Does your treeless saddle pass the string test?

Clearance under the treeless saddle

One of the challenges of riding in a treeless saddle is protecting your horse’s spine. With a treed saddle, the gullet keeps the rider’s weight off of the sensitive nerves and protect the horse’s spine.

When the first treeless saddles were introduced, most of them did not have integrated gullets; spinal protection was offered by special pads (often costing almost as much as the saddle), which provided the necessary clearance.

Panels on the Ghost
You can see the black panels on the Ghost clearly here. I’ve added a felt booster as the saddle is slightly down hill on Zelda.

Today, many treeless brands incorporate panels into the saddle. It’s one of the things that I like about the Ghost treeless saddles. If necessary you can also shim the panels to improve fit.

Back to the gullet. The traditional way to determine whether your treeless saddle offers enough clearance over the withers and spine is to take a length of string, tie several knots in it, and then see if you can pull it through the saddle while you are sitting on it. If the string comes through easily, you have enough room; if the string comes through with some difficulty, you should investigate your padding options; if it won’t come through at all, you’re sitting on your horse’s spine.

Ghost saddle clearance
Both of my Ghost saddles offer enough clearance over the withers — as demonstrated by slipping my crop under while I’m riding!

I tend to store my crop in the gullet when I need both hands. I’m not too worried about the clearance. What I have found is that it’s not necessary to use a special treeless pad with the Ghost saddle to get this fit. In this case, I’m using a Diamond Wool endurance pad. But more on the different pads I’m trying in a future post!

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