The ultimate treeless saddle
The Total Contact Saddle was designed to give the closest possible contact with the horse whilst keeping the security of stirrups. The minimalist design strips away unnecessary padding, tree, cantle and pommel to deliver direct communication between horse and rider. The rider can now really feel the horse – often for the first time – and, as importantly, the horse can feel the rider.
With enhanced rapport between the horse and rider it’s possible to ride with minimum effort and aids, to understand how the horse is reacting and for the horse to understand the rider more. Of course this does mean that poor technique on the part of both does show up but that’s quickly put right and such things as rider crookedness, poor balance and ineffective aids are improved as the positive feedback loop between action and intention is clarified and both horse and rider learn from it. Some clients have reported their horse goes better in the TCS, is more responsive, is more relaxed, moves easier through their shoulder and back and riders typically take about 15 minutes to forget that they’re riding in it as they feel their horse breath, sigh, the back work and flex and really start to enjoy their horse.
A lovely little Mane Show test by Becca and Chiron Horse in a Total Contact saddle.
Of all the questions we get asked on a regular basis by far the most popular is, “Does your saddle cause pressure on the horse’s back ?” We have written a detailed blog answering this please see link to the blog below. But in short the Total Contact Saddle has been tested by a technician of the SMS with their Pliance System and it was not found to have pressure peaks (red areas) when using a very fine horse in walk, trot and canter.
Lovely client feedback: After a deal of emailing to and fro (and rightly so) this client from Australia finally purchased a saddle. "KB" has just sent in this detailed feedback/review that she's also posted on other FB horsey groups. As ever, feedback is appreciated (not just for my own personal delight !) but so that others can be re-assured about how the saddle 'works' in a wide range of contexts in real life situations. I've not edited - and don't edit - "KB's" feedback review.
"Ok, so I did it. After much gathering of feedback separate from the TCS website of FB page, I was convinced enough it was worth a go, and I bought myself a “Total Contact Saddle” to try it out.
When I first read all the ‘gushing’ feedback on the website and FB page, I thought ‘it all sounds a little bit over the top’. But I have been humbled, and am joining the ranks of those ‘raving’ about the TCS.
I will speak of the practical aspects in a moment, but let me say that on my first ride all I could think was “wow, this feels amazing”, and that is exactly what my sceptical partner said when he tried it out. The look of astonishment on his face was priceless and he said “Wow, just wow, this is amazing”. It is quite hard to describe the feeling. It is like riding bareback (ok saddle pad) but better. I had this sensation of floating and moving with the horse, feeling her and becoming part of her. It was quite a magical feeling.
A couple of people, partner included, had said when they saw a picture of a TCS “why not just ride bareback”, and that is a very reasonable question. Now that I have ridden with the TCS I would say – for me – because I can relax and flow more with the horse than when I ride bareback. I feel like I am riding bareback, but because I have the stirrups as ‘back up balancing support’ I am far more relaxed than I ever have been riding bareback where I always had a vague sense of ‘clinging on’. This sense of being able to touch the stirrups to balance if required allows me to feel confident and safe, and as a result relax and move with the horse. It is such a difficult thing to describe, but I can tell you I am addicted, and I want more of it.
Ok, on to practical matters.
One my concerns was no spinal clearance built into the saddle, and that is very true, there is none. As a result you need a saddle pad that will provide this for you, or a horse with a well developed muscled top line (plus at least a normal pad) that protects the spinus processes. The same sort of set up you would create for a treeless saddle that does not have an inbuilt spinal channel.
Pressure points. I wondered if there would be. The saddle construction is that over the top of the horse it is quite wide flat and sturdy leather that has a small amount of cushion padding. In addition the stirrup hangers are set lower and thus assist in spreading the weight placed in them across the full surface area of this wide leather – both width wise as well as length wise. In addition I could feel my bum cheeks and all of my inner thighs pressing against the horse and thus my weight was spread across all these area (bum, thighs and saddle leather), so I did not feel there was a single sharp point pressure area. I do feel though, for this to work optimally the rider does need an independent seat so they do not ‘ride in the stirrups’, and that the riders weight to horses musculature are ability to carry that weight needs to be carefully considered (especially if any lengthy riding is planned).
In terms of long term pressure points becoming evident, I cannot personally comment on this, as I have not done enough riding. But I was given confidence that this is not a likely scenario when a a woman who regularly uses the Masterton Method with her horse, and a vet who is also an equine physio both volunteered feedback that they ride in the TCS and have never experienced any back issues with their horse. In fact the vet, and some others who offered feedback said that the back issues have reduced or disappeared on some of their horses. So that sort of feedback fills me with a lot of confidence that this saddle will not produce long term back issues in horses.
Slippage of the saddle. I was concerned that the saddle might have a tendency to slip when weight was placed in one stirrup. I mounted from the ground to test this, and found that is does slip slightly for me – about 10cm, but it doesn’t go into ‘free fall’. This was on Tilly, my round almost no whither clydie x. I was using a Christ woollen saddle pad and I do have a springy light mounting action when I mount (it is certainly not a ‘clamour up’). I did also stand in the stirrup full weight before swinging my leg over on one mount ot see what would happen, and it did roll slowly again and a bit more as I stood longer in the stirrup, but again, nothing like a free fall or quick slide. I do not normally mount from the ground, I always look for a mounting block of some kind, but this ‘test’ gave me the confidence that if I was in the saddle and my horse unexpectedly shied causing me to put extra weight in one stirrup, I would not find the saddle instantly and uncontrollably slipping. Also a couple of pieces of feedback I got was that because people are more in contact with their horse’s bodies and movements (ie only a saddle pad) they ate far more aware of their horse and can feel what the horse is going to do before it happens so can be ‘pre warned’ and go with the flow of the movement/shy. I do not doubt that for a moment.
So there we go. That is my feedback to all of you about my initial impressions of the TCS. It is still pretty new, and I have yet to try it out on my high whithered horse Jasper, but I am really really (surprisingly) impressed with it – it felt like nothing else I have ever ridden in, and “Total Contact Saddle” is an apt name for it.
It looks really wrong and weird, and has a tendency to mess with your brain and ask for instant rejection, but if you can get through that, I would certainly recommend giving it some serious consideration, and definitely if you have the opportunity give it a try. I am more than happy with it, as is my quite surprised partner.
Happy to answer any questions if I can, but not sure what else I can tell you other than the above. Except that Stuart, the fellow that sells them, is really nice to deal with, and is happy to answer all your questions".
Thank YOU "KB" and Tilly :-)
Ros Jones commented, “When your first attempt at archery over jumps doesn't quite go to plan, it's good to know you are in balance in your TCS”
The TCS is literally the best thing i have ever bought.....my pony and i love it....he moves so much better and more freely in it. I took him to a show and jumped in it for the first time and we won our first class and came 2nd in the next class! Thank you so much!"
Bought my TCS about 3 weeks ago and me & my partner have ridden in it numerous times. We are so made up with it I use it with a Harry Hall Hi Viz wick away fabric numnah and a polypad roller pad, when I take it off him there is no marks on his back or any myopathy of muscle which I've always had with saddles even fitted ones. My cob loves the freedom from the shoulder & the spine and I love the fact that even when a spook happens my TCS stays put when a saddle definitely would not.
I don't get off my cob feeling saddle sore or restricted anymore, no more hip/back pain either.
Needless to say we won't be riding in saddles ever again :-) the TCS is saddle evolution :-) Gemma Wilson