In my quest to ride in as many different saddles as possible, my latest acquisition was a Heather Moffett Vogue. This is one of those “neither fish nor fowl” designs. It doesn’t have a typical tree and it isn’t technically a treeless saddle. It is a leather tree, which they call a “SoftTree” and a well defined gullet. There are no rigid parts, other than a small rigid cantle support. Because the saddle is so flexible, it is designed to help your horse move more freely. The gullet provides spinal clearance and lateral stability.
As a rider, I find the Vogue to be very comfortable. It has a memory foam seat that is both cushioned and supportive. With more of a twist than most treeless saddles, I never feel like I’m riding on a barrel (which can be a problem with Zelda as she is quite a wide horse). The stirrup bars are also set farther back than many saddles, which suits my own conformation. When I’m sitting in it, my leg naturally falls in a balanced position, effortlessly achieving ‘ear-shoulder-hip-heel’ alignment. In the winter, it does take a while for the memory foam to warm up, so the first few minutes can feel a bit stiff but once the seat warms up, you sink into the saddle. The saddle I bought (which was used) came with a seat cover that helps mitigate this experience.
For the horse, well defined gullet enables spinal clearance so this saddle does not need to be used with a treeless pad. In fact, when trying different pads, I found that a thicker pad caused the saddle to feel to removed from the horse’s back and less stable. I’ve ended up feeling most comfortable with a very thin Acavallo memory foam/gel pad which keeps the saddle from moving. Unlike many of the other treeless saddles I’ve owned, it’s not necessary to use a breastplate with the Vogue.
I will admit that I owned a different HM saddle many years ago that didn’t work for me: the HM Phoenix GPS. While I found it comfortable, it made Freedom’s back sore where the rigid cantle piece is placed. My saddle fitter told me that he thought the dressage version of the saddle worked better for horses and so I sold it on. I’ve had the Vogue dressage saddle since the summer and have completed a few long rides, including a 9-mile hunter pace, and so far, Zelda has shown no signs of a sore back. According to Heather Moffett’s website, in formal pressure tests, with the German Pliance system (computerized video imaging), the Vogue test as well or better than a properly custom fitted treed saddle. Of course that doesn’t mean the saddle fits all horses. No saddle will do that, and the company does suggest working with a fitter who understands the saddle system. I’ve also heard that if you contact Heather Moffett directly, she is very helpful.
Why did I opt to try the Vogue? First, because Zelda’s shape changes so much depending on her level of fitness, using a saddle that’s more adjustable. That’s been a particular issue while I was laid up with my ankle injury. Zelda’s propensity to become round rivals my own. We both need a good exercise program to get back into shape, but riding her with a saddle that’s too tight, isn’t a great idea. Second, to keep my ankle happy, I need to ride with a long leg. My Sensation Western Sport is great for that, but sometimes I want a more traditional English saddle look. I was also hoping for a saddle that created more of a twist.
So far, I’ve been very pleased with the saddle. It fits Zelda well. With the right pad, it’s stable on her back. The position of the stirrup bars puts me in the correct position without effort, and the seat is quite comfortable. The quality of the leather is very nice. In my saddle experiments, I have tried a number of treeless saddles, and this is similar in quality to Freeform or a Sensation. While there were many things I liked about the Ghost saddles that I owned, I felt the leather wasn’t as nice. The saddle I bought is several years old but the leather is thick and supple with no obvious wear. The only thing I don’t like is that it’s quite a heavy saddle, so I do find tossing it up onto Zelda’s back takes more effort. But that doesn’t impact how the saddle rides.
Heather Moffett saddles are more popular in the U.K. than in the U.S. I bought mine from a Facebook group for used Heather Moffett saddles and found what I wanted from a U.S.-based seller.
In the video below, Heather Moffett provides an overview of the Vogue range of saddles.