August 22, 2016

The Last Saddle You or Your Horse Will Ever Need

By Paulita Neff
Paint horse wearing a Freeform Virginian Western Barrel Treeless Saddle.

By Hope Yankee

Paulita and I have been working on saddle-fitting my horse, Flame, since I got her in November of 2013. She is a QH/App now 9-year old mare that is old school QH — round and stocky and thick. Fitting her has been a nightmare…however, as you will read, the nightmare is over and the dream of seeing my horse and me riding happily in a saddle that feels as if it were custom made for us both has come true!

Horse wearing a Freeform Virginian Treeless Barrel Saddle

You aced it–the VIRGINIAN SADDLE is unmistakably the BEST–5 Stars!

Hard-to-Fit Flame

As Paulita and I will tell you, my FAT – FLAT – SHORT Backed QH/APP Mare (Flame) is one of those extremely hard to fit horses – saddles have nothing to grip onto and hold them in place. And we tried!! I personally tried conventional tree-d Western and Australian saddles—my preferred choice for the last 20 years—but nothing worked for BOTH my horse and me. A tree-d width, wide enough for her, put me in spread eagle mode and I had no balance front to back or side to side.

Joyce Harman, a friend and author of the 2 books, The Horse’s Pain Free Back and Saddle Fit Book, (English and Western) was visiting recently and said,

“You will not find another saddle anywhere that fits this horse any better than this one.”

The Virginian is the ONLY saddle I have ever tried on Flame that simply SAT in place and did NOT rock side-to-side or ‘banana’ front-to-back!

I have sheep, and in the past, have sold wool to Bill Wood, a well-known saddle fitter, and have personally re-flocked a number of Australian saddles—saddle fitting is NOT new to me; So, it is with some degree of working knowledge that I highly recommend this Western saddle to anyone wanting CLOSE CONTACT and LIGHTNESS.

Even with minimal padding and a girth that is longer than typically used with a treeless saddle, THE VIRGINIAN did NOT slip!! (Flame has an exceptionally thick, long muscle that runs down both sides of her spine—providing its own padding and support, but again, has made saddle fitting a nightmare).

Furthermore, living in the mountains, I do ride in rather steep terrain and for safety, use both a breast collar and crupper, BUT I have ridden this saddle WITHOUT either here at the farm up and down hills, and it did NOT slip!!!


I sometimes ride two other horses–the neighbor’s Tennessee Walker, ‘Mr. Ed’, who’s now 15-years old and has a typically, well-defined wither and THE VIRGINIAN works well on him using a thicker, cushioned HAF pad insert…and my friend’s Appaloosa, ‘Arrow’, who’s now 13-years old and has a build and wither definition that falls halfway between Flame’s and Mr. Ed’s and THE VIRGINIAN works equally well on him with the same thicker HAF pad insert used on Mr. Ed! Flame requires a lighter non-slip pad for support and heat distribution—at Paulita’s recommendation a BARREL HAF PAD.

Gratitude for Freeform

Thanks to FREEFORM for listening to all us trail riding folks (women especially) who need:

  • Security.
  • Lightness.
  • Narrowness at the Twist.
  • More Forward ADJUSTABLE Stirrups.
  • A Horn and Pommel that’s OUT OF THE WAY and not in danger of impaling you should you go forward.
  • Close Contact like that feeling of being BAREBACK!
  • Rigging that doesn’t interfere with either you or your horse and being rigged to carry weight front to back so the saddle stays in place and doesn’t ‘pop-up’ at the cantle once the girth is cinched.
  • That the stirrups position forward or back a tad…the size of fork itself…and seat (bolster and cantle) can be adjusted is ICING ON THE CAKE!

When a saddle works well, you know because you’re not focused on it, but on the Beauty of the Ride, the Connection with your Horse! And the best part of all, I feel like I’m RIDING BAREBACK!!