Which tree style would fit my horse better?

“I need to use an Olin Young on this horse because it fits him better.”  “I can’t ride a wade on this horse because his withers are too tall.”  “You need to be riding a Low TM on that horse because he is too round backed for that Association.”

These are common thoughts about different styles of trees and what fits certain horses better.  The truth of the matter is that the tree style doesn’t decide how a tree fits on a horse.  The tree style (TM, OY, Association, Wade, Buster Welch, etc) is nothing more than the style of the front, or swells, that the tree has.  Now some of these styles have a certain cantle or horn that is common to use with it, but these can be changed to the customers specs.

All of these fronts can be attached to many different bar styles, shapes, angles, and lengths.  A Wade front on Arab bars is still a Wade but will not likely fit a foundation bred Quarter horse.  A TM front mounted on bars with a bar spread of 12″ is still a TM roper but will have trouble setting low and flat on the same horse.  So if the front has no bearing on how the saddle sits on a horse, what determines this?  The bars.

The bars are the only thing that should be touching your horses back during use, so the bars are what determines how the saddle will fit the horse.  All fronts can have different gullet Heights which can be changed according to what is being built and for what reason, but the bars are set depending on the bar conformation of the saddle maker’s needs for that horse.

In our shop we have a certain bar conformation that we like to use and we try to use this same conformation no matter the type of saddle we are making.  We may use a different bar STYLE (arizona, cutter, roper, arab, etc) depending on what we are building, but the bar measurements are usually the same (except in extreme cases).  I will get into our bar conformation in a later post.

If we want a saddle to sit low on a horse, as in a calf saddle or Wade, we can adjust the gullet height to what we need on a particular horse.  This does not change how we set our bar angle and spread, that is determined by the horse we are fitting.  One of our cutting saddles could have as high as an 8 3/4″ gullet height compared to our team roper which is usually around 7 1/4″ height.  If we are fitting these two saddles for the same type of horse, the bar angle and spread will be the same.  The only difference here is the height of the gullet.

Now you may have a TM roper from saddle maker X that fits your head horse better than the OY from saddle maker Y, but its not the TM or the OY that is causing the difference, its the bars that the two saddle makers used.  Different trees from different tree makers or saddle makers can fit different depending on the bar measurements they use.  But the front isn’t causing the difference in fit.

Fit your horse by the bars, and pick your front by what you are doing out of the saddle.