Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Spring Tree: #1 Reason to Go Stübben or Go Home

Firstly, I'd like to extend a huge thank you to Jim Ehrman, President of Stübben North America, and the folks at Stübben for hosting such an educational seminar at their headquarters in Troy, VA, and inviting myself and the other participants to learn about their incredible products. I was able to walk away from the clinic with a better understanding of saddle fitting, and an intense feeling of excitement at becoming part of their extended team of partners. Stübben leather goods have been a staple of equestrian sport since 1894, and they continue to create products with two simple values in mind.

1. Comfort for the horse above all else

2. Value of product to the consumer

With those values in mind, Stübben's spring tree remains the number one reason to invest in their saddles over another brand. Their revolutionary design focuses on the comfort of the horse's back by allowing the tree to bend and flex with the horse's movement and properly absorb the rider's weight while transmitting the rider's seat aids through the saddle to the horse's back.

Stübben starts off with the frame of the tree.

The blue sections of the tree are made of a molded composite (not plastic, wood or fiberglass) that will not break under normal circumstances. Jim spoke of an instance where a dually truck accidentally backed over one of these trees at a show, bending it pommel to cantle, popping most of the rivets off the steel but left the composite unharmed!

Steel makes up for the rest of the framework, including recessed stirrup bars strategically attached to the points of the tree to distribute the rider's weight evenly across the horse's back.

Within the pommel, the steel plate designed to protect the horse's withers has ridges to add strength and help eliminate the possibility of a properly fitted saddle ever damaging the horse's spine.

Ridges for added strength and stability in the steel
In contrast to most saddle companies that carry a small assortment of tree sizes (usually Narrow, Medium, and Wide), Stübben's entire line has 7 different tree sizes (27 centimeter to 32 centimeter, and an additional extra wide) to accommodate everything from narrow, high-withered thoroughbreds to broad draft crosses and warmbloods. Most other companies try to fit a wider variety of horses with a limited number of trees by simply adding more padding the the panels. The best way to understand why the tree size is so vitally important to the horse's soundness is to consider a long distance backpacker buying gear. If you were to purchase a backpack for a long distance to carry heavy equipment, you would be advised to consider a backpack with a rigid frame in place to help distribute the weight of your gear across your back. A soft backpack with lots of padding and cushion will allow shifting and movement to occur, stressing the back and leading to soreness, even if it feels lighter and more comfortable in the store. However, if you use a backpack with a rigid frame, and light padding to help protect your muscles, the weight will be distributed evenly and allow you to go longer with less stress.

Once they have the molded composite, steel frame and variety of sizes, Stübben's next step is to tension the tree and add strapping.

To tension the tree, it is bent from pommel to cantle and strapping is strategically positioned on the frame and stapled in place. The whiter strip in the picture is used for the billets. Stability and longevity is added to the billet straps by attaching them in this manner. As depicted in the image, four main straps are used to tension the tree; two from pommel to cantle, and two across the deepest point of the seat (where the rider will ultimately sit). This allows the rider's weight to be properly absorbed by the spring of the tree as the webbing works with the steel frame. Also, once girthed down, the saddle can bend and flex with the horse's back and movement.

Once the saddle is placed on the horse and is properly balanced, the circle in the above image will become the deepest point of the seat. This is where the balance of the saddle becomes very important; a rider to far in front or behind the deepest point of the seat will not allow the saddle to distribute the weight across the horse's back.

Additionally, the cantle can move in a twisting manner, consistent with the horse's motion of his back, while staying stationary at the pommel and protecting the withers.

There are a lot of saddles out there, many will be very viable options for you and/or your horse. Some manufacturers forget that the main goal of creating this vital piece of equipment should put the horse's comfort above all else, and instead focus more on their profit margin. Stübben is strongly dedicated to designing, producing, and distributing quality products for both horse and rider where the horse comes first. After all, it's hard to stay in business for 120+ years by providing saddles and strap goods in barns across the world that don't live up to equestrian's expectations for quality equipment.


  1. HI, Love this info. We are lifelong Stubben users. Just got a lightly used Cavalleria monoflap close contact saddle on trial for my daughter and her Haflinger. It is a perfect fit for them, except for a slight bounce mid tree. The saddler fitter said this is due to the spring tree and will resolve as the saddle molds to the gelding's back. how long would something like this take? We only have 10 more days of trial. One trainer says give it time, her other trainer says, it needs to show change quick or else we are returning it. It is a huge difference for them over her Roxanne,which is too deep for his build. I wholeheartedly love Stubbens, they truly have something for every horse/rider. Thanks for any thoughts/advice.

    1. Like your fitter said, due to the design of the tree, the bounce you're seeing shouldn't be an issue. If you were noticing any stiffness in your horse's movement or soreness in his back, then I would be more concerned. As for how long exactly it will take to mold to your horse's back, that would depend on the age of the saddle, and the compression of the wool in the panels. If you'd like more information, I would highly suggest contacting Stübben's warehouse directly at 1-800-550-1110, they would be thrilled to answer any further questions you have!

      Thank you for choosing Stübben!

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