I am on Facebook quite a bit. More than I would care to be, to be honest! In several of the driving groups I am on, this question has been asked over and over:
Should I get a treed or treeless saddle for my driving harness?
For the most part people answer with a TREED saddle. That is the only kind of saddle that will ever work. It’s the only saddle that will offer spine clearance and on and on.
Again, this leads me to my old adage of, there isn’t really a right and wrong answer for this question. Yes, spine clearance is very important however if your vehicle is well balanced then there should be very little pressure on the harness saddle, or the horse or pony’s spine.
And if you have a very wide pony or horse, one that has large shoulders or no withers, a treed saddle can cause more problems that it can help. This also goes for extremely narrow minis and ponies. Sometimes the trees aren’t small enough for those very tiny ones and you will still get some spine pressure.
This leads me to saddle pads. I am often reading comments about how if you have a well built harness it does not need padding. I think this is true when you are talking about the breast collar and breeching. If your breast collar and breeching are well padded and lined then adding padding is totally over kill and in some cases can make your breast collar not sit correctly. BUT I do not agree with this when it comes to saddles. I believe that we should offer our horse or pony all the comfort we can when it comes to the saddle area and a nice wide pad under the saddle certainly never hurt any horse.
Let’s look at some sweat patterns! I drive in the mountains, on varied and difficult terrain. On the drive that led to this sweat pattern, we were doing a lot of quite steep climbing, then steep descending-since what goes up must come down! We crossed water several times and doubled back on our trail a few times. It was a hot day on top of it all. I drive Zorro in the Trail Harness with the treeless saddle option, and he is put to a Hyperbike. This was his sweat pattern:
As you can see he had perfect spine clearance. This is with the ComfyFit Treeless saddle and a pad. This is what it looks like from the cart!
It looks like the saddle tree is a little too wide for her. Something that we don’t often see! So a back pad that has a spine channel would really help her out. (I’m looking into that with our harness makers!) Here is a photo of her set up. This is not from this particular drive but from one of our past camping trip/trail drives:
Whether or not your horse or pony needs a treed or treeless saddle, be sure you choose a high quality one! Especially if you are doing difficult technical drives. Not all treeless saddles will press on the spine, as shown above and not all treed saddles will offer spinal clearance! Things are so often not totally black and white when you are dealing with horses. I know this is frustrating but it does mean that we will have many chances to try new things!