Questions and Answers
Our intent is to provide you with various topics that affect how or why you buy a particular saddle. In this way we think that you as owner or rider can evaluate your needs better and select your new saddle more effectively thus improving your riding comfort and experiences.
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There has been some discussion whether Bob's Sports Saddles should be called "treeless". For instance, one reference we know of is to the pommel and cantle being described as trees and accusing Bob's saddles as not "truly" treeless. Here is a quote from that page: "The Bob Marshall saddles are not truly treeless -- they have a wooden pommel and cantle tree, but no bars, which takes weight off the pommel and cantle trees. You sit between the trees."
Bob Marshall has been a designer/producer of saddles for approximately 30 years. He is sought for his products and his knowledge of saddle design and production. He is highly respected for his work. Bob refers to the pommel and cantle as tree parts, which appears to be the correct reference (see the illustration of a typical saddle tree below) . But, the gretchenfathauer quote, it appears, has inadvertently changed the words and meaning of Bob's description. And, that simple embellishment has caused something of a stir over the issue of what is a treeless saddle.
The illustration shows a typical saddletree (or "tree") and the relative positions where the pommel and cantle parts fit in relation to the rest of the tree. In the saddle industry, a typical saddletree is ridged and consists of bars, pommel, cantle and horn all assembled together into one complete ridged (possibly semi-ridged) framework. Different materials, such as metal, wood, plastic, fiberglass or other can be found in the construction of the tree parts.
Through the years, the saddletree got it's name because it is very much like a tree. A tree is strong, is kind of heavy, is made of wood, it has parts connected together firmly, it holds a lot of stuff, it's pretty darn rugged and it works real hard. Many people these days are interested in using a saddle for it's comfort instead of it's brawn. Comfort and equine health has become a principle goal. And what Bob actually did to meet this need was to construct the first Sports Saddle by physically cutting out the bars. Removing the bars disconnected the pommel part from the cantle part resulting in a softer seat, flexible action and no framework to poke or pressure the horse. After that, Bob fashioned various pommels and cantles into the shapes needed to construct the different models of Sports Saddles.
If you could see Bob's Sports Saddles during construction without the pommel and cantle attached, you would still recognize it as and call it a saddle. You could even ride in it without the pommel and cantle since the stirrup and cinch rigging are already in place. In fact the saddle is built before the pommel and cantle (i.e. the saddle seat) go on. Since Bob's Sports Saddle has no framework the saddle can't be ridged and some Sports Saddles have no horn.
Often, a typical tree integrates the seat and the framework for strength. However, the saddle seat is definitely not the tree. The construction of the Sports Saddle is different from the construction of a typical treed saddle, even though pommel and cantle parts are used. When you stop to think about it, what else would you use to form a saddle seat? ( "Hey Darrel -- grab me that ol' tractor seat over thar, will yah?")
For example, let's say you have a tractor and you take off the wheels and the seat, and lay them on the ground on the right side. On the left side lays the tractor without the wheels and seat. Neither the seat nor the wheels is the tractor and even the combination of the two couldn't do what a tractor is made to do. Even the simplest tractor mechanic knows that much. The tractor is still there layin' on the ground -- its' seat and wheels removed, and not very functional. However, the tractor is still not the seat and neither is the seat the tractor. So, how could a pommel or cantle possibly be a "tree"?
So, what is a saddletree? Is the pommel or cantle the tree? Is the pommel + cantle the tree? Are the bars the tree? Is the pommel + cantle + horn + bars the tree? What if the parts are not connected together, does that make the tree, or not? What if you had a bareback pad and attached a pommel and cantle - would that be a saddletree? Silly questions? ... Maybe, maybe not. It's important to know how to define "tree" meaning "saddletree" so that people won't be confused.
One thing we know for sure, the saddle industry has come to accept that a typical saddletree consists of most or all of the tree parts and that those parts are assembled by connecting them together firmly, forming a ridged (or possibly semi-ridged) framework. After the saddle leathers and accessories are attached it's called a saddle. The "framework" is the key ingredient whether you have a tree (i.e. saddletree) or not. And there you have it.
So, in the end, are Bob's Sports Saddles "treeless"? It's probably a safe bet to say they are treeless, but keep an eye out for the saddletree police just in case.
On the bottom a poly-wool fleece cover is stitched below the neoprene. The rider sits softly and in closer contact to the horse, which places the center of gravity lower.
The rider sits on a hard saddle tree one to two inches off the horse's back, raising the rider's center of gravity.
