle models with one. These models do three things: they relieve the riders of concerns about the necessity of a gullet (spinal clearance); they look like a “traditional” saddle, and the gullet provides lateral stability to the rider. This allows the rider to have the best of the best: a saddle that does not hurt the horses but one that looks just like a traditional saddle. The underside of the Ansur Classic treeless saddle has no gullet. It molds around your horse’s shape, and moves with him. For the horses, it simply fits comfortably like a cushy saddle pad. The Ansur Carlton includes a gullet “pillow” which can be inserted into the gullet making a continuous underside like the Ansur Classic models. Or the pillow can be removed to leave an open gullet channel. All of our other models have a gullet built in.

The width of the gullet on a traditional treed saddle is important because it must clear the spine of the horse as the saddle shifts from side to side. Remember, the treed saddle cannot bend and flex with the horse so as the animal turns a corner, the saddle swings outward. This swing brings the bars of the saddle, with the padding on top of them, into direct contact with the horse’s spinal processes.

In Ansur treeless saddles, the width of the gullet is less important because the treeless saddle does not swing side to side or tip & rock. In addition, the trauma absorption system is so effective that any trauma is absorbed and not relayed to the horse. The only thing the horse feels is the gravitational weight of the rider and unless we don’t want to ride the animal, there is no way to relieve him/her of that. But, Ansur treeless saddles, because of their patented inner structure, relieve the horse of discomfort or pain caused by the rider’s weight being pressed down onto the rigid tree.

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What is the Ansur trauma system?

A: Absorbing trauma is a relatively new concept to saddle-making. We have pioneered a major breakthrough in eliminating concussive trauma to both horse and rider. With the use of cross-layered space-age materials, we have eliminated the need for stuffing, re-flocking, and rebuilding required by traditional old-fashioned saddles. The Ansur trauma system surrounds the FlexCore foundation, providing trauma protection for both horse and rider.

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Does a trauma system help the rider?

A: Yes. These same trauma layers protect the rider’s back as well. The rider is not “concussing” or bouncing against a rigid tree. The entire treeless saddle flexes with the movement of the horse and the rider doesn’t have the discomfort of sitting on and bouncing against a rigid wood, metal or fiberglass structure. There are many riders with serious back issues who are able to enjoy riding again with Ansur treeless saddles because of our innovative trauma system and FlexCore structure.

Riding in an Ansur Treeless Saddle

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Why did my horse almost immediately go better in an Ansur?

A: Ansur distributors report this response at every demo. It is rare not to see a horse immediately and noticeably move with more freedom under an Ansur treeless saddle. Very simply, the treeless saddle does not constrict his movement in any way. It flexes with him and he is free to move as nature intended.

Long-term, most riders note a definite change to their horse’s behavior and way of going after switching to an Ansur treeless saddle. He will relax, stretch his neck, lick his lips, lengthen his stride, and soften his expression. Issues such as being cranky when being saddled will diminish if not disappear over time. His willingness to move more slowly, swinging through his back will be greatly enhanced. The “rushing” syndrome that so many of us have had to deal with in times gone by, will significantly lessen or disappear.

With an Ansur treeless saddle, the rigid frame that has previously been between the horse and rider is now gone. There is nothing between the two bodies except a flexible saddle. Therefore, each feels the other without any interference. Soon riding as “one” becomes the norm... it is just about impossible to be any other way in an Ansur saddle.

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I've seen my horse go better in new treed saddles, too, then revert to old behavior. Why will the Ansur experience be any different?

A: Each treed saddle manufacturer uses a specific tree design. Therefore each new saddle probably has a different shaped tree. This means the bruising and discomfort from the points of the tree may be in a slightly different location on the horse’s back. The animal may be more comfortable for a while until the new tree shape causes the inevitable pain. With the Ansur treeless saddles, riders experience ongoing improved behavior from their previously resistant horse. The animal's fear of being saddled is gone and remains gone, leaving a happy disposition in its place.

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Will Ansur treeless saddles fit any horse?

A: Yes, the Ansur treeless saddle is designed to be used on all your horses with only a plain saddle pad (to absorb the sweat) and a standard girth or cinch. If you choose a girth with elastic in it, please be sure the elastic is either in the center or only on one side. We do not recommend using a girth with elastic on both ends. Also, please DO NOT over tighten your girth or cinch. This is not only uncomfortable for the horse, but can restrict some of the treeless saddle’s flexibility that is so vital for the long term health of the animal.

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What if my horse has conformation issues or atrophy along the spine or behind the withers?

