Horses without Withers - Do Hoop Trees Prevent Saddle from Sliding Forward?

For mutton withered (or completely witherless) horses, I’ve never seen the specialty anatomic girths and nonslip saddle pads prevent saddles from sliding forward. A crupper was the only thing I’ve seen that actually worked.

But I’ve never owned a true hoop tree saddle. How do they prevent the saddle from sliding forward? Or do they just provide stability?

I think I read on COTH that some saddles claim to have hoop trees but really don’t. Is that still a thing? Duetts are the gold-standard for affordable hoop trees, correct?

Any new developments in saddlefitting for witherless horses in the last 5 years?

There are so many reason why a saddle can move forward. When I get a chance on my comp I will write some of them out.

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Mutton withers just means low/“no” withers, it doesn’t have anything to do with the lateral shape of the tree. You can have an A frame horse with mutton withers, who wouldn’t at all be appropriate for a hoop tree

Duett does tend to be a more economical hoop tree yes. But the withers are sort of the final piece of the puzzle, not the first, for fitting.

Fit the shape and angle and width of the shoulders, and the shape of the back, and make sure the girth billets and girth combination fall within the girth groove, and then make sure the withers are cleared (rarely a problem for mutton withers). If everything else fits, remember, withers aren’t there to stop a saddle from moving forward.

I hear good things about Duett, I think sometimes Adam Ellis makes saddles with hoop trees as well.

I trialed a Duett. OMG the twist is SO WIDE! At least it used to be, it’s been a while.

The front of the saddle did fit my guy. The shape of the back panels wasn’t quite right, a bit too curvy, so that was a deal-breaker on its own, never mind I felt like I was being forced into a split :grimacing: :laughing:

What did work was Prestige, which is an “open A frame” kind of between a true hoop, and a true A. It’s an A shape, but with more distance between the front panels, to allow for the width at the withers.

What also worked was Black Country Quantum X (X is the hoop version), in the XW (he was a 39cm in Prestige, big wide guy)

Balance saddles also worked well for him - Frank Baines makes/made them. These are more like the Prestige “open A”, than a true hoop

I had a Spanish horse that measured 37cm wide at shoulders. Also table backed, but he had “some” withers. I ended up with the Duett Fidelio. It fit him, was affordable and a comfortable quality saddle. That was about 10 years ago and person who bought my horse wanted the saddle.

If your saddle creeps forward, it could be that your horse is built downhill, saddle doesn’t fit properly, etc. There are some rare cases that a crupper is needed, but I’d work with a qualified fitter to eliminate the most common reasons first.

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So off the top of my head here are the reason why saddles move forward.

Somewhere is too narrow. This includes the rail of the saddle right behind the stirrup bars. Most people focus on the front of the saddle at the tree points, but this part is also very critical and most often overlooked.

The tree is too flat front to back or too curvy. If it is too curvy, the saddle tends to walk itself forward. Too flat, the back of the saddle gets shoved forward by the last part of the rib cage area.

The angle of the rail is also important to make sure it matches the horse’s shape.

Girthing/billeting. This can pull the saddle forward.

Hoop is just a term sometimes used. Some brand refer to their board backed saddle as a hoop tree other’s don’t.


I have an Arab that could be described as an egg with legs and a terrible time with saddles moving forward over the years until we found a Kent and Masters. Doesn’t mean that’s the saddle for you because like Shelton says above there are several variables that need to be right based on YOUR horse’s confirmation.

We’d purchased and rode for a while in a Bates Isabell and then a couple Lovatt and Ricketts but they rode forward. Once I found the right saddle it was remarkable the difference in his relaxation in his body under saddle and willingness to seek the bit and lift his back. He also quit expressing frustration (nipping at me) during saddling.

Work with a good saddle fitter and fingers crossed they are able to come to you and put their hands on the situation.

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I have a Duett and it does not move on my wide backed mare. She has a little more wither now at 17 but not much of anything. I have no comfort issues when riding in it and I could feel the difference in my mare on the first ride.


I have a horse shaped like a barrel. He rides in a hoop tree, but I never had issues with the saddle moving forward even when I tried to use a A frame type tree. The main issue was the saddle was just so unstable that it was constantly moving back and fourth even when I tightened the girth a ton.

I’ve always had the issue with the saddle slipping forward when either the tree was too narrow for the lower shoulders (usually not an issue with mutton barrel shaped horses, because their widest spot is usually at the top of their back) or when the horse was naturally built downhill.

Adam Ellis has a model called the kemlyn cob which is a hoop tree. That said I have a regular kemlyn and even that tree is quite generous and similar to a hoop.
Kent and masters has a cob model also but I found the twist too wide.