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A flexible tree saddle has a hard skeletal structure shaped out of material that flexes to accommodate the movement of horse and rider. The tree bar fits near the horse's shoulders and around its back, but shouldn't touch its spine. The innovative design of a flexible tree saddle allows the horse greater freedom, puts less force on pressure points, and adapts to fit during riding at a gait or a walk.
The tree of a saddle includes two branches that loop over the front and back of the saddle like boomerangs. The front bar of the tree is the pommel and the rear bar is the cantle. They must hold the saddle at the right curve to distribute the rider's weight evenly on the horse, as well as bend slightly with the horse's shoulders, back, and withers whenever it takes a step. Even with a flexible tree, the most important component of any saddle is a perfect fit, accounting for size, slope, and snugness.
Riders, trainers, and constructors of equipment developed the flexible tree saddle after becoming dissatisfied with traditional saddles. They kept encountering poor performance saddles that caused sore muscles, swelling, blistering, or a "deadened" communication between horse and rider. They wished for a lighter saddle with greater give that didn't need as much padding.
Other saddles use fiberglass or metal in traditional, rigid bars. They do a good job of keeping the form of the saddle seat, but restrict a horse's flexibility. An ergonomic flexible tree saddle's bars are made of stiffened rubber, molded steel, or sculpted wood, alone or in combination to create an elastic yet sturdy base. They might be lightly padded with spongy foam, rubber, or neoprene.
Whether riding along the beach, competing in dressage, penning animals, or teaching a student, a flexible tree saddle will make the experience more comfortable and fun for your horse. The lighter weight of the entire saddle and the closer fit of the tree means you don't need to add as many canvas, foam, or gel cushions. You are ultimately in closer physical communication with your horse.