Question: “I really like the contact and feel of riding bareback, and I think it helps me stay in rhythm with my horse. However, my balance isn’t quite there above the walk so it can be difficult to relax. Are treeless saddles a good alternative to bareback riding?”

Dr. Harman: “If you’re not comfortable enough to relax while riding bareback, but still want to experience the dynamic feel of riding sans saddle, consider trying a treeless saddle. Unlike a regular saddle, a treeless saddle is flexible enough to move with the horse so, theoretically, there should be no pressure points. I have seen, however, some treeless saddles that create pressure points, so finding one that fits your horse correctly is just as important as with conventional saddles.

If you have thick thighs and your horse is wide, you will have the same balance issues in a treeless saddle that you would have riding bareback. With your feet in the stirrups and your pelvis rotated backward, you could be very easily left behind the motion should your horse suddenly take off. This problem has been improved in some newer treeless saddle designs, which have firm, foam seats that lift you up above the horse’s back. This allows your legs to hang at a more comfortable angle so that you can maintain a balanced position in the saddle.

For more information about saddles and saddle fitting, take a look at my book, The Horse’s Pain-Free Back and Saddle Fit.

Thanks for your question!”