If you’ve never seen an English saddle tree before, you may not realise how many aspects there are to how it fits, and the length of tree points is only mentioned occasionally, usually to rave about how short points are brilliant.
Tree points are the lowest parts of the tree, at the bottom of each side of the front arch, sitting at some point below the horse’s withers. The point ends up seated in a point pocket, easily visible on most bench made saddles that don’t have Velcro, as a U in the stitching at the front of the sweat flap. The photo shows how a tree point looks in a leather saddle of standard construction.
And here is the same sort of construction seen from the side.
Tree points can face forwards, slightly backwards or straight down, though that angle is only as it’s intended to be if the whole saddle is in correct balance! Here you can see the Sport tree with straight, upright points, and the Supercob with slightly backward facing points.
Saddle tree points angle and width are crucial to the horse’s comfort, enabling weight to be spread across a reasonably wide area under the front of the saddle, without causing pressure points. They can be made very short or even chopped off, which can allow that saddle to fit a wider range of horses. The photo shows the AH Sport Pony tree with medium length points.
However, this impacts stability and horse comfort in two ways. Firstly the pressure per square inch is usually greater overall under short tree points, which is not desirable unless there is some other significant benefit. With too-short tree points, sitting at the top of the panel, on the wrong shape of horse, it can also cause the front of the saddle top drop, causing bouncing or pivoting of the saddle, often seen as lift at the back. This can be even more pronounced when landing over a fence.
Unfortunately, it has become a fashion to market short tree points as innovation and as better for all horses, with shoulder freedom often cited. Even in the wider horse market that we operate, where these short points are often recommended, at AH Saddles we have found that a standard (medium) tree point length, an open head (slightly wider pommel) and front gussets in the panel give better stability and comfort, and allow optimum freedom of movement for the horse through its shoulders.
Don’t believe the hype, yet again!