To first answer this question, I think you have to go a bit further: why treeless at all?
They’re a fantastic option for many. For hard-to-fit horses and riders, those who trail ride or do endurance, or have many horses and not such a large saddle budget, treeless can be a fantastic option. I ride both treed and treeless, though if I had to pick just one it would, without a doubt, be my Ghost. It’s secure, reliable, fits just about anything, and has yet to fail me. But taking a step back:
After much difficulty finding a distance saddle for Max due to his conformation, we tried a Bob Marshall–and our love affair with treeless saddles began! Even though his back was far from optimal (short; scoopy; high withers), with the appropriate Skito pad, he went phenomenally well. I sold whichever saddle I was riding in at the time, an Abetta, I believe, and got a Bob Marshall Endurance for Prophecy. For many years, we put mile after mile on these saddles.
I got mine in high school–after college, I needed a bigger one. But my long-standing occasional issue with Prophecy became constant as her back changed. She would gall, badly, at the drop of a hat. This began to happen in treed saddles as well. I tried every combination of girth type imaginable–then gave up and simply rode her in a bareback pad with her sensitive skin slathered in Bickmore’s Gall Salve.
I kept pursuing treeless options; once you ride long distance in a treeless, it’s really, really difficult to go back! My occasionally sore hip, desire for a twist, and difficulty getting my leg on in the Bob Marshall led me to try other types. I tried a neighbor’s Sensation; I was bruised by the stirrup attachments within minutes. A Freeform was certainly quite comfortable at a walk, but I nearly catapulted right over my bouncy mare’s shoulder when we picked up a trot, and I was occasionally pinched by the edge of the seat–and floored by the astounding price tag. I borrowed a Barefoot, liked it well enough, found the price manageable, and so sold my Bob and purchased one. It did not fit me–too big even with a sheepskin on the seat–and it still galled Prophecy. (The moral of the story: If anyone tells you that a treeless saddle is a one-size-fits-all option, laugh–and run!)
I had seen Ghost saddles online previously, but never known anyone with one. The design interested me, the demo program soothed my concerns, and the price was fair. When Prophecy came out of retirement and made it clear she was up to do more than the occasional ride bareback, my back made it clear we needed a saddle. And so I demoed a Ghost.
With the miracle that is the Total Saddle Fit girth, my extremely gall-prone mare stopped galling and moved out beautifully, despite her age. She began to throw playful bucks in from time to time, and my back, easily upset by just minutes in the majority of saddles at the time, was merely a bit stiff after an hour’s ride; my right hip–always an issue–had no comment at all. After a couple of weeks’ fine-tuning, I had my saddle dialed in, and I’ve been raving about them ever since. And now? I’m a fitter!
If you want a treeless with a twist, try a Ghost. You won’t regret it!
Looking for the technical stuff? Here’s what you need to know.