• Course enquiries

    Call Debbie on 0787 720 2950 or email debbie@enlightenedequitation.com for enquiries or booking.

    Please note that courses are held at East Leigh Farm, Totnes, unless specified otherwise.

  • Saddle enquiries

    Please contact Heather on customercare@enlightenedequitation.com for pre-sales support regarding fitting.

    For orders, please call Debbie on 0787 720 2950 or email debbie@enlightenedequitation.com.

  • Advertising/sponsorship

    If you would like to advertise on the EE website and/or forums, or would like to offer Enlightened Equitation sponsorship, please contact Heather Moffett on heather@enlightenedequitation.com.

    Current EE sponsors include White Horse Bedding and High Barn Oils.

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THE SOFTTREE SADDLE RANGE

The SoftTree is a revolutionary design unlike any other saddle on the market. The manufacturing process is unique in saddle-making. The Vogue saddles have no rigid parts, other than a small rigid cantle support, which cannot be felt by either horse or rider. It is not like fully treeless saddles in that those are very thin and do not provide a ‘twist’ for the rider, instead our saddles allow the thighs to drop and legs and hips do not feel straddled. The ‘SoftTree’ is built up from layers of materials, tested and chosen for their shock absorbing and pressure resisting properties, but also shaping the seat to feel much more like a conventional treed saddle for the rider. This ‘SoftTree’ enables the saddle to flex with every oscillation of the horse's back, giving great freedom of movement, with no restriction of the shoulders or hindrance of the lifting of the horse's back.

The Vogue saddle range

       Vogue Dressage
       Vogue GPT (pictured below right)
       Vogue GPS - more forward-cut GP
       Vogue Deluxe (below left)

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The whole seat and flexible front arch are made from 45mm thickness of the Seatbone Saver memory foam, into which the rider sinks, giving great depth of seat and exceptional comfort. The moulded replaceable panels are designed to give a traditionally gulleted underside to the saddle. With the addition of padding for horses with muscle wastage, it is possible to fit almost any horse. The SoftTree saddle offers unrivalled comfort to both horse and rider, combining the flexibility and best characteristics of a treeless saddle, but with the rider support of a treed saddle.

With all saddles, whether treeless, part-treed or treed, there will always be an element of fitting. There will never be a saddle that is a “magic wand”, which can just be placed on every horse’s back without any thought to his conformation. Those with atrophy and/or asymmetry, and some young horses with undeveloped topline and musculature, will require additional padding. EE Agents should give you advice on this before purchase, preferably through a personal consultation visit, which is part of Enlightened Equitation’s Vogue trial service, although customers in an area where we do not yet have an agent, may be advised via conformation photos and other important information.

As stated, consideration of the fit of the saddle is highly important in young horses or other horses that change shape on a regular basis due to fluctuating condition and/or fitness levels. It is imperative that owners should pay attention to this and ask their saddle supplier for help and advice as soon as they notice any changes, before their horse develops any soreness or white hair. Enlightened Equitation would highly recommend that any increase in workload when purchasing any saddle should be undertaken gradually, keeping a check on all the above.

It should also be remembered that there is no single saddle out there that will suit every single horse and rider combination, this is why it is so important that there is a wide range of types of saddle to chose from and that they are trialled sufficiently before a final decision is made.

Riding in the SoftTree saddle

The seat has been designed to allow the rider’s thighs to drop easily into a more vertical knee position, the saddle having a definite ‘waist’, which does not leave the rider feeling straddled as if bareback. The Vogue offers the same level of support as a conventional treed saddle, yet is the nearest thing to sitting on a cushion on a horse!!

Nearly all conventional saddles have the stirrup bars set too far to the front, resulting in the rider’s seat being pushed to the back of the saddle, and the thighs pulled forwards. This is why so many riders find it nigh on impossible to maintain the ear/shoulder/hip/heel line - the very tool that is supposed to be assisting the rider, i.e. the saddle, is actually preventing him or her from maintaining this ideal position of balance! This is especially so in rising trot.

The rider who is accustomed to sitting in a ‘chair’ seat as a result of riding in most GP saddles, will feel more stretched as little stretch is placed on the hip and thigh joints when sitting in this way - as soon as the leg is brought back into line and the hip joints have to open and the thighs stretch, the saddle will feel wide to begin with!!

The stirrup bars are set back, as in all of the Heather Moffett designed saddles, to enable an instant ‘ear/ shoulder/hip/heel’ line to be easily achieved. The bars have been designed to permit the use of normal stirrups, allowing the leather to come away and prevent the rider being dragged in the event of a fall.