Some people say that the (non-traditional) Sports Saddle is like a bareback pad in some respects. It functions much like a traditional saddle while eliminating un-welcomed pressure points, typical with a solid-tree saddle. The bars (trees) are often responsible for producing pressure points at the shoulders or loins due to saddle bridging. The pressure points negatively affect both equine performance and rider satisfaction.
People often seek out the Sports Saddle because they enjoy the benefits of riding bareback, such as the ability to feel the horse under them and the ability to better communicate with the horse. But the rider will be sitting on a much softer seat.
Many riders have said that with the Sports Saddle they can feel the horse prepare to spoke or move out quickly before he actually does it. Riders are usually surprised that they can feel the horse breathe under them. The treeless saddle molds to the contours of the horses back and ribs in much the same way as a bareback pad, but the construction and padding on the Sports Saddle is significantly more functional and substantial.
The Sports Saddle is made of two durable layers of closed cell neoprene and the rest of the saddle is built upon and into this foundation. This foundation is extremely soft to ride in, and especially so if ridden with the Skito Equalizer pad, which consists of two pads made of a breathable open cell foam with a thick poly/wool fleece underside. This combination is unmatched in its level of comfort.
So, it's not necessary for the rider to sit on a hard, solid tree foundation. The Sports Saddle functions like a traditionally treed saddle while serving the rider with comfort and solves many a horses back problems due to the bridging affect from treed saddles.
The Sports Saddle also provides the functions of the traditional saddle. Each Sports Saddle model has a solid pommel and a cantle, which are not connected by a bar, as in treed saddles. The rider is sitting on padding instead of a solid tree. The stirrup rigging is bonded into the foundation providing the balance for the rider without the saddle slipping unlike the bareback pad.
A secure western girthing system like the traditional saddle is used on the Sports Saddle. Most of the Sports Saddle models include front and rear D rings and a crupper for utility on the trails. The Sports Saddles are very secure and can handle saddlebags, cantle bags, water bottles etc…
People use the Sports Saddle in many riding disciplines such as barrel racing, endurance and competitive riding, pleasure and trail riding. The Sports Saddle is also used to start young horses, which was Bob Marshall’s original intent with the Sports Saddle.
The Bob Marshall Sports Saddle is becoming increasingly popular with riders. One customer from Florida called to order a Barrel racing saddle at her trainer’s recommendation. She said that approximately 50% of all the riders where using the Bob Marshall Sports Saddle for barrel racing and that the horses seem to be able to move and bend better around the barrels and are making better time in the ring.
Trail riders are finding that their horses are more comfortable and so are the riders. For people who keep an open mind the (non-traditional) Sports Saddle could be the kind of saddle they've been looking for all along.
About 20 years ago, Sports Saddles President, Bob Marshall, invented the saddle about with the goal of making the most balanced, most comfortable and most advanced saddle at an affordable price. Marshall is a skilled trainer and saddle maker for over three decades. Marshall began his concept by carefully removing the bars between pommel and cantle. The concept has been refined substantially to where it is today.
This bar-less approach completely eliminated the bridging problem. With no wood between the riders body and the horse, the communication with the horse rises dramatically. Marshall began training his young horses using his new saddle and quickly discovered that because the pommel was not rigidly set as in regular treed saddles the pommel was free to conform to the width of the shoulders and different wither heights. Bob quickly learned that his young horses moved more easily and caught on to the leg cues more quickly.
A variety of models have since been developed. Now people use the SS for for schooling, training, trail, barrel racing, show, competitive and endurance riding, reining, other specialties and just about anything in between.
Christi Hudspeth addresses this question so well. Christi, (512) 261-9244 of the Austin, TX area, trainer and highly successful competitive trail rider with the NATRC on her Appaloosa Summer, makes these observations. "In the last 2 years that I have had my saddle, the NATRC region 4 participants have been changing to the Sports Saddle. Many have a variety of flex-tree type saddles and treed saddles, but if their horse gains or loses weight, they come down with sore backs. I spend a great deal of time observing the Vet judges when they press real hard on the horses backs."
Christi said "I noticed that people riding in English saddles usually have wither and loin soreness. The western saddle horses usually have the loin soreness, and with the Sports Saddles, there is no soreness. I go to about 11 rides a year. Summer and I won high point combination in the competitive pleasure division. Again, no sore back or girth swelling of any kind. Must be that magic saddle! Summer made Reserve Champion in the nation with NATRC. He also received the High Point Appaloosa. Thanks to your Sportssaddle, Summer didn't lose any points for having a sore back !!!!! Christi has logged over 850 miles using her Sports Saddle and Skito Equalizer pad with Summer.
