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What is a Flex Tree?

What is a flex tree?

A flex tree saddle has bars that are flexible, allowing the saddle to flex with the horse. The flexibility 'enhances' an already proper fit, it doesn't attempt to create it. Flexible bars work like the arch support of a shoe; they provide the correct fit while the flexibility allows unrestricted movement and bend away from pressure.

Are all flexible trees the same? No. We'd like to peel back the leather and show you what's underneath.

Ralide Flex

A few of our manufacturers use Ralide flex trees. These are formed into one piece of polymer blended Ralide.

The flex tree allows the saddle to flex from front to back and side to side. Dakota, Fabtron, Big Horn, and High Horse by Circle Y all use a Ralide flex tree.

The one difference in the High Horse flex is that the ball of the bar (where the saddle meets your horse in the front) is made out of neoprene for extra comfort.

Some customers ask if a Ralide flex tree will eventually "relax" over time and quit flexing. The answer is no. The memory properties will go back, it will not stay in the relaxed fit. Once the pressure is removed off saddle it should go back into the original shape.

The flex saddle trees only work when pressure is applied naturally by the rider and this allows movement away from pressure points giving a comfortable saddle fit to horse and rider.

Tucker Gen II Tree

With Tucker's flexible tree, called the Gen II, and the Flex tree you get the traditional strength and durability of wood with flex bars underneath.

The Tucker Fit-Fusion GII tree incorporates a flex bar system consisting of carbon fiber reinforced wood and PolyForm conforming bars. The GII bars self-adjust and disperses weight, freeing your horse to promote, encourage, and enhance it’s natural gait, without sacrificing strength and durability.

The tree is finish coated in DURAhide covering, which is more consistent than traditional rawhide and fiberglass covered trees because it adds strength while keeping out moisture and the elements, adding to the life of your saddle. If you'd like to read more about Tucker's tree, click here.

Composite Flex Tree

Alamo Flex Tree, Circle Y's Flex2 tree, the Tex Tan Flex tree, and the Reinsman flex tree all have a wooden cantle and swell connected by heavy neoprene flexible bars and a reinforced ground seat.

The flexible bars promise to conform to your horse perfectly, even while in motion, allowing freedom of movement and enhancing the horse’s natural gait.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can flexible trees warp or cave in?

We don’t know where this myth came from, but quite frankly, it’s preposterous. Flex trees are relatively new to the equine industry (in comparison with the age old wooden tree), and we suppose that if someone only heard the term “flexible tree” without knowing what it is, this myth would be easily spawned. Many people hear the term and assume that a flex tree is bendable like a piece of plastic or rubber. In reality, flex trees only “flex” about a centimeter in either direction, and only under pounds of pressure. You would probably find it hard to even see a flex tree “flexing.” This centimeter of movement, however, is what makes the flex tree more comfortable for the horse and allows the saddle to conform better to his movement. We’re not going to recommend flex trees for roping or ranch work, but we’re willing to say that under trail and pleasure conditions, there’s no way a flex tree is going to warp or cave in.

2. Do the neoprene bars cause the saddle to flatten out on the horse?

No. Flexible bars made out of neoprene are made out of very heavy neoprene; think about the rubber sole of a work boot. The bars will not flatten out on your horse because they are connected to a ground seat, which forces the saddle to hold its shape.

3. Will the flexible bars help the saddle to fit better?

Yes and no. It depends on how good of a fit you have, to begin with. If you have a bad fit, to begin with, the flexible bars may make the fit tolerable, but by no means comfortable for the horse. If you have a good fit, to begin with, the flexibility will allow the horse to work with the saddle, giving him more freedom of movement in the shoulders.

4. The flex trees above are made differently. Is one better than the other?

If you want the highest quality, go with the flex trees that incorporate a wooden cantle and swell with neoprene bars. You get the benefits of strength and durability of a traditional wood tree with the new flexible technology. We don't see these saddles wearing out very easily.