2) The hardness of a hard-treed saddle
Hard-treed saddles (even when they are well padded) are much harder than flexible saddles. A hard saddle wonít give way when the horse moves or changes shape. A hard saddle, even when the width is as right as possible, easily presses and damages muscle and cartilage tissue in the upper part of the shoulder when the horse moves.
Soreness and lack of muscles in the shoulders and withers is very common. Sometimes extra padding is used under a treed saddle to make it fit better. It is difficult to know what this padding actually does: itís possible the saddle will become too narrow. Or if a treed saddle is lifted at one spot (for example front / back), it may not rest evenly on the horse anymore. As a hard-treed saddle is rigid, itís difficult to see or feel this. Extra padding can also bend the saddle gradually so that it will permanently lean forward or backward.
Sometimes extra padding is used to fill the empty space after an ill-fitting saddle has made the muscles shrink around the withers. Usually itís not possible to remove the padding gradually exactly at the same time as the muscles recover if the saddle doesnít flex.
A Flexible Saddle is soft and comfortable.
3) The underside of a hard-treed saddle is too straight or too curved
How straight or curved a hard-treed saddle is is a fixed fact. A curved saddle wonít fit a straight back because its form will not match the contour of the horse. A straight saddle will not fit a curved back but will bridge: the middle of the saddle will not be in contact with the horseís back. The riderís weight will be only at the front and the back of the saddle which makes the horse sore quickly.
Sweat marks in the saddle cloth may not give you accurate information about how evenly the saddle touches the back: a too curved saddle may still leave fairly even marks in the cloth because the saddle swings on the back so that all the parts of the panels are eventually in contact with the horse, although not simultaneously. Itís also possible the horse will not sweat evenly at every spot.
Solution: A Flexible Saddle fits both straight and curved backs.
4) The shape of the panels of a hard-treed saddle doesnít match the shape of the horse
One horse is round and flat as a a table-top. Some horses have a back the shape of which is more like a triangle, with a prominent spine. Itís difficult to find a treed saddle that mirrors the shape of the back properly. If the shape doesnít match, the riderís weight will end up only on the edges of the panels, causing sharp pressure points.
Solution: A Flexible Saddle adapts itself.
5) The panels of a treed saddle flatten
When the panels flatten, a hard-treed saddle is not the of the same size, width nor shape anymore, and its ability to flex is even smaller than in the beginning.
Solution: See number 4.
6) A hard-treed saddle easily becomes lopsided
If a rider always mounts on the left, the left panel will flatten. Or if the rider is slightly lopsided which is very common and often goes unnoticed in a treed saddle, the panels become lopsided. Even the smallest lopsidedness affects the horse and easily makes his back lopsided, too.
Lopsided muscles cause pain, stiffness and restriction of movement. This makes the horse prone to sprains and other injuries.