A saddle is useless without a solid tree. Made of wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a combination, a broken or twisted tree will create uneven pressure on your horse’s back, possibly causing soreness, lameness or behavioral problems. The following three assessments will assure that your saddle’s tree is safe for you and your mount.
1. Place the front of the saddle against one thigh, place one of your hands on the seat, and, using the other hand, grasp the cantle and attempt to pull it towards your body. An intact tree will not give to the pressure, but a broken tree will allow the saddle to be bent, the severity depending on the damage. Any clicking noises are another indication that the tree is compromised.
2. Next, place the cantle of the saddle on your thigh, and grasp the edges just under and to either side of the pommel or horn. Pull upward and outward – any movement or noises, again, could mean that your tree is faulty.
3. Finally, flip the saddle over, exposing the gullet. Draw an imaginary line running from the center of the pommel or horn, down the gullet, to the center of the cantle. If this line is not completely straight, the tree is likely at least twisted, and possibly broken.
If, once you perform these tests, you suspect your saddle may have a twisted or broken tree, stop using it immediately! Take it to a professional saddle fitter or maker for an evaluation, and, if it is indeed twisted or broken, be prepared to go saddle shopping!