A: Horses with muscle atrophy from treed saddles will re-develop their muscles when ridden consistently in an Ansur treeless saddle. If your horse has a more extreme conformation such as significant sway back or very high croup you may want to use a supplemental pad to level the saddle for you.

If the animal has a really high wither with large concave areas on either side, you may choose to fill in that area in with a pair of small shoulder shims. Over time as the horse is ridden in his/her Ansur, these concave areas will fill in to the point where the shims may no longer be needed.

To see if a supplemental pad is needed, we recommend you put your new Ansur on your horse and ride it. If you are sitting level and there is at least 1cm of gullet clearance, there is no reason to add additional pads. On the other hand, if you want to lift the front of the saddle a little bit to give more clearance or compensate for a high croup, you can always add a pair of shoulder shims.

But please remember: with Ansur treeless saddles, "Less is Best" when it comes to pads AND you must be sitting in the saddle in order to evaluate whether extra pads are needed.

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Can I compete in an Ansur treeless saddle?

A: The Ansur saddle is the first treeless saddle to be designed specifically to meet the requirements for competition, daily training or a comfortable ride on the trails. The first one was, after all, made for Carole’s horse, Bronze, so that they could show at the FEI level. Ansur treeless saddles are allowed for use in all disciplines under National and International USEF and FEI rules.

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Can I mount a treeless saddle from the ground?

A: For most riders, probably not. Some more athletic riders can mount our saddles from the ground, but it takes a bit of effort, even for them. Since Ansur treeless saddles have no rigid frame to dig into the horse's back, the saddle will slip toward the rider while mounting from the ground. The average rider will need some sort of mounting block or find higher ground to mount our saddles.

When mounting a treed saddle from the ground, all our weight is in the mounting stirrup and the saddle digs into the horse's near side.Once in the saddle, riders then have to stand in the right stirup to bring the saddle back to a position that is more nearly centered. During this process, the points and bars of the tree are pushed into the animal's muscles and ligaments on the near side, then on the right side. Not a pleasant experience for the horse, who often tries to walk off before the entire process is through.

Ansur owners have found it is worth a tiny bit of inconvenience to simply mount their horse using a mounting block, or a log, a rock, a friend’s leg up, or the trailer fender.

Purchasing an Ansur Treeless Saddle

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What size treeless saddle do I need?

A: The top side of an Ansur saddle is sized for the rider at the time of purchase. Being internally flexible, the bottom side will always contour to the horse. This means you can use your treeless saddle on any horse you ride. Seat size is normally calculated from rider height and weight as well as factoring in personal preference. Ansur saddles can be fully sculptured to fit your comfort, needs, imagination and desires since each treeless saddle is hand-made at the time of purchase.

Check out our Sizing Chart to get view the details for each size. This chart is also accessible while you're customizing your saddle through our shopping cart.

If you are still unsure about which size you need, feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns or contact an Ansur distributor to help you determine the proper size and give you a test ride in an Ansur treeless saddle.

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How can an Ansur distributor help me?

A: All of our distributors own and ride in their Ansur treeless saddles. If there is an Ansur distributor near you, it ensures that you will have a person with actual experience riding the saddle to answer your questions. This person can help you choose your correct size as well as evaluate your horse’s conformation. Should your horse have a back conformation that is not level, your distributor will explain the use of any supplemental pads to achieve optimum balance and comfort for both horse and rider. You will be able see, examine and test ride an Ansur treeless saddle so that you and your horse can make an informed decision together.

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Do Ansur distributors have in-stock saddles I can buy?

A: No. All of our treeless saddles are custom made when ordered so as to fit the individual rider's size and preferences. Distributors have their own treeless saddle that they use with their own horses and they make these available for demo rides for customers who are considering an Ansur purchase. Distributors bring knowledge of the saddles along with years of experience in helping other riders find the Ansur that works best for them, but they will not have saddles directly for sale.

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Can you make a custom treeless saddle for me?

A: Yes. We make custom treeless saddles with just about any feature a rider may want; beautiful hand carving, silver, clips & strings, adjusted padding and specialty leather to name a few.

If you have a treed saddle that has a seat or design you like, we can usually replicate it using Ansur FlexCore technology. Your new saddle will be fully flexible and totally comfortable for both horse and rider, but will look very much like its treed cousin.

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How long does it take to get a new Ansur?

A: Depending upon the complexity of the order, most of the saddles are ready to ship in 8 - 10 weeks. All Ansur treeless saddles are made entirely in the United States, by our in-house saddle makers at our Washington facility. Be sure to check with us or your distributor at the time of your order for an up-to-date time estimate.

Ansur saddles built on FlexCore: the comfort of a treeless saddle with all the rider support of a tree