Christi went on to say, "We had a competitive trailride at the Davy Crocket National Park in Texas in Early April. There were at least 4 ladies that had to pull their horses for a sore back. They were really bummed out. When they saw the Vet push on Summer's back and he didn't flinch, they asked me about the kind of saddle I use. I invited them to my camp and they all tried my saddle out. Needless to say when they put their behind in that saddle they were sold!
On the original SS there is a 2 inch silver oval emblem on the mounting side or left side of the saddle, on the front skirting area which will say "Genuine Sports Saddle", "U.S. patent #5018340". This silver emblem is most always on the mounting or left side of the front skirting of the saddle. The Circle Y Bob Marshal (CYBM) does not have this emblem but will say something like CY Bob Marshall Sport Saddle.
Customers tell us that the comfort is extraordinary for horse and rider. And we agree, wholeheartedly. A visit to Customer Comments will help.
Customers have many, many choices involved in their selection of options with the original Bob Marshall treeless Sports Saddles, which is also extraordinary.
The price is reasonable, starting at $795 up to $1700, with a typical cost of $1100. Endurance, Trail and Barrel saddles are sold most often in that order.
Customers can choose from many different models, all of which can be customized in some way. For instance:
9 models of saddles
Seat sizes in 1/2 inch increments from 12" to 20"
3 sizes of skirts - short, medium and long
Pommel end of the skirt can be peaked for high withers
3 types of pommels - low, medium and tall
7 types of horns
2 styles of horn finishes braided and leather covered
No horn can be selected
3 types of cantles - short, medium and tall
Stirrups can be set back or forward
Silver-laced or plain Cheyenne rolls
Extra dee rings, conchos and carriers can be added
3 kinds of tooling or smooth leather finishes
Endurance, russet or suede leathers
Light, medium or dark leather oil stains
All black, all chocolate or mixed black or choco with an oil stain
Here is a link to a page that contains saddle options and their prices: options.
Each saddle is individually made to order. For the most part, the customization and the individual attention to each saddle is what accounts for the saddles taking 6 to 8 weeks to build. And during the major holidays it takes longer - 8 to 10 weeks. Patience becomes increasingly important around the 7th week after an order is placed.
The Skito saddle pad adsorbs over 90% of impact energy from all directions, providing more comfort, and, less fatigue for both horse and rider.
Equalizer foam breathes, and passes water and water vapor, releasing irritating moisture and heat on the horse's back.
Can be made to fit not only the Sports Saddles but any conceivable saddle model; for example, English, Aussie, SR Enduro, Barrel, Square, or, Round skirt Western saddles, etcetera.
DIXIE MIDNIGHT NO-SWEAT VENT PADS
The CYBM and the Bob Marshall original treeless Sports Saddles (SS) are different. Riders that have used both the CYBM and the original SS have written and told us that the Circle Y doesn't ride like the originals.
Barrel racers in particular explain that one of the main differences is that the seat in the Circle Y is a bit stiffer. Barrel Racers report that the stirrup position is set back an inch or so. Some barrel racers find that the set-back position is uncomfortable for their sport because it places their stirrups to far under them.
The maker of the CYBM is licensed to make a saddle based on a pattern that Bob Marshall developed. Bob does not have any control over the quality of materials or the building process used to make the CYBM saddles. The Circle Y saddles are "factory made" barrel saddles that cannot be customized. Circle Y makes a saddle they market as an endurance saddle but it is actually a barrel racer without a horn. The pommel and cantle are the same height as the ones on their barrel racer.
In contrast, the SS Endurance saddle is completely setup for endurance competition. The design was inspired by competitive endurance riders for that purpose. Compared to the CY endurance saddle, SS's Endurance saddle is very different with a two inch high pommel and a three inch cantle. Weighing-in at a scant 12 pounds, the SS Endurance is covered over in a luscious black or chocolate, smooth and glove-leather-soft, but enduring leather. All the other SS models follow in this same light-weight tradition.
From what has been observed in tack shops and from customer reports, the CYBM saddles in tack shops and in catalogues seems to be the barrel racer, primarily. The fact that the CYBM is really a barrel racer may not be obvious to the casual observer, who is shopping for a trail saddle.
In the past, customers have called us explaining that the pommel/horn height of the CYBM is too much for them on the trails. The SS Trail pommel and horn are each about one inch lower than on the CYBM and on the SS Debra Sibley Barrel Racers.
If you buy a trail CYBM, which is set-up as a barrel racer, you will find the pommel and horn are high. This condition can be cumbersome on the trail as the rider bends low over the saddle going under a low branch. During a safe moment, look under one of the knee flaps of the CYBM (not when going under the low branch) and you may see a little sign that says "barrel saddle or racer".