The stirrup bars and girth billets are sewn onto either side of a webbing reinforced butt leather layer, so that no straps go from side to side of the saddle potentially pulling down on the back of the horse.

The whole seat and flexible front arch are made from 45mm thickness of the Seatbone Saver memory foam, into which the rider sinks, giving great depth of seat and exceptional comfort. The moulded replaceable panels are designed to give a traditionally gulleted underside to the saddle. With the addition of padding for horses with muscle wastage, it is possible to fit almost any horse. The SoftTree saddle offers unrivalled comfort to both horse and rider, combining the flexibility and best characteristics of a treeless saddle, but with the rider support of a treed saddle.

The SoftTree saddle, when brand new, may look a little odd when first placed on the back of the horse. The panels and flaps may appear to point a little backwards. This is because when the rider’s weight causes the saddle to sink in the middle, this pushes the flaps forward. The saddle may appear not to touch all along the back, and may protrude at the rear, on either side of the back, but after riding in it a few times it will very quickly mould and adjust to the shape of the horse.

The saddle may even look asymmetric when taken out of the box! This is because it is fully flexible, excepting the cantle, and will sometimes assume the shape of the box. This will quickly correct itself once used on the horse.

Under cold conditions, the memory foam used in the seat will feel hard. It is advisable to warm the saddle before use, either keeping it in a warm place, or allowing it to sit for ten minutes or so on the horse’s back before riding, preferably with a rug over the saddle and horse’s back to retain heat if necessary.

Dressage stirrup leathers (i.e. those with a T bar or Conway Loop, and a loop at the stirrup bar end which hooks over the bar) should be used, as the stirrup bars cannot be recessed as with treed saddles. Alternatively, use normal stirrup leathers, with the buckle at the stirrup end, and put the loose end of the leather into one of the neoprene sleeve you can buy for the purpose from Robinson’s catalogue and many saddlers. Using the stirrup leathers in this way is commonplace on the Continent, even with treed saddles to avoid having buckles under the leg. If hiring a trial saddle, even use a couple of strong rubber bands to secure the end of your normal leathers, to prevent them flapping.

We strongly advocate the Professional’s Choice dressage girth - this girth is extremely well made, elasticated at both ends (one end means that the saddle is pulled unequally to one side) and has a wide neoprene strip against the horse, which is velcroed and can be removed for easy washing.

Ensure that the girth is done up equally on both sides and make sure that, even with a dressage girth, it is long enough! If the girth is too short, it will result in the horse’s elbows hitting the buckles as the shoulder swings back and forth. This is very painful, can cause injuries to the elbow, and has even been severe enough for it to be known to bring a horse down. Therefore, the girth should be long enough to come about two inches below the bottom of the saddle flap, once the girth is sufficiently tightened.

The SoftTree saddles have a soft front arch, which expands and contracts automatically to accommodate all but very high withered horses. The saddle has a gullet, which is more for lateral stability than spinal clearance and being soft with no hard tree in either the front arch or down the gullet area does not need spinal clearance, but the presence of a gullet does ensure lateral stability, even permitting mounting from the ground. Although we strongly do not advise this on a normal basis, as it is damaging to the horse’s back, it may be unavoidable out hacking occasionally if the rider, for instance, drops his or her whip!

Pressure points

Questions often arise regarding whether there are pressure points caused by the rider’s seatbones, as there is no wooden or plastic conventional tree to support them, but the saddle is as thick as conventional saddles and made of layers of shock absorbing/pressure dissipating material. We have experienced no soreness in all of the test horses, ‘cold backed’ horses have shown no resistance at all to the saddle, and those who have suffered sore backs through conventional saddles being incorrectly fitted, accept SoftTree saddles willingly. Some horses with kissing spines, that have been rehabilitated, have readily accepted the SoftTree saddles whilst objecting to a conventional treed saddle.

A high wither cut numnah or saddle cloth should be used with the SoftTree saddle on all horses, regardless of wither shape. Such saddle cloths and numnahs merely follow the shape of the front arch of the saddle and fit well up into it, removing the need to pull the cloth up into the arch, and do so again often several times on each rider, to avoid pressure on the withers as will occur with a straight cut cloth.

Occasionally a horse will dislike the feeling of a saddle moving with him, having been long accustomed to a more rigid structure on his back, but this is very rare. Hence we offer a trial period of one week, with the hire of the saddle deducted from the cost, if purchased. Please contact our online shop manager, Debbie, for information and booking a trial saddle on 07877 202950 or email info@hmsaddles.co.uk.